Offaly 1-21 Laois 1-16
By Kevin Egan at Bord na Móna O’Connor Park
A late flurry of scores from Laois masked the dominant nature of Offaly’s performance at
Bord na Móna O’Connor Park in Tullamore this afternoon, as the Faithful County comfortably overcame their midland rivals thanks to a strong showing from their defensive unit against the wind and a powerful burst of scoring in the third quarter of the contest.
Frozen conditions this morning made way for a bright and clear day in the midlands, but there was still a biting cold wind that blew down the ground and favoured Laois heavily in the opening 35 minutes.
Defensively Kevin Martin’s side were superb in that period, as evidenced by the statistic that the starting Laois forward line scored just two points between them in that opening period.
Midfielder Paddy Purcell enjoyed yet another profitable outing however as he racked up a personal tally of 1-3 and earned a number of frees into the bargain, but it was only in the latter stages of the contest that the Laois attack started to make any real inroads.
The first four points of the game were shared equally, despite the fact that Eoghan Cahill’s puckouts failed to clear halfway at any stage in the first half, but Laois overcame that when they broke through to fire in the first goal of the game after 13 minutes.
Purcell broke forward to take a pass from Ben Conroy and deliver a stunning finish to the roof of the Offaly net from an incredibly tight angle, but Offaly slowly and methodically set about reducing the deficit, and soon hit the front through points from Shane Dooley, Joe Bergin, Cillian Kiely and livewire midfielder Thomas Geraghty.
Padraig Lawlor came forward from wing back to fire over one point and set up another for Ross King, but Offaly continued to prove that bit more adept in the physical exchanges, and while they dodged a bullet when Purcell fired the ball over the bar from close range when it looked like a second goal was on, they took an 0-11 to 1-7 advantage into half time.
Ross King and Mark Kavanagh pointed to turn the tables immediately after half time, the latter drawing rapturous applause for a wonderful sideline cut from underneath the stand, but Offaly quickly took over and effectively settled the tie by scoring 1-8 over the next fifteen minutes.
Joe Bergin delivered the killer blow when he outjumped his marker to field a long Pat Camon clearance on the 20-metre line and within a split second he had turned and flashed a powerful shot past Enda Rowland.
Bergin added two more superb points to bring his tally up to 1-4 in a man of the match display from the Seir Kieran man, while Shane Dooley showed great accuracy from dead balls as Offaly moved out of sight.
There was a noticeable dip in intensity from the home side in the closing stages of the contest and Laois had a number of chances to score their second goal of the game – and what would have been their second goal of the league competition as a whole – from close range frees, but the Offaly defence held firm.
OFFALY: E Cahill; T Spain, S Gardiner, B Conneely; P Camon, D O’Toole (0-1), P Delaney (0-1); T Geraghty (0-2), D King (0-1); C Mahon, C Kiely (0-1), C Egan; J Bergin (1-4), S Dooley (0-10, 6 frees, 1 ’65), D Currams (0-1).
Subs: O Kelly for Kiely (51), D Egan for C Egan (56), J Gorman for Currams (62), P Rigney for Delaney (68), D Shortt for Geraghty (68)
LAOIS: E Rowland (0-1 free); L Bergin, L Cleere, D Hartnett; P Lawlor (0-1), M Whelan, E Killeen; P Purcell (1-3), J Ryan; B Conroy, C Dwyer (0-1), W Dunphy (0-2); R King (0-5, 4 frees), N Foyle (0-1), C Comerford.
Subs: C Stapleton for Hartnett (23), M Kavanagh (0-2, 1 sideline) for Comerford (HT), C Quinlan for Killeen (41), C Taylor for Dunphy (59), P McKane for Foyle (68)
Ref: Justin Heffernan (Wexford)