By Denis J. Croke
HERE we are 75 minutes or so away from the Super 8s, albeit we face a very stiff task next weekend having drawn beaten Munster finalists Cork. So what, if anything, did we learn from the defeat of Offaly on Saturday evening.
One thing commented on by most following the game was the exciting brand of football played by both sides. Credit to Offaly under John Maughan they played their part in what was a very entertaining game. Generally speaking both sides went out to play attacking football and that they did.
There had been some muted criticism of Laois’s style the recent games, most notably against Westmeath where there was the tendency to play too much lateral football. However, on that occasion it was important to retain as much possession as possible, starving Westmeath and denying them the opportunity to score. After all the last thing we needed was to lose to them for the third time this year.
Laois still use that plan of action but only when necessary, like when trying to draw out the opposition’s defence as they did at times against Offaly. That said against our neighbours and also against Derry a week previous, at times Laois do tend to withdraw into their shells when kicking on would be the better option.
Another thing we learned on Saturday was that Paul Kingston is an outstanding football. The Arles Killeen player has tended to be in his big brother’s, Donie, shadow and maybe this has effected how he has performed.
Certainly earlier this year and even for a large part of last year Paul did not live up to his potential. Hew had failed to tie down a regular starting spot on John Sugrue’s starting teams but when given another chance against Offaly he certainly took it.
Maybe it was his new role at centre-forward that did the trick. He totally dominated his sector, confidence oozing out of every pore. Not only did he score four points but played a central role in a lot of other scores. If he continues in this farme of mind he will torment a lot of defences.
We also saw how influential the midfield pairing of John O’Loughlin and Kieran Lillis can be. They did not give their direct Offaly opponents a look in. So dominant was their display that both Offaly midfielders were replaced although one did return late on.
Lillis landed two great points something he is always likely to do. In fact often scores from the Portlaoise player arrive just at the right time to give those around him a lift.
We all know what Johnno is capable of but I would like to see him being allowed to range forward more often. There is nothing more formidable that Johnno in full flight.
Okay, it has to be admitted that the full back line looked shaky at times in the first half. Offaly have a few very sharp, nippy and fast forwards and they were causing a lot of problems.
But once Laois regrouped at half time it was a different story on the restart. Denis Booth, flanked by Stephen Attride and Garth Dillon were rock solid. There tackling was immense and their ability to flick the ball out of the Offaly players’ hands was a joy to behold.
Up front Marty Scully showed he has far more to offer than just being an impact sub. He stayed the duration and from start to finish never stopped running, usually at the heart of the Offaly defence.
While it was good to see four of the starting forward getting on the score sheet but as in most of their games Laois got a bit sloppy in the second half. Offaly should have been killed off at that stage but a series of poor wides meant that they were always in with a chance of getting an undeserved victory.
And all that said I can’t wait for the weekend’s meeting with Cork, the first ever in championship football between the two counties.