Ger Cunningham’s young Dublin team ran out impressive winners over a depleted Laois in Parnell Park, but a daunting task lies ahead this weekend.
They’ll face either Kilkenny, Tipperary, or Waterford in the next stage of the backdoor, three sides who contested last year’s All-Ireland semi-finals.
“We’re going into a different league next weekend,” Cunningham admitted after the game. “So we’re looking forward it.”
At half-time on Saturday night, Dublin’s progress was by no means a foregone conclusion. Laois trailed by 0-12 to 0-11 after a wind-assisted opening 35 minutes, but Dublin turned on the style after the break and coasted to victory.
The Dubs outscored their opponents 2-16 to 1-4 in the second half as they blew away the O’Moore men down the stretch.
“We were disappointed with the scoreline, we were competitive up to half-time and even for five minutes after half-time,” said Laois boss Eamonn Kelly. “It was 0-13 apiece but what happened after that was difficult to look at.”
The O’Moore County lined up without John Lennon, Cha Dwyer, Willie Dunphy, and Picky Maher due to injury while Ross King was suspended.
“I’ve often said it, a bad lad never gets injured,” said Kelly, who confirmed he intends to stay on next year. “It’s always the good lads who are getting injured. Listen, it is what it is and you take it on the chin.”
Eamonn Dillon gave a sparkling performance for Dublin with 2-4 from play, while Cuala’s David Treacy fired over nine points, including six placed balls. David ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan, who has struggled with a back injury in recent times, chipped in with 0-2 after arriving off the bench in the final quarter.
“I’m not going into individuals. All over, I thought our hurling was very good. I just thought as a team performance, it worked out,” said Cunningham.
“You always look for a performance and you wouldn’t have got a win without the performance.”
This was a high-scoring encounter but lacked any real championship intensity or bite. Laois put the wind to good use early on, with Paddy Purcell raising the white flag four times inside the opening five minutes before Dublin eventually settled, with a brace apiece from impressive youngsters Cian O’Sullivan and Ben Quinn.
The home outfit moved four points in front shortly after the restart with Eamonn Dillon’s well-taken goal. A flurry of points arrived shortly afterwards from Treacy, Donal Burke, and Dillon himself, as Dublin stepped on the accelerator.
Dillon’s second goal on a breakaway was a thing of beauty, as Dublin hit an unanswered 2-14 during the second half. Laois wilted, with Kelly’s side losing sweeper Cahir Healy to a second yellow card late on, before goalkeeper Enda Rowland netted a last-minute consolation goal from a 21m free.
E Dillon (2-4); D Treacy (0-9, 6fs); B Quinn, C O’Sullivan (0-3 each); D Burke, F Whitely, D O’Callaghan (0-2 each); N McMorrow, S Barrett, J Hetherton (0-1 each).
M Kavanagh (2fs), P Purcell (0-5 each); E Rowland (1-1fs); M Whelan, C Collier, C Taylor, C Healy (0-1 each).
C Dooley; C O’Callaghan, E O’Donnell, F Ó Riain Broin; S Moran, C Crummey, S Barrett; B Quinn, N McMorrow; D Burke, L Rushe, E Dillon; C O’Sullivan, R O’Dwyer, D Treacy.
F Whitley for McMorrow (48), D O’Callaghan for O’Sullivan (60), F McGibb for Burke (62), J Hetherton for Ó Riain Broin (65), T Connolly for Moran (65).
E Rowland; D Palmer, L Bergin, L Cleere; E Killeen , M Whelan, R Mullaney; P Purcell, C Healy; S Downey, C Collier, J Kelly; M Kavanagh, N Foyle, A Dunphy.
C Taylor for Kelly (ht), A Corby for Dunphy (52), S Bergin for Downey (57), D Hartnett for Killeen (70), P Lawlor for Collier (70).
John Keenan (Wicklow)