laois pass wicklow test

Plenty to work on ahead of Dublin clash

laois pass wicklow test
By Rory Delaney rory@leinsterexpress.ie @Express_Sport

A Donie Kingston goal in the 69th minute finally put this game to bed on Saturday night, but there will have been few Laois fans sleeping soundly.

Their reward for the victory is a date with a formidable Dublin team in three weeks time, and as Mick Lillis admitted afterwards, a repeat of this display will see them hammered.

It's not that Laois didn't play well, they did, but they only managed to do it in patches. They were inconsistent throughout, and showed no signs of having shored things up at the back, as they conceded 0-18 here after seeing an average of 0-19 scored against them in the league. Considering this was against an average Division 4 team, that's alarming.

With a hard-running and free-scoring Dublin attack set to take aim for them in Nowlan Park on June 4, it's only natural that we should all be apprehensive about what could unfold.

The most worrying thing here was how poorly Laois tackled. They gave away countless frees in scoring positions through clumsy, ill-timed tackles, and but for Wicklow's lack of a consistent free-taker, they could have been heading for the Qualifiers.

On the plus side, Laois did score 3-16, with 3-10 of that coming from play. They probably could, or indeed should, have had another three goals, with Paul Cahillane, Gary Walsh and Ruairi O'Connor all going close, but ultimately they got enough done.

Donie Kingston finished the game as Laois' top scorer with 1-6, but for the most part he was quiet, only really coming into the game in the last ten minutes or so. As Laois' best forward, Mick Lillis will have to get more out of him against Dublin if they are to have any hope of causing an upset.

After the disappoitment of Laois' displays in the League, they showed early on they were keen to put that behind them with a bright start. Evan O'Carroll pointed a long-range free and Paul Cahillane's shot for a goal grazed the crossbar and went over for a point.

Two points up after two minutes, Laois were motoring well, but they couldn't keep it going. Darren Hayden's long ball into the Wicklow full-forward line evaded everyone before bouncing over the bar, and a Paddy Byrne point moments later drew them level.

That set the scene for Laois' first goal, when Gary Walsh won the ball close almost on the endline to the left of goal before cutting in and hammering a shot to the net. Ross Munnelly then pointed twice in a minute as Laois went five clear, only for Rory Finn to hit back for Wicklow.

Another brace for Laois, from O'Carroll and Kingston, saw them pull six clear, and they looked in good shape to push on kill off Wicklow early.

No such luck, however, as the visitors rattled off three in a row to leave the goal between them. Again, Laois knuckled down and Walsh, Kingston, Gareth Dillon and John O'Loughlin ensured they got themselves six clear once more. Dean Healy got a point back for Wicklow, but at half time is was advantage Laois, as they lead 1-10 to 0-8.

Laois opted to withdraw Ross Munnelly and Niall Donoher at half time, but the changed failed to have the initial impact Laois hoped, as Wicklow dominated play after the break.

Finn (free), Paul Cunningham (free), John McGrath and Anthony McLoughlin all hit the target to see Wicklow score four points in a row and whittle the Laois lead down to just one point.

That finally seemed to spur the home side into life, and Evan O'Carroll landed a long-range free to get them up and running for the half. Moments later, Ruairi O'Connor, one of them introduced at half time, took a pass from John O'Loughlin before thumping the ball to the back of the net from close range, as Laois started to relieve some of the pressure.

Another O'Carroll free and Laois were, for the third time in the game, six points ahead of their opponents. Once again though, they did their best to squander it. Dean Healy pointed for Wicklow to start another comeback for them, while a brilliant ball from Evan O'Carroll set Ruairi O'Connor up for a goal chance that he couldn't finish off.

Wicklow responded with three points in a row, as Paul Cunningham pointed his second free before two more from Rory Finn, one a massive effort from over 50 yards out, left just two between the sies. Donie Kingston pointed twice in quick succession for Laois but in no time at all, Wicklow had those scores cancelled out, as a nervy finish awaited.

Playing a captain's role, Kingston finally allayed those fears in the closing minutes. He pointed a free in the 68th minute before taking a pass ten yards out from sub Evin Keane a minute later, and he made room for himself before almost bursting the net with an unstoppable shot.

One more point from Arles-Killeen man was enough, as Laois had finally done enough. There is still much more to do, however.