By Denis J. Croke
LAOIS footballers travelled to O’Moore Park on Saturday evening knowing that nothing less than a win would suffice if they harboured any hopes of winning promotion this season.
While it was not particularly pretty, they accomplished their objective and it is hoped they can now build on this win.
The opening half was just about as entertaining as watching paint dry, but to a large degree, Laois cannot be blamed for that. Limerick seemed to have little in the way of a game plan, apart from getting 13 or 14 players behind the ball.
They frustrated Laois, who might have been a bit naïve in their approach to the blanket defence, holding up the ball far too much in the middle of the field. That might be understandable as six of the starting 15 were making the competitive débuts for Laois but they certainly added to the vitality the side.
And that energy revealed itself on the restart. It became obvious that John Sugrue and his back-room team had laid down a few facts and the team adapted a far more direct approach.
The way the game started it looked like Laois were in for a stroll. Straight from the throw-in the ball was worked to Daniel O’Reilly. The Graiguecullen man bore down on goal but his shot was too close to the Limerick goalkeeper who deflected it over for a point with just 20 seconds on the clock.
Thereafter it became clear Limerick had come to O’Moore Park with the intention of stopping Laois play football and with no clear plan as to how they might win this game.
Laois were finding it very difficult to break down Limerick’s 13 man defence and, despite their patience, they were not able to find holes in the Limerick rearguard.
Paul Kingston converted a free to double Laois’ tally in the seventh minute and we had to wait nine minutes for the next score, that coming from Limerick’ Jamie Lee.
On the 20 minute mark slick play between Alan Farrell and Brian Glynn placed Aaron Dowling to score.
Laois were totally dominating the play but were being forced to play over and back across the pitch, managing little or no headway inside the Limerick half.
When fouled himself, Gary Walsh was left with a simple tap over free but a brace from Lee reduced the margin to the minimum with 31 minutes on the clock.
The final score of the half was another Walsh free leaving Laois ahead 0-5 to 0-3 at the break.
As said Laois were far more direct on the restart but we still had to wait ten minutes before we had a score, but it was worth waiting for. Playmaker, Paul Kingston delivered a perfect pass to Finbarr Crowley who in turn passed to Walsh and he drove to the top corner of the net.
The game opened up now as Limerick knew if they were to pull off a shock they would have to come more at Laois.
Daniel Daly and Walsh swapped points, while two more from Jim Liston and Sean McSweeney had Limerick back within a goal of Laois.
It might well have been a lot closer as in the lead up to the first of those two points Jamie Lee’s cracking shot was bound for the bottom corner with Graham Brody beaten only for the ball to rebound off the butt of the post.
But now Laois took complete control. Two points from Walsh, the second a super effort from play and a single from Eoin Lowry had them firmly back in the driving seat with five minutes remaining.
Kieran Daly pulled a point back for the visitors but it was of little consequence, especially as Laois were to strike for a second goal when Kingston got on the end of a Walsh flick pass and beat the keeper in the 70th minute.
There was still time for Limerick full back Sean O’Dea to grab a point but it was Eoin Lowry who finished off the scoring with a brace of points.
Laois can now face into next weekend’s game away to Leitrim with a degree of confidence.
LAOIS: Graham Brody; David Holland, Shane Nerney, Ruaidhri Fennell; Trevor Collins, Stephen Attride, Finbarr Crowley; John O’Loughlin, Daniel O’Reilly (0-2); Alan Farrell, Paul Kingston (1-0), Brian Glynn; Eoin Lowry (0-3), Gary Walsh (1-6, 0-4f), Aaron Dowling (0-1).
Subs: Colm Begley for Attride (5m, inj), Evan O’Carroll for Dowling (47m), Niall Donoher for Farrell (59m), Gareth Dillon for Glynn (59m), Kieran Lillis for Collins (66m), Jamie Farrell for O’Reilly (66m)
LIMERICK: Donal O’Sullivan; Gareth Noonan, Sean O’Dea, David Connolly; Paul White, Cillian Fahy, Jim Liston; Darragh Treacy, Brian Fanning; Daniel Daly, Peter Nash, Danny Neville; Tony McCarthy, Padraig Scanlon, Jamie Lee.
Subs: Seamus Carroll for Scanlon (h/t), Shane Doherty for Day (42m), Sean McSweeney (0-1) for McCarthy (50m), Robbie Bourke for Nash (53m), Kieran Daly (0-1) for Lee (59m), Colm McSweeney for Liston (72m)
Referee: Patrick Maguire (Longford)