EirGrid Leinster Under-20 Football Championship Rd 1
By Denis J. Croke
LAOIS deservedly set up a Leinster U/20 quarter-final date with Westmeath after a superb second half performance in St Conleth’s Park last Tuesday evening. The brilliant Diarmuid Whelan led the way with ten points but he was far from on his own in tormenting Kildare in what was a tremendous all round Laois display.
From full back Seamus Lacey, to midfielders Robert Tyrell and Eoin Dunne, to Michael Doran, Alan Kinsella and Whelan in the forwards, Laois got the better of their opponents all the field in the county’s first championship win over Kildare at any level since 2010.
Kildare won the Leinster and All-Ireland U/20 titles last year and started with four players who were key to those successes – Aaron O’Neill, Mark Barrett, DJ Earley and captain Darragh Ryan, while Jack Cully was also on the extended panel.
In the early stages of the game it seemed that experience would prove too much for Laois as Kildare raced into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead by the eighth minute, Whelan getting Laois’s opener.
Whelan (2) and Doran were then on target to get Laois back on level teams but Kildare then scored the next four points through Darragh Kirwan, Jack Cully, Colm Joyce and Brian McDonnell to lead by 0-8 to 0-4 by the 21st minute. All six Kildare forwards were on the score sheet by then and their attacking movement was causing Laois problems but although Laois went on to dominate the second half, it was the last seven or eight minutes of the first half that proved crucial.
Had Kildare been able to extend their four point lead to five, six or even seven before the half time break then it could have been a long way back but instead, it was Laois who scored the final three points of the half with an Eoin Dunne 45, Doran and Whelan from play and there was just one in it at the break, 0-8 to 0-7.
Laois took a complete grip of the game in the early part of the second half and scored the first four points after the restart through wing back Dean Brophy and Whelan (3). Tyrell and Dunne were completely dominant around the middle while the hard working wing forward duo of Niall Dunne and Ronan Coffey were the perfect complement to the rest of the forward line.
In the 20 minutes of football between the 22nd and 42nd minutes, Laois outscored Kildare by 0-10 to 0-1 and from there it was just about seeing out the game.
Laois were six points ahead going into injury time before Jack Cully pulled back a point for the home side. The referee allowed six minutes to be added on and in the fifth of those Kildare were awarded a penalty after a push in the back on makeshift full forward James Burke.
Luke Griffin tucked away the penalty to briefly give Kildare hope of a remarkable and undeserved comeback but there was just about time for one last Laois attack and fittingly the wonderful Whelan had the last say with his tenth point of the game.
Laois now travel to Mullingar to take on Westmeath tonight (Tuesday) and on this sort of form they will start that game as favourites.
LAOIS: Matthew Byron (Courtwood); Michael Dowling (Portlaoise), Seamus Lacey (Ballylinan), Alex Mohan (Portarlington); Colin Slevin (Portarlington), Jack Lacey (St Joseph’s), Dean Brophy (St Joseph’s); Rob Tyrell (Camross), Eoin Dunne (0-1 ’45 Rosenallis); Ronan Coffey (0-1 Portarlington), Michael Doran (0-4 Killeshin), Niall Dunne (Courtwood); Alan Kinsella (Courtwood), Dan McCormack (O’Dempsey’s), Diarmuid Whelan (0-19, 0-3fs Ballyroan Abbey).
Subs Jack Owens (Emo) for McCormack (50m), Mikie Dempsey (St Joseph’s) for Dunne (51m), PJ Daly (The Heath) for Doran (55m), Jason Maher (Portlaoise) for Kinsella (58m), Kevin Byrne (Ballylinan) for Slevin (59m)
KILDARE: Aaron O’Neill; Niall O’Sullivan, Mark Barrett, Caolan Halpin, Evin McGovern, DJ Earley. Darragh Ryan; James Carey, James Burke; Liam O’Flynn (0-1), Darragh Kirwan (0-3), Brian McDonnell (0-1), Colm Joyce (0-2), Jack Cully (0-2, 0-1f), Luke Griffin (1-2, 1-0pen, 0-2fs).
Subs: Sean Cullen for O’Flynn (38m), Paidi Behan for Carey (40m), Shane O’Sullivan for Joyce (40m), Brian Stynes for Halpin (black card 46m), Paddy McDermott for McGovern (51m), Adam Steed for McDonnell (58m)
Referee: Barry Tiernan