Louth 1-16 Laois 1-6, Portlaoise
Aidan O’Rourke got his championship career as a manager off to the best possible start as Louth obliterated Laois at O’Moore Park.
The local supporters began flocking out in their droves on the hour and not even Pádraig McMahon’s 61st minute goal could inspire the hosts to a late charge.
Instead, Louth saw the game out brilliantly, holding possession and picking off a couple of points from Kevin Rogers and Brian White before John O’Loughlin was sent off for Laois deep in injury time after receiving his second yellow card – both for high tackles.
The visitors dominated from start to finish and based their win on a complete superiority around the middle.
Paddy Keenan and Brian Donnelly were outstanding but they were well supported by the likes of Adrian Reid and Andy McDonnell picking up so many breaks.
With that middle third clogged, there was space at both ends of the pitch but with Louth having most of the ball, it was Shane Lennon who made hay.
The full-forward could have had a goal very early and was a constant menace, finishing the first half with 1-3, 1-2 of which from play and constantly providing the men outside him with an easy target.
He fisted a ball straight into Eoin Culliton’s arms in the second minute – left or right of the ‘keeper was a goal – but Adrian Reid pointed brilliantly as Louth recycled well.
White kicked the next three points – a 45, free and one from play – and though Darren Strong slotted excellently to get Laois off the mark in the 10th minute, it was to be his side’s only score from play in the first half.
John Kingham stormed forward for a fantastic point and Lennon had two on the board by the time he finished to the Laois net in the 21st minute, after Derek Maguire timed his pass perfectly.
It was remarkably easy for O’Rourke’s crew and they were full value for their 1-9 to 0-3 interval lead.
They had played with a very strong wind but Laois could never make as much use of that in the latter period, although Donie Kingston did offer some threat.
The big Arles-Killeen man reduced the margin to seven with an early brace but Louth only had to keep chipping away and with White showing why he is the best dead-ball kicker in Gaelic football, particularly with two 45s into that wind, the men in red were never in danger.
Scorers for Louth: B White 0-7(3 45s, 2fs); S Lennon 1-4(0-1f); J Bingham, A Reid, P Keenan, B Donnelly, K Rogers 0-1 each
Laois: D Kingston 0-3(1f); P McMahon 1-0; G Walsh 0-2(fs), D Strong 0-1
LOUTH: N Gallagher; P Rath, J Bingham, A Reid; D Crilly, D Finnegan, J O’Brien; P Keenan, B Donnelly; A McDonnell, B White, C Rafferty; C Byrne, S Lennon, D Maguire. Subs: P Smith for Rafferty inj (38); K Rogers for Byrne (57); C Judge for Maguire (56); R Carroll for McDonnell (69); C McGuinness for Finnegan (70+1)
LAOIS: E Culliton; M Timmons, D Booth, P O’Leary; D Strong, J O’Loughlin, P McMahon; C Boyle, B Quigley; R Munnelly, D Kingston, C Begley; D O’Connor, G Walsh, C Kelly. Subs: C Meredith for O’Connor (ht); K Meaney for Quigley (47); P Clancy for Kelly (49); K Lillis for Strong (56); P Begley for Timmons inj (70+2)
Referee C Reilly (Meath)