Offaly learn little as Laois forced to battle with 14 men

Offaly cantered to a comprehensive 12 points victory in this lack lustre Allianz NHL Division 1B opening round encounter at O’Connor Park, Tullamore yesterday as Laois never recovered from the dismissal of Michael McEvoy in the 21st minute.

Laois were incensed when centre-forward McEvoy picked up a second yellow card following a frontal challenge on James Rigney.

Ironically, it was also Rigney that was on the receiving end when McEvoy picked up his first yellow in the 11th minute and Teddy McCarthy’s side were torn asunder in the remaining first half minutes by a rampant Offaly, for whom Brendan Murphy, Joe Bergin, Shane Dooley and Sean Ryan amassed 19 points between them.

The teams were level three times during a lively opening spell. However, James Mulrooney’s 8th minute opportunist goal after a probing Derek Morkan delivery wasn’t cleared sufficiently put daylight between them.

That goal was still the difference, 1-6 to 0-6, up until referee James Owens dismissed McEvoy, with his attention being called to the incident by his linesman.

McCarthy reflected: “Michael was doing quite well and we were well in the hunt until he was sent off. We lost our shape completely when he went off. We didn’t know how to handle the extra man out there, it is obviously a learning curve for all of us.”

From the 24th minute up until half time, disjointed Laois were hurled off the park and confident Offaly clinically outscored them by 0-9 to 0-1. So leading 1-15 to 0-7 at the interval, Ollie Baker’s charges weren’t going to be caught and he was quite understandably delighted with the win.

“The scores we got after the sending off put a bit of distance between the sides before half time and the game just petered out from there,” admitted the Clare legend.

“We learned that the attitude of the players was good. In the first 35 minutes they did everything they could when the questions were asked but it did become a terrible spectacle for the spectators.”

Having reorganised themselves during half time and with the game’s leading scorer Willie Hyland (0-8) on song, Laois battled away gamely during a pretty tame concluding 35 minutes where they ‘lost out’ by the minimum margin, 0-11 to 0-12.

Impressive mid-fielder Brian Dunne, Joe Fitzpatrick and Tommy Fitzgerald also grabbed some fine points for the Laois men.

McCarthy saw some positives after the break: “If we can take that second half and work on it for the next game against Limerick then I’ll be happy enough.”

Offaly finished with 13 wides (five more than Laois) and Laois ‘keeper Eoin Reilly produced a string of fine saves, while merely seconds into the second half Dooley sent a pile driver thumping off the crossbar.

When it was put to Baker his side accumulated 1-24 from play, he quipped: “That’s not bad but I think we missed about 4-30! We’ll go back and look at the stats and see where we go.”

Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley (0-7, 0-3 frees), B Murphy (0-5), J Bergin (0-4), J Mulrooney (1-1), S Ryan (0-3), T Carroll (0-2), R Hanniffy, D Morkan, D Molloy, C Mahon & C Egan (0-1 each).

Scorers for Laois: W Hyland (0-8, 0-4 frees), B Dunne (0-4), J Fitzpatrick, T Fitzgerald & J Brophy (0-2 each) OFFALY: J Dempsey; M Verney, D Kenny, S Wynne; J Rigney, R Hanniffy, D Horan; C Mahon, D Morkan; S Dooley, D Molloy, B Murphy; S Ryan, J Bergin, J Mulrooney.

Subs: C Egan for Mahon (45), D Franks for Verney (56), T Carroll for Mulrooney (56), D Mooney for Molloy (65), M Morkan for Murphy inj (68).

LAOIS: E Reilly; B Stapleton, D Maher, B Smith; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, C Dunne; J Walsh, B Dunne; D Peacock, M McEvoy, W Hyland; W Dunphy, T Fitzgerald, J Brophy.

Subs: N Foyle for Dunphy (half time), C Murray for Peacock (39), S Bourke for Walsh (39), P Mullaney for B Smith (63).

Referee: J Owens, Wexford.

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