Kevin O’Brien reports from O’Moore Park
LAOIS ARE ONE game away from reaching the Super 8s after they came good in the second-half to see off neighbours Offaly and advance into round 4 of the All-Ireland SFC qualifiers.
John Sugrue’s side had five points to spare and were deserving winners here in front of 6,735 supporters in Portlaoise.
They’ll need to defeat a beaten provincial finalist to reach the All-Ireland quarter-final phase and won’t fear any of Cork, Cavan or Galway in the final round of the back door system.
The Kingston brothers contributed handsomely, firing over 10 points between them. Laois were able to bring in talented attackers Eoin Lowry and Evan O’Carroll off the bench to drive home their advantage in the final quarter.
Offaly battled gamely for the first period but the scores badly dried up when they played against the wind after half-time. By the 56th minute, they’d lost both their midfielders Eoin Carroll and Peter Cunningham, although the latter was curiously reintroduced in the closing stages.
Tempers flare between Anton Sullivan and Eoin Buggie.
Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
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Their inside trio of Niall McNamee, Bernard Allen and Ruairi McNamee contributed 0-7 from play in the opening half but were then held scoreless from play until Allen’s 63rd-minute point.
The county’s leading forward Niall McNamee, who returned from inter-county retirement this season, missed four scoring chances he’d normally nail. Offaly’s top-scorer in the second-half was goalkeeper Paddy Dunican, which summed up their day.
It can be considered a reasonably successful season for John Maughan in his debut campaign. They survived in Division 3, ran Meath close in Leinster and enjoyed qualifier wins over London and Sligo.
A win here over the 2018 Leinster finalists would have been huge. Offaly were hoping to reach the last 12 of the championship for the first time since 2006.
Laois beat them by three points earlier this year but they were much-changed here, showing just eight survivors from that league meeting.
Injuries to Mark Timmons (broken hand) and Colm Begley (Achilles) robbed Sugrue of the spine of his defence. They brought 36-year-old attacker Ross Munnelly into the starting 15 and he worked hard up until his 47th-minute departure, kicking two points.
It was an old school, open game of football. Both teams went 15-on-15 and looked to hit the full-forward lines with early ball by foot.
The sides were level seven times during an extremely even first period. Allen gave an early indication of his threat when his strike on goal was well-saved by Graham Brody inside three minutes.
Laois led by three after the opening quarter after hitting four unanswered scores, but Offaly hauled them back in and stayed in touch up to half-time.
Ruairi McNamee hit three points from play in the first-half, while his partners in the full-forward line, Niall McNamee and Allen, chipped in with a brace apiece. The majority of Laois’s scores arrived when they ran the ball down the heart of the Offaly defence, with the Kingston brothers particularly threatening.
Bernard Allen takes on the Laois defence.
Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
Johnny Moloney fisted a point, yet Offaly’s scores from play started to dry up when they were continually turned over in attack. Donie Kingston curled over a stunning free from about 45m out on the left sideline and within a minute of his introduction, Eoin Lowry stretched the lead to four.
By that stage the Faithful’s attack was badly malfunctioning. Allen and McNamee were guilty of two wides apiece, while at the far end the Kingstons and impact sub Evan O’Carroll extended the home lead.
Offaly pushed Moloney and Cunningham into the edge of the square in search of a late goal to save their season, but it never came.
Scorers for Laois: Donie Kingston 0-6 (0-3f), Paul Kingston 0-4, Ross Munnelly (0-1f), Kieran Lillis, Colm Murphy and Evan O’Carroll 0-2 each, Robbie Pigott and Eoin Lowry 0-1 each.
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Scorers for Offaly: Ruairi McNamee 0-4, Paddy Dunican (0-3f) and Niall McNamee (0-1f) 0-3 each, Bernard Allen 0-3, Johnny Moloney and Anton Sullivan 0-1 each.
1. Graham Brody (Portlaoise)
2. Stephen Attride (Gleann Uiseann)
3. Denis Booth (The Heath)
4. Gareth Dillon (Portlaoise)
5. Seán O’Flynn (Courtwood)
6. Robert Piggot (Portarlington)
7. Patrick O’Sullivan (Portarlington)
8. John O’Loughlin (St Brigid’s)
9. Kieran Lillis (Portlaoise)
10. Daniel O’Reilly (Graiguecullen)
11. Donie Kingston (Arles-Killeen
12. Damien O’Connor (Timahoe)
13. Paul Kingston (Arles-Killeen)
14. Colm Murphy (Portarlington)
15. Evan O’Carroll (Crettyard)
21. Eoin Lowry (Gleann Uiseann) for Munnelly (48)
24. Eoin Buggie (Sradbally) for O’Sullivan (51)
15. Evan O’Carroll (Crochta Ard) for Murphy (57)
12. Damien O’Connor (Tigh Mochua) for O’Reilly (63)
22. Sean Byrne (Portarlington) for Lillis (63)
23. David Seale (Portlaoise) for Attride (67)
1. Paddy Dunican (Shamrocks)
2. Declan Hogan (Tullamore)
3. Eoin Rigney (Rhode)
4. David Dempsey (Ballycommon)
5. Cian Donohoe (St Brigid’s)
6. Johnny Moloney (Tullamore)
7. Niall Darby (Rhode)
8. Eoin Carroll (Cappincur)
9. Peter Cunningham (Bracknagh)
10. Shane Horan (Kilmacud Crokes)
11. Anton Sullivan (Rhode)
12. Cathal Mangan (Kilclonfert)
13. Bernard Allen (Tubber)
14. Niall McNamee (Rhode)
15. Ruairí McNamee (Rhode)
18. Mark Abbott (Edenderry) for Carroll (48)
17. Paul McConway (Tullamore) for Cunningham (56)
18. Joseph O’Connor (St Rynagh’s) for Donohoe (59)
9. Cunningham (Bracknagh) for Sullivan (67)
20. Shane Tierney (Daingean) for Ruairi McNamee (71)
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)
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