Kildare 3-16 Laois 0-10
Kildare produced a sensational second half performance to see off old rivals Laois and progress to the third round of the qualifiers in convincing fashion.
Tomás O’Connor only scored a goal but absolutely terrorised the Laois defence, especially in the first half when the game was still in the melting pot.
This victory means that Kildare have yet to lose a qualifier game since Kieran McGeeney took over as manager four years ago.
John O’Loughlin was the provider for Donie Kingston’s opening score in the seventh minute, after Hugh Lynch had given the ball away with a dreadful attempt at a quick free.
Ross Munnelly followed up with a good kick from the left with his trusty left boot after beating Hugh McGrillen with a clever run from the opposite corner.
Laois were dominating the midfield sector at this juncture but Kildare had a plan. Playing with two tall men inside in O’Connor and Rob Kelly, it was clear that they would be taking a more direct route than usual.
O’Connor had already created a couple of opportunities before making a splendid catch over Kevin Meaney’s head from a Fionn Dowling delivery in the 14th minute. The Clane man – son of former Offaly All-Ireland winner of the same name – laid off cleverly to the onrushing Eoghan O’Flaherty who was bundled over in the area by Shane Julian.
Johnny Doyle coolly stepped up to send Eoin Culliton the wrong way to get Kildare underway.
Kingston lofted over a wonderful free from 46m soon after before O’Connor was causing havoc again. This time, the full-forward gained possession from Paidi O’Neill’s delivery and though his first shot was blocked by Mark Timmons, it was O’Connor who reacted quickest to toe-poke the rebound to the net.
While O’Connor was a big threat, he was Kildare’s only one and it wasn’t until the 26th minute that they kicked their first point, a delightful outside-of-the-boot kick on the run by O’Neill.
MJ Tierney had lofted over a free from the hands from 45m before that though and as long as they were dominating midfield – and they continued to do so despite Kelly’s relocation to this area – they possessed sufficient threat to remain in touch.
Tierney added a second free but it was Kildare who finished the stronger, O’Connor – now being marked by Timmons - again the supplier for an excellent point by O’Flaherty and another score by Eamonn Callaghan to leave them leading at the break by 2-3 to 0-6.
Kildare burst out of the blocks with points from Ollie Lyons – with the now almost obligatory assist by O’Connor – and a pearler from tight on the right by Lynch.
Laois remained in touch, with a pointed free by Kinston and an excellent score by Brendan Quigley, but they could get no change from a magnificent Kildare rearguard in which Mick Foley and Andriu Mac Lochlainn in particular shone.
As the second half wore on, Kildare began to wear Laois down with their workrate. O’Neill swapped to good effect with Doyle and lofted a sensational point, with Lynch also on the mark a couple of more times, while Doyle converted three frees.
One of the biggest roars of the night came eight minutes from time when Mikey Conway came into the play for his first appearance since suffering a cruciate knee ligament injury on this ground two years ago.
The loudest arrived in the 66th minute when James Kavanagh unleashed a powerful shot to the roof of the Laois net, after receiving possession from a brilliant 50m foot pass by O’Neill, to lay Laois hopes to rest.
Scorers – Kildare: J Doyle 1-4(1-0 pen, 0-4fs); H Lynch 0-3(1f); J Kavanagh 1-1; T O’Connor 1-0; P O’Neill, E O’Flaherty(1 45) 0-2 each; E Callaghan, F Dowling, O Lyons, B Flanagan 0-1 each
Laois: D Kingston (2fs) 0-3; N Donoher, MJ Tierney 0-2(fs); R Munnelly, P Clancy, B Quigley 0-1 each
Kildare: S Connolly; A Mac Lochlainn, M Foley, H McGrillen; O Lyons, M O’Flaherty, G White; J Doyle, H Lynch; P O’Neill, E O’Flaherty, E Callaghan; F Dowling, T O’Connor, R Kelly. Subs: J Kavanagh for Kelly (44); T O’Neill for Lyons (58); M Scanlon for M O’Flaherty (68); B Flanagan for White (68)
Laois: E Culliton; C Healy, K Meaney, M Timmons; D Strong, S Julian, P McMahon; P Clancy, B Quigley; C Begley, J O’Loughlin, N Donoher; R Munnelly, D Kingston, MJ Tierney. Sub: C Boyle for Healy inj (8); K Lillis for Strong (ht); D Carroll for Tierney (51); G Kavanagh for Clancy (55); B Brennan for Lillis (58)
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath)