By John Fogarty
Dublin 2-21 Laois 2-10
As expected, for Dublin it was a comfortable first championship day away from Croke Park in 10 days but not without its faults.
The fans from the capital who made up most of the 16,764 crowd in Nowlan Park brought all the noise and pizzazz but the Laois players at least gave their small numbers something to admire.
Dublin led by 13 points in the 39th minute but saw their advantage more than halved by 14-man Laois by the 50th minute as Mick Lillis’ side took them for two goals in the space of four minutes.
The first goal came courtesy of a Paul Cahillane penalty after Jonny Cooper had brought down Damien O’Connor following a quick-thinking free over the top found the defender in space.
It marked the first time Stephen Cluxton had been beaten in the Leinster SFC since the 2014 final.
Dublin’s rearguard were again split open in the 47th minute as Donie Kingston sucked in three defenders before offloading to Stephen Attride whose finish past Stephen Cluxton was emphatic. Ross Munnelly, having come off the bench, then added a point.
But that’s where Laois’ challenge ended as Dublin awoke from their slumber to send over five points on the trot to end the game as a contest. Diarmuid Connolly had a late penalty strike saved by Graham Brody but the damage had long been done.
Laois knew they were going to be put through the ringer but they may not have anticipated the trouble would start for them as early as the 15th second when Dean Rock found the net after a ball was put over the top for him to exploit.
Their net was ringing a second time in the fifth minute in a move initiated by a long Stephen Cluxton kick-out and claimed by James McCarthy who laid on the ball for Connolly to arrow past Brody.
Laois restored some pride with two points in quick succession to make it 2-4 to 0-3 in the 19th minute although Connolly then ended a 10-minute barren spell for Dublin in the 20th minute.
Any slim chance Laois had of upsetting the odds ended in the 27th minute when John O’Loughlin caught Michael Darragh Macauley’s face after the Dublin midfielder had released the ball.
On the half hour mark, there were eight points between the teams but that increased to 11 by half-time, 2-12 to 0-7, as Rock and Kilkenny added braces of points followed by a second effort for Connolly to round off the half.
Scorers for Dublin: D. Rock (1-10, 0-6 frees); D. Connolly (1-4); C. Kilkenny (0-4); D. Byrne, K. McManamon, C. O’Callaghan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Laois: P. Cahillane (1-2, 1-0 pen, 0-2 frees); S. Attride (1-0); D. Kingston (0-2, 1 free); G. Walsh, J. O’Loughlin, K. Meaney, R. Munnelly, D. Strong, D. O’Connor (0-1 each).
DUBLIN: S. Cluxton (c); D. Byrne, J. Cooper, P. McMahon; J. McCarthy, C O’Sullivan, J. Small; B. Fenton, M.D. Macauley; C. Kilkenny, K. McManamon, D. Connolly; P. Mannion, D. Rock, B. Brogan.
Subs for Dublin: D. Bastick for M.D. Macauley (blood, 28-45); M. Fitzsimons for P. McMahon (45); C. Costello for B. Brogan (51); C. O’Callaghan for P. Mannion (56); D. Daly for C. O’Sullivan (59); E. Lowndes for J. Cooper (62); E. O’Gara for D. Rock (63).
LAOIS: G. Brody; M. Timmons, P. Cotter, S. Attride; D. O’Connor, D. Strong, G. Dillon; J. O’Loughlin, B. Quigley; C.Begley, P. Cahillane, E. O’Carroll; D. Kingston (c), C. Meredith, G. Walsh.
Subs for Laois: A. Farrell for G. Dillon (blood, 21-23); K. Meaney for E. O’Carroll (30); N. Donoher for G. Walsh (h-t); R. Munnelly for G. Dillon (47); A. Farrell for P. Cahillane (63); G. Hanrahan for P. Cotter, R. O’Connor for C. Meredith (both 65).
Sent off: J. O’Loughlin (straight, 27).
Referee: C. Branagan (Down)