Laois finish in style to foil Offaly comeback

Laois 2-18 Offaly 1-15

Laois finish in style to foil  Offaly comeback

In a contest full of entertainment if not quality where black cards were marked absent, the home team absorbed a mini second half revival by Offaly to run out easy winners with six points without reply.

Three of them came from Billy Sheehan, who was given a more advanced role last night than in previous seasons, with an impressive Donie Kingston grabbing two and top scorer Conor Meredith kicking a fine long-range free.

Leading 2-6 to 1-7 at half-time, Laois had looked comfortable at four points ahead in the 54th minute when Sheehan became the last of their six starting forwards to score and widened the margin to four.

But Offaly fired right back with a quartet of unanswered scores in just two minutes, a brace of them coming from substitute Nigel Dunne and one from Graham Guilfoyle who was fortunate to escape a black card earlier in the half.

Laois’ attack, improved by the introduction of AFL triallist Evan O’Carroll who kicked two points, responded well and a jaded Offaly conceded scores cheaply towards the finish.

At the outset, Offaly had two points on the board by the third minute via a Ken Casey free and a Johnny Maloney point. However, Laois went ahead two minutes later when Sheehan found himself in possession behind the Offaly cover. He initially fumbled the ball but managed to make amends with a precise hand-pass to Conor Meredith who found the net.

A second Casey point was followed from the resultant kick-out by a Ciarán Hurley goal, his cooly-despatched shot too good for Graham Brody.

In one quick swoop, Offaly had regained the lead but they found themselves behind almost as quickly when Meredith punished some sloppy play to square the ball for an onrushing Martin Scully to palm to the net.

A beautiful Ruairi Allen point from distance levelled the game — 2-1 to 1-4 — a minute later and Offaly had regained their composure fully by the 21st minute when Peter Cunningham’s point put them one ahead.

Another Casey doubled their advantage but the remainder of the half belonged to Laois as they gained a foothold in midfield and provided more support play in attacks.

Adam Ryan had a shot saved by Alan Mulhall in the 23rd minute but a Meredith free and a fisted point by John O’Loughlin tied the game for a third time.

Donie Kingston, after a neat one-two with Sheehan, almost goaled but was rewarded with a point and Eoin Lowry extended their lead to two by the interval.

Scorers for Laois: C Meredith (1-4, 0-3 frees); M Scully (1-0); D Kingston (1 free), Sheehan (0-4 each); D Conway, E O’Carroll 0-2 each; J O’Loughlin, E Lowry (0-1 each).

Scorers for Offaly: K Casey (2 frees), P Cunningham (0-3 each); C Hurley (1-0); C McNamee, N Dunne (1 free) (0-2 each); J Maloney, R Allen, N Darby (free), G Guilfoyle, N Geraghty (0-1 each).

LAOIS: G Brody; P O’Leary, M Timmons, R Keogh; S Attride, P Begley, A Ryan; J Finn, J O’Loughlin; E Lowry, D Kingston, B Sheehan; M Scully, C Meredith, D Conway.

Subs: E O’Carroll for M Scully (44); D Booth for E Lowry, K Lillis for P Begley (both 50); D O’Connor for K Lillis (inj 64);

OFFALY: A Mulhall; J O’Connor, D Brady, E Carroll; C McNamee, S Delaney, N Darby; J Brickland, R Allen; G Guilfoyle, P Cunningham, C Hurley; J Maloney, K Casey, N McNamee.

Subs: P McConway for J Brickland (30); N Dunne for J Maloney (44); N Geraghty for N McNamee (56);

Referee: D Gough (Meath).

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