Dublin 1-14 Laois 1-9
A tour de force performance from Dublin full-forward Eoghan O’Gara was the defining factor in this topsy-turvy game of football.
He finished with a hugely impressive 1-5 from play, and played with the sort of swagger that suggests he now has the confidence and all-round game to complement the strength that on its own had already made him a handful for opposition defences.
Dublin won easily enough in the end, but were slow to settle and trailed by 0-4 to 0-1 after ten minutes.
Their defence was slowly getting to grips with the task at hand though and Ross McConnell and Eamon Fennell were winning more ball around the middle of the field too, so the All-Ireland Champions began to steadily improve with every passing minute.
A fine point from Tomas Quinn was followed by a classy brace from his fellow corner-forward, Diarmuid Connolly, tied the match up at 0-4 apiece, but Paul Cahillane then immediately edged Laois ahead again.
It was then that the heavens opened, and the cold shower seemed to immediately cool the intensity of the contest as neither team managed another scored for an eight minute spell until Colm Begley kicked a fine point on the run.
Dublin finished the half impressively though, and points from Flynn, Connolly (f) and the increasingly influential O’Gara saw them run to the dressing-rooms leading by 0-7 to 0-6 at half-time.
You already had the feeling at that point that if Laois didn’t start the second-half strongly then this match would quickly drift away from them, and, sure enough, the contest duly followed that predictable script.
Diarmuid Conolly has had a few horrid games in the sky-blue jersey, but when he’s good, he’s very, very good, and he scored two sublime points at the start of the second half to keep up Dublin’s momentum.
Eoghan O’Gara, too, was still in the mood to impress, and he showcased his obvious strength and not always so apparent skill to muscle his way past a couple of challenges and clip over a point that put Dublin 0-10 to 0-6 ahead, and seemingly in control.
Laois sensed they might still have a fighting chance though when Dublin kicked a couple of sloppy wides, and when Colm Kelly landed a free and then Munnelly kicked another superb point, the fight-back was on.
To the home fans’ dismay, it soon petered out. When Munnelly missed a kickable free to cut the gap to just one, Dublin took advantage of the let-off by blitzing Laois with four points in as many minutes, two of them from the by now unstoppable O’Gara.
Laois looked down, but that man Munnelly proved they weren’t out by arcing a spectacular shot to the top corner of the net for a goal that made it a three point game again – 0-14 to 1-8 in Dublin’s favour.
Man of the match O’Gara wasn’t finished yet though, and sealed Dublin’s first League win of the campaign when he smashed the ball to the Laois net after another charging run.
Dublin: E O’Gara 1-5, D Connolly (1f) 0-5, T Quinn 0-2 (1f), P Flynn, A Brogan both 0-1
Laois: R Munnelly 1-4 (1f), C Kelly 0-2 (2f) P Cahillane, P Clancy C Begley all 0-1
Dublin: M Savage; D Daly, R O’Carroll, P McMahon; D Byrne, G Brennan, C Dias; R McConnell, E Fennell; P Brogan, K McManamon, P Flynn; D Connolly, E O’Gara, T Quinn. Subs: B Cullen for P Brogan (32), MD McAuley for R McConnell and A Brogan for K McManamon (both 54), P Andrews for T Quinn (61),
Laois: E Culliton; C Healy, K Lillis, P O’Leary; D Strong, K Meaney, C Boyle; B Quigley, J O’Loughlin; R Munnelly, C Begley, D O’Connor; P Cahillane, P Clancy, B Sheehan. Subs: C Kelly for P Clancy (32), S Conroy (46), B Mulligan for B Sheehan (64), J Kavanagh for D O’Connor (67)
Ref: D Coldrick (Meath)