Lethargic Laois do enough to take title

Laois 0-10 Kildare 0-6

A fifth Leinster minor title captured for Laois in just nine years and not once did Seán Dempsey’s players even look close to playing to their full potential.

Whether that’s a good or a bad thing remains to be seen. These boys have serious talent oozing from every pore, but the problem may be that they know it. Winning every provincial title from U14 on up will do that to a bunch teenagers.

It manifests itself in all sorts of ways, not least in corner-back Cahir Healy’s corn rows hairstyle and forward Michael Tierney’s bleached blond mohawk strip.

All well and good but when that sort of cockiness manifests itself into their play, the doubts must creep in over their ability to emulate last year’s crop and capture the All-Ireland, too.

The signs were there in the semi-final win over Dublin at Dr Cullen Park, Carlow 10 days ago when a commanding half-time lead was almost obliterated by a bout of collective lethargy and overconfidence.

The lessons obviously weren’t learnt. It took 59 of the 60 minutes yesterday to finally put away a game but limited Kildare side after a contest which only caught fire with a handful of late minor scuffles that resulted in Kildare defenders John Fogarty and Pauric Kearney shown the line.

Entering the game as 1/5 favourites, and with seven of last year’s All-Ireland winners on the first 15, Laois simply never got going. Tierney got the ball rolling with a free eight minutes in, but both team found it almost beyond them to generate a fluid move let alone a commanding period of play.

Kildare’s midfield duo of Pauric O’Neill and Conor Hughes were jousting eagerly with their counterparts Brendan Quigley and Craig Rogers, both of whom are on their second tour of minor duty this term.

Most of Laois’ ills were of their own making. Time and again they overran the ball in possession, flying down cul de sacs instead of laying off the obvious pass for the man on the overlap. Too many chiefs and not enough indians. Criminal stuff, really.

Kildare were more sparing with ball in hand and were rewarded when the impressive O’Neill landed the first point from play from distance. It was a brief interlude amid the monotony though. As the break approached Laois led by a point - 0-5 to 0-4 - and that’s when the first action of real note happened. Kildare corner-forward Tommy Archbold, their ace in the forward pack, jumped high for a dropping ball with Healy and landed badly on a shoulder and had to be replaced.

Not only did it rob Kildare of their chief scoring threat, it allowed Healy to push up and lend his weight to the attack.

After the interval and it was more of the same, Laois playing as individuals and Kildare working furiously as a team to try and hang on their coattails and Kildare had their chances to raise the stakes midway through the half.

First Gary White saw his close-range shot blocked by a barrier of Laois defenders and then Michael Conway was bustled wide by Brian Meredith just as he was winding up to fire one past Eoin Culliton between the sticks.

Laois lifted the siege through a sublime point from centre-forward Ian Fleming far out on the Cusack Stand touchline to extend the lead to three and then Tierney wrapped it up with a late free.

LAOIS: E Culliton; C Healy, M Timmins, B Meredith; K Smith, C Begley, N Donagher; B Quigley, C Rogers; E Butler, I Fleming (0-1); S O’Leary; M Tierney (0-4, 2f), D Brennan (0-3), D Conway (0-2).

Sub: S O’Neill for Butler 45.

KILDARE: J Kindregan; D McEvoy, J Fogarty, I Lobergan; P. Kearney, J. Creighton, J. Brosnan; C. Hughes, P. O’Neill (0-2); B Bell, A. Smith (0-2), C. Kelly (0-1); M. Conway, G. White, T. Archbold (0-1).

Subs: D. Brennan for Brosnan 13, C. Brennan for Archbold 30, T. O’Connor for Creighton 62.

Referee: S Doyle (Wexford).

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