All-Ireland SFC: Laois defeat Offaly in Midlands derby
All-Ireland SFC Round 3 Qualifier
LAOIS 0-20 OFFALY 0-15
By Rory Delaney at O'Moore Park
Laois edged out neighbours Offaly in a thrilling Midlands derby in O’Moore Park on Saturday night.
A powerful start to the second half proved to be the difference between the teams, as Laois opened up a six point lead and had enough nous and ability to hold Offaly at bay for the rest of the game. They will now enter Monday’s draw eyeing up a scalp to take their place in the Super 8s for the first time.
After a ten-minute delay to accommodate the unexpected crowd which descended on O’Moore Park, Paul Kingston got Laois off to flying start with a point after 17 seconds.
Niall McNamee responded for Offaly with a close range free, before Ruairí McNamee then pushed the Faithful into the lead for the first time with a point from close range. Laois eventually responded with a Ross Munnelly free and that set up what proved to be a cracking first half.
Kieran Lillis restored the Laois lead, with the help of the post, before two fine points from Donie Kingston threatened to push Laois into a commanding position.
Offaly dug their heels in at this stage, buoyed by a superb save from Paddy Dunican as he denied Colm Murphy from point-blank range. Moments earlier Dunican had trotted forward to point a free, and Ruairí McNamee and Bernard Allen both hit the target to level the scores at 0-5 each after 22 minutes.
Again Laois tried to put some daylight between the sides as Ross Munnelly, Kieran Lillis and Paul Kingston all pointed, with Ruairí McNamee’s third point the only response from Offaly.
The Faithful County had brought a big crowd with them, and they roared their approval as a run of three points without reply put them ahead for the fist time since the fifth minute, Anton Sullivan curling over the score to put them ahead.
Laois responded well to that Offaly surge, as a Donie Kingston free and point from Colm Murphy saw them lead going into injury time. However, a strong run and finish from Niall McNamee ensured the sides were level at the break, 0-10 apiece.
The home side came out strongly at the start of the second half, Paul Kingston again hitting their opening score. That sparked Laois’ best spell of the game, as Donie Kingston kicked three points, Colm Murphy got his second and Eoin Lowry added another second after being introduced to see them lead by five, 0-16 to 0-11.
Johnny Moloney fisted over from close range for Offaly to break the run of Laois scores, but a stunning score from Paul Kingston put Laois back on the front foot.
Offaly could only narrow the gap down to four heading into injury time, and some stout Laois defending denied them the goal they needed, before Evan O’Carroll’s late point put the seal on their win.
Scorers for Laois: Donie Kingston 0-6 (0-3 frees), Paul Kingston 0-4, Ross Munnelly (0-1 free), Colm Murphy, Kieran Lillis, Evan O’Carroll 0-2 each, Eoin Lowry, Robert Pigott 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: Ruairí McNamee 0-4, Bernard Allen, Niall McNamee (0-1 free), Paddy Dunican (all frees) 0-3 each, Anton Sullivan, Johnny Moloney 0-1 each.
LAOIS: Graham Brody; Stephen Attride, Denis Booth, Gareth Dillon; Trevor Collins, Robert Pigott, Patrick O’Sullivan; John O’Loughlin, Kieran Lillis; Daniel O’Reilly, Donie Kingston, Marty Scully; Paul Kingston, Colm Murphy, Ross Munnelly. Subs: Eoin Lowry for Munnelly (48), Eoin Buggie for O’Sullivan (52), Evan O’Carroll for Murphy (55), Damien O’Connor for O’Reilly (64), Sean Byrne for Lillis (64), David Seale for Attride (68)
OFFALY: Paddy Dunican; Declan Hogan, Eoin Rigney, David Dempsey; Cian Donohoe, Johnny Moloney, Niall Darby; Eoin Carroll, Peter Cunningham; Shane Horan, Anton Sullivan, Cathal Mangan; Bernard Allen, Niall McNamee, Ruairí McNamee. Subs: Mark Abbott for Carroll (49), Paul McConway for Cunningham (55), Joseph O’Connor for Donohoe (60), Peter Cunningham for Sullivan (68), Shane Tierney for R McNamee (72)
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)