Dublin’s O’Byrne Cup semi-final clash with Meath was confirmed prior to this last round game but they dug deep to recover from a 66th-minute goal by Brendan Quigley.
Kevin McManamon then converted a penalty to restore Dublin’s one-point advantage, only for Donie Kingston to equalise with a free. But it was Ó Conghaile from 35 metres with his third second-half point that sealed the victory to make it three wins from three matches for Dublin. Ó Conghaile, an All-Ireland U21 winner under Gavin, hasn’t progressed as quickly as the likes of Ciarán Kilkenny, Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey. But Gavin has been impressed by how he’s go about his business.
“He was developing from the U21s and he developed with the senior squad last year and pushed very hard for a place in the Championship team. He had a good league with his club and championship too, so it’s good to see him develop. He had some great scores from play and was an influence from play, which was a great to see. He’s very good at taking his scores and one of the best high fielders we have technically. He has a classic style of catching and we encourage that. It was good to see some high fetching. He has a good bit to go but he’s a great worker off the field and he’s very diligent and he wants to represent Dublin and it showed today.”
Tomás Brady was arguably the pick of the Dublin team, though, in a game that didn’t ignite until the closing stages. Laois benefited from the wind advantage in the first half but would have been disappointed to have registered eight wides as the sides were level at the break, (0-6 apiece).
Laois were first off the mark in the second half but then had a stonewall penalty claim turned down by referee Cormac Reilly. John Small had brought John O’Loughlin to ground inside the area but Reilly instead opted to give a free-in seconds later. “He was in the square, I thought it was a call for a penalty,” said Laois manager Tomás Ó Flatharta, “but that’s the way it goes. He didn’t give it. We just got a free from it in the end. I think he said it was a technical foul. What that means I don’t know.”
But after Wednesday’s depressing show against Maynooth University at this same venue where they lost by eight points, the Kerry native was pleased to see some pride restored with this gutsy display, the likes of Quigley and Gearoid Hanrahan, even if it was his foul that gave away the late penalty, showing the way.
“The performance on Wednesday night wasn’t hectic. It was disappointing. The main thing we needed was a bit of honesty and a bit of hard work and I think we got that. Six points each at half-time and playing against a very strong breeze, you would think that the team with the wind would dominate the play. We went behind by three or four points but the lads kept at it and they worked very hard and played for one another. It just goes to show there are lads here who are very proud to play for Laois.”
Gavin tipped his hat to Bryan Cullen, who announced his retirement on Friday. “Physically he was in great condition. Mentally he’s strong as well and he has all the technical attributes you’d want in a senior footballer. But he’s got a professional life outside of his sport, Gaelic football, and he wants to go back and play some football with his club. But that’s for each individual to make those decisions. It’s not for... I can only set out my plans.”
Scorers for Laois: D Kingston (0-7, 6 frees); B Quigley (1-0); P McEvoy, C Kelly, M O’Halloran, J O’Loughlin (0-1 each).
Scorers for Dublin: D Rock (0-6, 5 frees); K McManamon (1-1, 1-0 pen); E Ó Conghaile (0-3); C Costello, T Brady (0-1 each).
LAOIS: E Culliton; R Kehoe, M Timmons, G Hanrahan; D Strong, P Begley, P McEvoy; J O’Loughlin, B Quigley; J Finn, D Kingston, B Sheehan; K Meaney, M O’Halloran, C Kelly.
Subs for Laois: G Dillon for J Finn (44); A Campion for R Kehoe (inj 52); C Lennon for M O’Halloran (60); G McEvoy for G Hanrahan (black, 67).
DUBLIN: L Molloy; M Fitzsimons, D Daly, E Culligan; G Hannigan, J Small, N Devereux; D Bastick, E Ó Conghaile; T Brady, D Rock, S Carthy; P Ryan, C Costello, K McManamon.
Subs for Dublin: J Cooper for G Hannigan, R O’Carroll for D Daly (both h-t); P O’Higgins for D Bastick (45); N Scully for D Rock, P McMahon for E Culligan (both 52); H Dawson for N Devereux (60).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).