Tailteann Cup Group One
Laois 1-11 Offaly 1-11
By Kevin Egan at Laois Hire O’Moore Park
Offaly snatched a most unlikely draw in a midlands derby that more than made up for in drama what it lacked in quality this evening, scoring 1-3 without reply from the 68th minute onwards to deny Laois what would have been a savoured victory for the home side.
A close-range goal from Joe Maher and two injury time points from Nigel Bracken were enough to push the Faithful County through to the knockout stages, with a chance to top the table if they can overcome Cavan. Laois now need to beat London to extend their season, while the Exiles are still in the hunt after this result too.
The O’Moore County were clearly the better side for long stretches, though they took advantage of a stroke of luck to turn a narrow half-time advantage into a comfortable 1-8 to 0-5 lead.
Patrick O’Sullivan, Damon Larkin and Mark Timmons all kicked classy points as Laois completely dominated possession, owning their own kickouts and competing well on Offaly’s long restarts as well. Offaly couldn’t get anything going close to goal and while Dylan Hyland competed well, kicking their opening score, over 20 minutes had expired by the time Anton Sullivan added a second.
Yet they hung in there, and it was only with two minutes to go to half-time that they suddenly were left with a much tougher test. A long-range shot from Colm Murphy looked innocuous, but on dry ground, Ian Duffy didn’t want to risk letting the ball bounce, and tried to catch it on the full, only to spill it into the path of the lurking Kieran Lillis for an easy finish.
Two excellent points from Hyland after half-time got the Offaly supporters into the game and opened up the possibility of a high-scoring, high-quality 35 minutes of football. Instead just four points were added over the next half hour, with both sides guilty of some disappointing misses. Lillis hesitated and overcarried with the goal at his mercy, Cian Farrell pulled a shot badly wide from ten metres out, and Killian Roche produced a superb save to deny Jamie Evans in a one-on-one, albeit Evans struck his shot too close to the goalkeeper from an Offaly perspective.
A well-struck point from Niall Corbet on the run looked like the insurance score for Laois, but a high and hopeful ball into the Laois box delivered a goal for Joe Maher, and suddenly Offaly smelled blood in the water and were rampant. Dylan Hyland pointed a free and with Laois visibly tiring, the Faithful men piled on the pressure in the closing minutes, securing a draw thanks to two excellent kicks from Bracken, the latter from just outside the 45 metre line.
Scorers for Laois: Kieran Lillis 1-0, Paul Kingston 0-2 Mark Barry 0-2 (0-1f), Damon Larkin 0-2, Patrick O’Sullivan 0-2, Mark Timmons 0-1, Colm Murphy 0-1, Niall Corbet 0-1.
Scorers for Offaly: Dylan Hyland 0-4 (0-1f), Nigel Dunne 0-3 (0-1f, 0-1 ’45), Joe Maher 1-0, Nigel Bracken 0-2, Anton Sullivan 0-1, Ciarán Donnelly 0-1.
Laois: Killian Roche; Seán Greene, Robert Pigott, Trevor Collins; Pádraig Kirwan, Mark Timmons, Patrick O’Sullivan; Kieran Lillis, Damon Larkin; Mark Barry, Eoin Lowry, James Finn; Evan O’Carroll, Paul Kingston, Colm Murphy.
Subs: Niall Corbet for Murphy (54), Kevin Swayne for Finn (59), Brian Daly for O’Carroll (63), Seán O’Flynn for Kirwan (64), Dylan Kavanagh for Lowry (70+2).
Offaly: Ian Duffy; Ciarán Donnelly, Declan Hogan, David Dempsey; Lee Pearson, Peter Cunningham, Jack O’Brien; Conor McNamee, Jack McEvoy; Joe Maher, Ruairí McNamee, Anton Sullivan; Cian Farrell, Nigel Dunne, Dylan Hyland.
Subs: Cian Donohoe for O’Brien (half-time), Jamie Evans for Sullivan (half-time), Nigel Bracken for Farrell (56), Aaron Leavy for McEvoy (56), Morgan Tynan for Pearson (68).
Referee: Liam Devenney (Mayo)