Joe McDonagh Cup
OFFALY 3-19, LAOIS 1-22
Kevin Egan reports from Glenisk O’Connor Park
Offaly secured the bragging rights in their first competitive clash with Laois in four years thanks to a strong second half showing in Tullamore this afternoon, with Eoghan Cahill’s goal in the 62nd minute the crucial score in their narrow win over Willie Maher’s side.
For much of the last decade, these midland rivals were very frequent opponents, clashing nine times in league and championship between 2014 and 2019. However since then, Laois have tended to operate at a higher level in league and championship, and that showed during the first half of this encounter as they looked like the classier side, knocking over some outstanding points. Aidan Corby, Aaron Dunphy and Stephen Maher were all in fine free-scoring form, with Ryan Mullaney and Liam O’Connell loading the bullets with some great work at the other end of the field.
A superb finish from Cahill for his first goal of the game, rifled low past Enda Rowland after he picked up David Nally’s lateral delivery from the right corner, undid a lot of early damage for Offaly and brought the score back to 0-6 to 1-1, but Laois kicked on again to lead by four points as the game approached the 25 minute mark.
Charlie Mitchell and Brian Duignan combined to set up Joey Keenaghan for a second Offaly goal at that stage and while Offaly were living on the edge at the other end of the field, with Ben Conneely and Ciarán Burke making some vital stops to deny potential Laois goal chances, they would have been the happier side when the half-time whistle sounded with Laois just two points in front, 0-14 to 2-6.
The breeze was tricky to manage at both ends of the field as there was a lateral aspect to it that made life tricky in front of the posts, as evidenced by 24 wides between the two teams (11 for Offaly, 13 for Laois) but it was a boost to Offaly in the second half in terms of giving them the option of longer clearances, while forcing Laois to work through the lines that bit more.
Excellent tackling and pressure play from Offaly disrupted Laois on several occasions and they gradually took over, with Cillian Kiely, Brian Duignan and Cahill getting some excellent scores that helped them move three points clear.
With Dunphy not nearly as effective in the second half, Laois really struggled to make any impression in the full forward line, though they were thrown a lifeline when Tomás Keyes burst past his man and set up Paddy Purcell, who duly whipped a daisy-cutter of a shot inside the near post of Stephen Corcoran’s goal from 15 metres out.
Offaly’s response was excellent however as Paddy Clancy – who made a significant impact after coming in as substitute – forced a turnover win up front that eventually saw the sliotar worked across the line and into Cahill, who found the net to make it 3-17 to 1-20.
Laois had their chances to raise another green flag of their own but a wonderful Ben Conneely hook prevented James Keyes from getting his shot away in what was the best of the openings, and it fell to Cillian Kiely to round off the scoring in the third minute of stoppage time with his third point of the afternoon, extending Offaly’s unbeaten run this season out to seven straight games.
Scorers for Offaly: Eoghan Cahill 2-11 (0-6f, 0-1 65), Cillian Kiely 0-3, Joey Keenaghan 1-0, Charlie Mitchell 0-1, Brian Duignan 0-1, Adrian Cleary 0-1, Killian Sampson 0-1, Paddy Clancy 0-1.
Scorers for Laois: Stephen Maher 0-12 (0-5f, 0-2 65s), Aaron Dunphy 0-4, Aidan Corby 0-3, Paddy Purcell 1-0, Stephen Bergin 0-1, Jack Kelly 0-1, Enda Rowland 0-1f.
Offaly: Stephen Corcoran; Ben Conneely, Ciarán Burke, David King; Killian Sampson, Jason Sampson, James Nally; Joey Keenaghan, Jack Clancy; Cillian Kiely, Brian Duignan, Adrian Cleary; David Nally, Charlie Mitchell, Eoghan Cahill.
Subs: Jack Screeney for James Nally (32), Paddy Clancy for Keenaghan (55), Cathal Kiely for Duignan (65).
Laois: Enda Rowland; Fiachra C Fennell, Donnchadh Hartnett, Liam O’Connell; Ian Shanahan, Pádraig Delaney, Ryan Mullaney; Aidan Corby, Jack Kelly; James Keyes, Stephen Maher, Paddy Purcell; Aaron Dunphy, Martin Phelan, Stephen Bergin.
Subs: Tomás Keyes for Bergin (41), Ross King for Kelly (44), James Duggan for Phelan (57), Liam Senior for Corby (70+1).
Referee: Kevin Jordan (Tipperary).