Allianz NHL Division 1B
Laois 1-26 Offaly 1-20
By Coilín Duffy
Laois were impressive, as they bounced back from last week's defeat to Kerry to claim a six-point win over Midland rivals Offaly at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise tonight.
The sides were level on five occasions inside the opening 26 minutes, before a point from Charles Dwyer handed the hosts a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
In a tight competitive encounter, both sides worked hard, although Offaly found themselves a man down in first half injury-time, with Sean Gardiner shown a straight red card; and the visitors finished the game with 13 men, after Aidan Treacy was dismissed three minutes after
With both teams having recorded losses in their first round fixtures, they were keen to get off to a positive start in this encounter, and it was the visitors who drew first blood.
Kevin Ryan's side were under pressure early on, but showed well defensively, while at the opposite end Peter Geraghty opened their account in the second minute with a fine point from play.
A minute later, Oisin Kelly had the ball in the back of the Laois net, after dispossessing Dwane Palmer, and following Geraghty's second point, Offaly were five points clear on a 1-2 to 0-0 score-line.
Laois bounced back with points from Stephen Maher and Charles Dwyer, before Neil Foyle rattled the net in the seventh minute, after good work at the back, with Paddy Purcell also involved.
The hosts were moving well at this stage, and took the lead for the first time in the ninth minute, after Maher slotted over his second point.
Oisin Kelly brought the sides level for the second time, before Laois opened up a two-point gap thanks to scores from Patrick Whelan and Maher.
Some fine hurling was produced by both sides, and it didn't take long for Offaly to equalise again - this time in the 16th minute, after Cillian Kiely and Shane Dooney fired over points.
Both teams were strong defensively over the next few minutes, with Maher breaking a five-minute scoring deadlock from his side, with his third point from a placed ball, and fourth overall.
Laois lost Matthew Whelan to a hand injury with Cian Taylor introduced, before Dooley's second point levelled the game for the fourth time on 23 minutes.
Dooley put Offaly ahead with a pointed free two minutes later, but this was as good as it got for his side, as Laois got on top.
Willie Dunphy equalised, kickstarting a run of six unanswered scores, with Dwyer (2) and Maher (3) on target to build up a 1-12 to 1-7 lead on the stroke of first-half injury-time.
Gardiner was dismissed after a high tackle on Taylor, but Offaly finished the half well as Dooley popped over another free to cut the gap to four points at the interval.
Laois opened the second half brightly with scores from Stephen Maher (2) and Ross King to extend their lead to seven points, inside three minutes after the restart.
Disaster struck Offaly once more as Aidan Treacy picked up a red card, but again Dooley popped over a point from a free to try and settle the visitors.
Taylor and Dooley swapped scores, before both teams had missed chances - Maher for Laois and Kiely for Offaly.
Maher was pretty accurate though over the hour - top scoring with 12 points - five from play - one of those an excellent score in the 43rd minute, before he followed up two minutes later with another score from a placed ball.
Offaly kept chipping away, with a Sean Cleary score helping to cut the gap, but again Laois offered a response.
Dunphy and Dwyer claimed back-to-back scores inside a minute, with Dooley continuing to keep Offaly's tally ticking over from frees.
Taylor and Kiely swapped scores to ensure a 1-21 to 1-13 score-line with 16 minutes remaining.
King was impressive for the hosts in the middle third of the second half, but Offaly continued to work hard.
Efforts from Cleary and Dooley helped cut the gap to six points with as many minutes of normal time left on the clock, and although the gap was reduced to five late on, a 72nd minute Patrick Purcell pointed handed Laois a six-point victory.
Laois: E Rowland; D Palmer, L Bergin, P Lawlor; C Healy, M Whelan, R
Mullaney; P Purcell (0-1), B Conroy; S Maher (0-12, 7f), C Dwyer
(0-5), P Whelan (0-1); W Dunphy (0-2), N Foyle (1-0), R King (0-3).
Subs: C Taylor (0-2) for M Whelan (22); S Downey for Lawlor (24); A
Dunphy for P Whelan (45), A Corby for Conroy (60); C Phelan for Palmer
Offaly:J Dempsey; M Cleary, C Doughan, B Conneely; S Ryan, D Short, S
Gardiner; A Treacy, C Kiely (0-3); P Murphy, S Dooley (0-10, 10f), O
Kelly (1-2); P Geraghty (0-2), S Cleary (0-2), J Mulrooney. Subs: E
Nolan (0-1) for Murphy (28); P Delaney for M Cleary (HT); E Grogan for
Mulrooney (47); P Guinan for Conneely (56).
Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary)