The Mike Quirke era of Laois football began with a defeat in the opening round of the O’Byrne Cup against neighbours Offaly on Saturday.
All three goals arrived in the opening half, in fact, both of Laois’ goals hit the Offaly net within less than a minute of each other. They went in level at half-time, 2-5 to 1-8, and were level again with 20 minutes to go when Offaly’s momentum teamed with Laois’ numerical disadvantage under the new rules gave John Maughan’s Offaly side enough of a cushion to hold out for a two-point win.
Quirke admitted: “With the greatest respect to the world, winning the O’Byrne Cup isn’t a huge priority. We wanted to win that game.
“We tried to win that game today, obviously, but if we can look at Paddy O’Sullivan at midfield, Niall Corbet in goals, Gearoid (Hanrahan) at full-back, Jason Moore who hasn’t played before — that’s the real objective for us. What we’re trying to do is develop a team and a panel. There’s a lot of these guys who weren’t playing last year who are obviously back into the mix now. A lot of those guys I thought did pretty well. Obviously our skills and our decision making was off at times but it’s the 7th of December and you’d expect that I suppose.”
Evan O’Carroll’s black card in the 62nd minute and subsequent 10-minute sin-bin under the new rules ended his involvement and allowed Offaly to take to the front with the next four points.
“I think it will be a more effective deterrent to the cynical stuff that plagues the game late on. If you’re down a man, it definitely hurts you a little bit more than just replacing him,” said Quirke of the rule change.
Laois stalwart Ross Munnelly came in off the bench for a 15-minute cameo, marking his 18th inter-county season in style. “He’s incredible. He came on and he’s as dangerous as ever, kicked two points off his weaker leg and was a threat as soon as he got on the pitch.”
Scorers for Offaly: B Allen (0-7, 2 frees); C Farrell (1-1); C Johnston (0-3); R McNamee (0-2, 1 free); Jordan Hayes, A Sullivan, M Brazil and N Darby (0-1 each).
Scorers for Laois: E O’Carroll (0-4, frees); D Whelan and M Keogh (1-0 each); P O’Sullivan and R Munnelly (0-2 each); G Comerford (free), D Connolly, M Barry and D Aston (0-1 each).
OFFALY: P Dunican; D Hogan, E Rigney, C Donnelly; C Donohoe, D Dempsey, N Darby; E Carroll, C McNamee; J Hayes, A Sullivan, C Mangan; C Farrell, B Allen, R McNamee.
Subs: C Johnston for Farrell (HT); M Brazil for Carroll (HT); J Dempsey for C McNamee (45); S Horan for Sullivan (45); C Doyle for Donohoe (62); A Leavy for Hayes (66).
LAOIS: N Corbet; A Campion, G Hanrahan, T Collins; E Buggie, R Pigott, J Moore; J O’Loughlin, P O’Sullivan; G Comerford, E Lowry, D Connolly; M Keogh, E O’Carroll, D Whelan.
Subs: C Begley for Moore (HT); M Barry for Connolly (44); R Tyrell for Comerford (47); R Munnelly for Whelan (56); B Byrne for Campion (56); B Daly for O’Sullivan (56); S Lacey for Hanrahan (63); D Aston for Lowry (65); C O’Hora for Colins (67).
Ref: Niall Ward (Westmeath)