Diarmuid Whelan struck a magnificent 10 points as Laois ended Kildare’s reign as Leinster and All-Ireland U20 champions at the first stage in St Conleth’s Park last night on Tuesday evening. Whelan was ably-supported by four points from centre-forward Michael Doran as a well-drilled Laois recorded a deserved win.
Kildare started sharply and with four different forwards on the scoresheet, went 0-4 to 0-1 ahead inside eight minutes. Even at that stage though, Laois were looking dangerous and Whelan (2) and Doran struck to the level the game by the 13th minute.
As momentum flowed from one end to the other, Kildare then scored the next four points to move 0-8 to 0-4 ahead by the 21st minute, with all six forwards on the scoresheet by that stage.
However, Laois moved up a gear after that and out-scored Kildare by 0-10 to 0-1 over the next half-hour of football. Eoin Dunne scored a 45 as they scored the last three points of the half to go in 0-8 to 0-7 behind.
Kildare never got going in the second half but you’d have to credit Laois for that. They were strong around the middle with midfield pair Robert Tyrell and Eoin Dunne and the forwards converted well from the steady stream of ball going their way.
After wing-back Dean Brophy scored the first point of the restart, Whelan scored three in a row to push Laois 0-11 to 0-8 ahead. Darragh Kirwan knocked over Kildare’s first score in the second half but by then, the signs were ominous. Doran, Whelan and Coffey all got on the scoresheet then to leave the gap at five points.
Kildare’s brought on some very talented young forwards but it was a day where nothing would really fall for them and Jack Cully’s 60th minute point did little to effect the scoreboard. There were over six minutes added-on and in the fifth of those, Kildare won a penalty when James Burke was pushed in the back.
Luke Griffin stepped up confidently and slotted his kick past Matthew Byron to briefly cause some panic among the Laois support in the crowd. However, they went up the field and fittingly, it was Whelan who got on the ball and fired over his 10th point of the game to send Kildare crashing out of the competition and set up a deserved quarter-final for Laois against rivals Westmeath.
A O’Neill; N O’Sullivan, M Barrett, C Halpin, E McGovern, DJ Earley. D Ryan; J Carey, J Burke; L O’Flynn 0-1, D Kirwan 0-3, B McDonnell 0-1, C Joyce 0-2, J Cully 0-2 (0-1 f), L Griffin 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-2 f).
Subs: S Cullen for O’Flynn (38), P Behan for Carey (40) S O’Sullivan for Joyce (40), B Stynes for Halpin (46 b/c), P McDermott for McGovern (51), A Steed for McDonnell (58).
M Byron, M Dowling, S Lacey, A Mohan, C Slevin, J Lacey, D Brophy (0-1); R Tyrell, E Dunne (0-1, 0-1 45); R Coffey (0-1), M Doran (0-4), N Dunne, A Kinsella, D McCormack, D Whelan (0-10, 0-3 f).
Subs: J Owens for McCormack (49), M Dempsey for Dunne (57), PJ Daly for Doran (60), J Maher for Kinsella (60+2) K Byrne for Slevin (60+4).
Referee: Barry Tiernan.