Laois manager John Sugrue believes the O’Moore County must improve if they are to prolong their championship summer despite an impressive four point victory over Derry in Owenbeg on Saturday.
The result is another sign of the progress being made by Laois following this season’s dramatic, final-day promotion to Division 2, their second successive step up the divisions, but Sugrue is warning the third round challenge will be another step up whoever comes out of the hat.
“There wasn’t a lot in the game,” explained the Laois manager, “We were on the road so we knew it was going to be a battle. Derry have made a lot of progress this year but coming out of Division 4, it is hard to prepare for a qualifying run.
We have come up against teams who are moving the ball faster. We were in Division 4 last year and found out what it is like when you take the step up. That is no disrespect to Derry, they have made good strides, but we will meet teams playing at a faster rate from earlier in the year and that is going to be a challenge.
“We are into Round 3 of the qualifiers and we won’t be looking any further than that.”
Substitute Eoin Lowry’s 66th-minute goal proved the decisive score in a tight game, taking Laois into a deserved two-point lead despite black cards for both Donie Kingston and Robert Piggott. A late red card for Derry’s Ciaran McFaul didn’t help Oak leaf hopes but Laois deserved the victory which was the perfect response to their Leinster Championship exit at the hands of Meath
“I was confident we could play better than we did in the Meath game,” added Sugrue. “In the Meath game the effort was high but the end product was quite poor. We have addressed that at different stages throughout the year and regressed to some poor end product at times. We have to try to keep that out of our game.
“It was relatively poor end-product in the first half against Derry followed by decent end-product in the second half in terms of play so we will have to be very mindful of ourselves if we have any shot at going further in these qualifiers. We need to be on our toes and really focused on what we need to do.”
A tense first half saw Derry turn around 0-8 to 0-7 in front but the disappointment for Oak Leaf boss Damian McErlain was that his team couldn’t kick on despite taking the lead at 0-12 to 0-11 minutes before Lowry’s crucial goal.
“The Laois goal was coming,” admitted McErlain, “They had two or three opportunities before it. We probably did everything during the game that we had worked on not doing. We gave the ball away and fed their energy with turnovers. All our homework pointed toward not doing that and we still did it.
“You could see that bit of experience in Laois. A team that does two promotions in a row has won a significant amount of matches over the last couple of seasons.
That’s maybe a factor but we are disappointed with our performance, particularly in the second half.
“We thought we were in a really good place. The lads have worked hard over the past couple of weeks, understood their game, their roles and it looked like we were kicking on with a real chance of getting right to the end of this Qualifying Series so it is a bitterly disappointed dressing room in there.”
R Bell (0-3, 2 frees); S McGuigan (0-5, 4 frees); B Heron (0-2); C McFaul, C McKaigue (0-1 each).
E Lowry (1-1, 1 free); D Kingston (0-4, 3 frees); C Murphy (0-3); E O’Carroll (0-2, 1 free); T Collins, Daniel O’Reilly, K Lillis (0-1 each)
T Mallon; K McKaigue, B Rogers, L McGoldrick; J Rocks, C McKaigue, N Keenan; C McAtamney, C McFaul; J Doherty, B Heron, P Cassidy; S McGuigan, R Bell, E Lynn.
E Concannon for L McGoldrick, HT; P Coney for J Rocks, 44mins; C Doherty for J Doherty, 54; C Bradley for R Bell, 55mins; S Quinn for E Concannon, 57mins;
G Brody, S Attride, D Booth, G Dillon; T Collins, R Pigott, P O’Sullivan; J O’Loughlin, K Lillis; D O’Reilly, C Boyle, D Kingston; P Kingston, C Murphy, E O’Carroll.
S Byrne for D Nooth, HT; M Scully for P Kingston, 49mins; E Buggie for P O’Sullivan, 52mins; E Lowry for E O’Carroll, 61mins; M Barry for D Kingston (Black Card), 61mins.
Jerome Henry (Mayo)
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