Saturday 16 December 2017

McGrane's goals save wasteful Dubs

DUBLIN 3-11 LAOIS 0-15 SHANE SCANLON DUBLIN clinched the dubious honour of a Leinster SHC semi-final with Kilkenny next weekend after outgunning Laois in an entertaining quarter-final replay at Nowlan Park last night.

There was no doubting Dublin's superiority though there were serious question marks over their shooting which was abysmal in the opening half. But the 'city minnows' deserve great credit for their perseverance and their fitness, an asset which shone in the final quarter when they pulled away from their valiant opponents before an estimated 4,000 attendance.

Despite conceding an early point, Dublin looked the hungrier. Conal Keaney, centre-back last week, benefited from his switch to midfield where his new partner Stephen McDonnell also fared better than he did at wing-forward last week.

The men from the capital quickly got back on level terms thanks to a prodigious score from Keaney who converted a free from a distance of about 90 yards.

Tomás McGrane - scorer of 13 points last weekend - struggled to get into an early rhythm with his placed balls after missing an early 65.But the Dublin freetaker went made amends when finding the net in the 9th minute. Laois 'keeper John Lyons could only parry Shane Martin's goal effort and McGrane pounced to whip home the rebound.

Marty Morris' men dominated first half possession thanks to good support play from half-backs and midfield, but the attack was guilty of a total of 13 wides and the majority were of the embarrassing variety.

As a result of this erratic shooting, Laois were handed the initiative. The O'Moores' frontmen were far more accurate and two superb efforts from Robert Jones saw them take a 0-6 to 1-2 lead 10 minutes before the interval.

Keaney restored parity in the 29th minute when splitting the posts with a 65, and McGrane scored a point from play that handed Dublin a 1-4 to 0-6 half-time lead.

Dublin reshuffle their attack during the interval with Leaving Cert student Michael Carton getting an introduction at the expense of Damien Russell. Carton's entry at right corner-forward prompted Martin to revert from full-forward to the forty.

This move indirectly laid the foundations for Dublin's victory as it saw Keaney gain a new midfield partner in Kevin Flynn, who profited immensely from the switch as did the re-positioned Martin.

The Sky Blues made the perfect start to the second half when McGrane fastened on to Derek O'Reilly's hopeful ball before his left-footed effort beat Lyons for his second goal.

Within a minute, a point from the revitalised Martin had the city slickers five points in front, but inspired by Young and wing-back Michael McEvoy, Laois finally got their act together.

With 14 minutes left on the clock, the Midlanders were back on level terms after notching six consecutive points, the last of which was a marvellous long-range point from McEvoy.

However, Dublin sub Ger Ennis changed the course of the game in the 57th minute with practically his first touch of the game. An incisive pass from the much-improved Martin (who ended the game with five points from play) released the Craobh Chiarán sharpshooter who took the steps rule to its limit before blasting to the net.

Martin quickly added two more points and while Young tried his best to trigger a last-gasp comeback, some inspirational defending from the man-of-the-match Stephen Hiney and the excellent Stephen Perkins ensured the defence wasn't breached.

Dublin 'keeper Brendan McLoughlin was also on top of his game and made a fine save from an injury-time Young free, before Ennis put the icing on the cake with the last point of the game.

SCORERS: Dublin - T McGrane 2-3 (0-1f); S Martin 0-5; G Ennis 1-1; C Keaney 0-2 (1f, 1 65). Laois - D Young 0-8 (0-5fs, 0-1 65), M McEvoy 0-2; R Jones 0-2; D Cuddy, J Phelan, L Tynan 0-1 each.

LAOIS: J Lyons; L Mahon, Pakie Cuddy, P Mahon; C Cuddy, Paul Cuddy, M McEvoy; D Rooney, J Young; J Phelan, D Cuddy, R Jones; T Fitzgerald, L Tynan, D Culleton. Subs: D Conroy for Phelan (49); L Wynne for Fitzgerald; B McCormack for Culleton (63).

DUBLIN: B McLoughlin; P Brennan, S Perkins, K Elliott; S Hiney, D Spain, K Ryan; C Keaney, S McDonnell; D Russell, C Meehan, T Moore; T McGrane, S Martin, K Flynn. Subs: D O'Reilly for Elliott (24); M Carton for Russell (35); G Ennis for McDonnell (45); K Horgan for Moore (55).

Referee: S McMahon (Clare)

Semi-finals decision today THE Leinster Council is having second thoughts about playing the Guinness Hurling semi-finals as a double feature at Kilkenny's Nowlan Park next weekend. The Provincial Council officers and members of the Executive meet in Croke Park today when a final decision will be made.

The original plan was to play the semi-final between Wexford and Offaly at Nowlan Park, with the meeting of All-Ireland champions Kilkenny and Dublin as the curtain-raiser. Both matches were to be played on Sunday.

"There appears to be higher interest in Wexford and Offaly than was originally thought, so we will have to look at the situation again," explained Leinster Council chairman, Nicky Brennan, last night.

What the Council might do is play the Dublin and Kilkenny game on Saturday, with the Wexford and Offaly tie on Sunday. Both games will be at Nowlan Park.

* OFFALY have named the same team as started in the drawn game for tomorrow's Leinster SFC quarter-final replay against Laois in Tullamore. However, half-backs John Kenny and Finbar Cullen will undergo last minute fitness tests.

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