LAOIS 4-14 DUBLIN 0-14 Leinster SHC DUBLIN produced the classic Jekyll and Hyde performance at Nowlan Park yesterday.
After a promising first-half performance, the Dubs were run ragged by Laois after the break as the midlanders exerted a pronounced superiority in almost almost every area of the field.
It's a telling indication of the poverty of Dublin's second-half display in front of a 2,000 crowd that they went 28 minutes without registering a score. In the same period, Laois shot 1-8 to put themselves firmly in the driving seat, and virtually clinch a provincial semi-final date with Wexford at Croke Park on June 12.
However, the red-hot favourites got a bit of a scare early on, as the Dubs, who had full-back Stephen Perkins red carded on 46 minutes, belied their no-hoper's tag with a fluid and confident performance which saw them trail by just three points - 0-9 to 3-3 - at half-time having played against the wind.
A glaring weakness in the full-back line which proved particularly vulnerable to the high ball resulted in Laois finding the net after only two minutes through Damien Culleton, and through Liam Tynan just before the break.
In addition, midfielder James Young, who shot 1-9 in all, raised a green flag when he blasted a penalty into the net on 23 minutes.
After the first goal, Dublin shot five unanswered points to move 0-6 to 1-1 in front. And after Laois had then gone 2-3 to 0-6 ahead, their opponents levelled with a hat-trick of points, only to concede that third goal from Tynan.
From there on, it was all downhill for Dublin. Even the elements conspired against them, with the wind changing direction to blow into the town goal. Then came two more serious setbacks.
First, Perkins, who had replaced Sean O'Shea after 30 minutes, was sent off by Antrim referee Tommy McIntyre after an injury to Culleton.
And Emmet Carroll, who had teased and tormented the Laois defence in the first half, shooting four points and setting up another for Stuart Mullen, subsequently failed to replicate his earlier influence.
This was due to a combination of a tightening up in the Laois rearguard, and the failure of Carroll's outfield colleagues to supply him with quality possession. Even before Perkins' premature departure, Laois had shot four points on the trot. And on 47 minutes, Culleton closed the door on any hopes of a Dublin revival when he slotted home goal number four after being placed by Joe Phelan.
"The simple answer is that goals will always win matches for you, and that was the difference between the sides today," said Dublin boss Humphrey Kelleher afterwards. "The sending off was a big blow, and we had to play against the wind in both halves. But I am very proud of the lads, who are devastated inside in the dressing room, as they never gave up. You could argue that we didn't get the rub of the green.
"Laois got a penalty, but we only got a free for the same type of offence, and no action was taken when Ger O'Meara was high tackled in the second half. But I don't want to take from Laois - they deserved to win."
Despite his side's comprehensive victory, Laois supremo Paudie Butler was far from satisfied. "Our final score should have been something like 4-20," he said. "I have great confidence in our ability to score goals, but we need to improve in the points area.
"However, the lads will take a lot of encouragement from the win; and it's great to be back in Croke Park for a big game."
Butler will have been particularly pleased with his side's dynamic second-half performance, with the Laois men winning nearly all the battles for possession, and displaying vastly superior teamwork.
Young takes the chief accolade, but Joe Fitzpatrick, Seamus Dwyer, Joe Phelan, Tynan and Culleton were also hugely influential. For Dublin, O'Meara, David Sweeney, Stephen Hiney and David Cortin and Carroll made the most impact.
SCORERS - Laois: J Young 1-9 (1-0 pen, 6f); D Culleton 2-1; L Tynan 1-1; S Dwyer, P Russell, E Meagher 0-1 each. Dublin: E Carroll, D Cortin (2f, 2 '65) 0-4 each; D Sweeney 0-2; T Moore, S Mullen, A de Paor, R Fallon (65) 0-1 each.
LAOIS - P Mullaney 7; B Campion 7, P Cuddy 7, M McEvoy 6; J Fitzpatrick 8, D Rooney 7, S Dwyer 8; J Young 9, J Welsh 7; J Phelan 8, J Rowney 5, L Tynan 7; T Fitzgerald 6, M Rooney 6, D Culleton 8. Subs: E Meagher 7, P Russell (7 for M Rooney 47), C Healy (5 for Walsh 60), C Brophy for Culleton (63) T Coonan for Tynan (70). Yellow card: J Young 69.
DUBLIN - G Maguire 6; G Bennett 5, S O'Shea 5, G O'Meara 7; D Sweeney 7, R Fallon 6, S Hiney 7; T Moore 6, S McDonald 6; M Carton 5, D Curtin 7, D O'Reilly 6; E Carroll 8, M Breathnach 5, S Mullen 6. Subs: S Perkins 5 for O'Shea (30), C Meehan 6 for M Carton (46), P Carton 5 for Mullen (51), S Daly 5 for McDonald (57), A de Paor for Fallon (70). Yellow cards: D O'Reilly (43), R Fallon (69). Red card: S Perkins (46).
REF - T McIntyre (Antrim).
MAN OF MATCH
JAMES YOUNG (Laois)
MADE a massive contribution, at midfield in the first half, and at centre-forward on the restart shooting 1-9 in all. As well as his scoring, the Clonaslee man won possession regularly and used it to telling effect.
MOVE OF THE MATCH
DUBLIN's best moment was their second point as Ronan Fallon picked out David Curtin from defence who in turn found Emmet Carroll, and the corner forward split the posts.
MISS OF THE MATCH
DUBLIN substitute Peadar Carton had an excellent chance of finding the net near the end, but as the Laois defence crowded him, he chose to kick the ball and his effort sailed wide.