Resilient Laois growing in stature

THE margin of victory was as comfortable as the scoreline reflected and Tipperary boss John Evans cautioned that it was hard to judge Laois on the basis of it.

However, the astute Kerryman did reflect that the O’Moores were an improved outfit from last year, which is significant in their first term under Justin McNulty’s stewardship.

One of the biggest flaws about most Laois teams was the lack of physique, but with Kevin Meaney, Padraic Clancy, Brendan Quigley, John O’Loughlin and Donie Kingston up the middle in Portlaoise on Saturday, they were too strong for Tipp.

The visitors coughed up possession in the tackle and had no answer to Laois’s workrate, with the attack benefiting from Kingston as a focal point and the excellent Ross Munnelly playing closer to goal.

“Quite obviously the better team won,” said Evans.

“Laois have improved a lot from last year. They seem to be more committed, certainly more committed in the tackle. I don’t know how good they are because things went very wrong for us and a lot of things didn’t go right for us.

“They’re strong around the middle, they’re working hard; they’re working hard for each other and kicking good scores. We gave the ball away easily at times but also we were forced to give it away. It was probably a bit too easy for Laois to perform.”

MJ Tierney also gave a polished performance, adding two points from play – the second after a delicious chip lift on the run – to three well-struck 45s. But he spent much of the first half at least playing very deep and conceded a free from which Barry Grogan pointed inside his 13m line. But he made up for it by creating Darren Strong’s goal.

“You’d have to be happy with the manner of the performance more so than the result,” McNulty declared.

“The character demonstrated by the guys, the resilience shown by the guys, coming back from a soul-destroying defeat against Dublin. We got a good early score which gave us a bit of confidence but I think there were periods in the first half we were dominating but we weren’t dominating on the scoreboard.

“The match was still very much up for grabs after half-time but we came out and had a massive push shortly after and that’s what killed off the game in terms of a contest.”

Laois had three points on the board inside five minutes before Barry Grogan got the visitors off the mark from a free. But Laois were clearly fired up and with Clancy, Quigley and O’Loughlin all asserting their power in the middle third, they continued to dominate.

O’Loughlin and Colm Begley registered points and Paul Fitzgerald was smartly off his line to deny Strong a goal.

Brian Mulvihill took a quick free from Grogan to reduce the deficit to three but the commanding Laois defence was having little trouble in holding up a generally ponderous Tipp attack.

Following a 12-minute lull, Kingston (free) and Munnelly stretched the lead to five before Johnny Cagney hit back for Tipp from their first attack of real pace. Grogan followed up from a free, needlessly conceded by Tierney inside his own 13m line.

Tierney made up for his faux-pas in consummate style in the 33rd minute, finding Clancy with a sumptuous pass. Clancy found Strong, who turned onto his right boot before slamming to the net.

George Hannigan reduced the margin to five with an early point and had Brian Coen done better than scuff a shot straight at Eoin Culleton, things might have been different.

It’s doubtful though and Laois kicked four of the next five points before Colm Begley rammed home his side’s second goal to remove any doubt.

The intensity dropped considerably thereafter and Tipp enjoyed a little more joy through Portlaoise clubman Hugh Coghlan, Seamus and Barry Grogan (two) frees but Laois were in cruise control, while Tierney brought his tally of 45s to three.

Scorers for Laois: MJ Tierney 0-5 (3 45s), D Strong 1-2, C Begley 1-1, R Munnelly, D Kingston (2fs) 0-3 each; J O’Loughlin 0-2.

Scorers for Tipperary: B Grogan 0-4 (fs), B Mulvihill 0-2, G Hannigan, S Grogan, H Coghlan, J Cagney, P Austin 0-1 each.

Subs for Laois: D Booth for O’Leary (ht), K Lillis for Clancy (45), G Kavanagh for Donoher (47), B Brennan for Munnelly (60), D Carroll for Kingston (63).

Subs for Tipperary: B Coen for Cagney (ht), S Carey for McGrath (ht), N Curran for Mulvihill (55), R Kiely for Aylward (66), S Hahessy for Coghlan (68).

Referee: M Condon (Waterford).

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