Glenn Ryan made the point last week local rivalries are only stoked when both teams are hitting their straps and Kildare’s destruction of Laois in Tullamore yesterday confirmed the last embers have been all but extinguished from this one.
Leinster SFC quarter-final
Kildare 1-21 Laois 1-7
This was the fourth time since 2009 the neighbours have been paired in either the Leinster Championship or All-Ireland qualifiers and the winning margins now stand, in chronological order, at 15, 15, 13 and 14.
All of those are in Kildare’s favour.
Laois did manage a draw before being beaten out the gate in the replay two years ago but their few travelling supporters were making for the exits in O’Connor Park with 20 minutes to play here when the excellent Daniel Flynn struck for his side’s goal.
In truth, that was merely the cherry on top. The game was already dead in the water by then with the Lilywhites leading by 10 before the Johnstownbridge full-forward added the goal to the three points he claimed from play in the first-half.
No-one should be surprised by any of this. Kildare will be dining alongside the nation’s elite next spring when they return to Division One of the league. Laois will be slumming it and scavenging for scraps down in the back alleys of Division Four.
That gap in class showed everywhere.
Laois actually managed the dream start, Donie Kingston finding the net with a low drive after 57 seconds on the back of a turnover and pass by Evan O’Carroll, but Kildare had the lead inside another half-dozen minutes.
The first quarter aside, when the benefits of Laois’ preliminary round win over Longford were probably a factor in their parity, this was tantamount to one-way traffic. Laois’ normal tally of fortysomething attacks per game was halved.
Though they used the experienced Pádraig McMahon as a sweeper, Peter Creedon’s underdogs leaked scores and conceded a vast acreage of space through the middle of their defence. They were cleaned at midfield for long spells and looked clueless in attack.
Facing a strong wind in the first 35, they attempted to counter it with short kick-outs but were turned over time and again by a physically imposing Kildare side, sometimes before exiting their own ‘45’. The cost was predictably high.
The result of it all was pure frustration for the Kingston brothers, Donie and Paul, who had to look on aghast as teammates ran, head down, into contact before losing possession or compete in vain for aimless long balls launched somewhere in their general vicinity.
By half-time the score was a lobsided 0-12 to 1-2 and the run-in towards the interval highlighted just how bad Laois were with their last 11 attacks of the half resulting in eight turnovers, two balls kicked over the sideline and a wide from John O’Loughlin.
Kildare cruised towards the break with seven points in that same spell.
This may well be the last hurrah for a number of ageing players on this Laois team and, though manager Peter Creedon praised the efforts of some of their younger members, there is nothing like the vitality of youth in the Laois side that courses through Kildare.
Mainstays of the team in the past - the likes of Eamonn Callaghan, Peter Kelly and Emmet Bolton - all had to wait for introductions from the bench as a younger generation took the lead and Kildare are unquestionably big, capable and well-drilled.
Are they a side that can stretch their summer through to August? Who knows?
The likelihood is they have had more exerting challenge matches than this in recent months but they are clearly a more liberated side than the one that produced so much cagey football last summer. That was apparent from the full-back line on.
Eleven players scored from play here. The breakdown was 0-3 from the defence, a lone point from midfield, and 1-12 from five of their six starting forwards. Fionn Dowling and Callaghan added a pair off the bench. Laois, in contrast, managed just 1-3 from play.
Leinster champions in 2003 and competitive through to the earlier stretch of this decade, their decline as a footballing force has been astonishing. So much so that it is now nine seasons since they even reached a Leinster semi-final.
For Kildare, the stretch since their last provincial final appearance is identical but, with Dublin on the far side of the draw this year, they find themselves requiring a win against Meath the next day if that particular dry spell is to be ended.
They, at least, are pointing in the right direction.
Scorers for Kildare: D Flynn (1-3); C McNally and N Kelly (0-3); P Cribbin (0-2); K Feely (0-2 free); O Lyons, J Byrne, T Moolick, K Cribbin, D Slattery, F Dowling, E Callaghan (all 0-1); M Donnellan (0-1 ‘45’).
Scorers for Laois: D Kingston (1-2, 0-2 free); G Walsh (0-3, 1 ‘45’); E O’Carroll (0-1 free); A Farrell (0-1).
KILDARE: M Donnellan; O Lyons, M O’Grady, D Hyland; J Byrne, E Doyle, K Cribbin; K Feely, T Moolick; F Conway, N Kelly, P Cribbin; D Slattery, D Flynn, C McNally.
Subs: E Callaghan for Conway (54); F Dowling for Moolick and C Healy for McNally (both 58); P Kelly for O’Grady and E Bolton for K Cribbin (both 65).
LAOIS: G Brody; D Strong, D Booth, J Kelly; E Buggie, P McMahon, D O’Connor; B Quigley, C Begley; N Donoher, J O’Loughlin, E O’Carroll; P Kingston, D Kingston, A Farrell.
Subs: A Doran for Donoher (20); G Walsh for O’Carroll (42); R Munnelly for P Kingston (52); K Meaney for Quigley and D Conway for O’Connor (both 65); J Funn for Kelly (66).
Referee: D Coldrick (Meath).
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