Laois' stuttering season took another turn for the worst on Saturday night, as a woefully below par performance saw Cork completely play them off the O'Moore Park pitch and send them hurtling towards relegation.
Donncha O'Connor 0-9 (five frees), John Hayes 0-3 (one free), Michael Shields, Paul O'Flynn, Conor McCarthy, Pearse O'Neill, Michael Cussen, James Masters 0-1 each
Michael John Tierney 0-7 (four frees), Kevin Meaney 0-2
It was a night to forget for anyone in attendance, but the reality is there was much which cannot afford to be forgotten in the performance. Laois were lacking so much in this game, in every aspect of their play, that it should be taken as a starting point in which Laois begin to rectify all of their failings, which were so brutally exposed here.
There was very little in the game to give the impression that Laois will still be playing in this division next year. There was no hunger, no cohesion, no game plan, no leadership and, worringly for a team which Sean Dempsey manages, no passion.
From the opening minute, Cork were afforded far too much respect as Laois players treated them like museum exhibits, that they were to be admired but not touched. Cork did what they liked in the first 15 minutes, running freely from midfield and the half back line while Laois backed off and watched it all unfold in front of them.
The problems in attack which reared their head in Navan were still there to be seen on Saturday night too, as a score from play wasn't managed until the 30th minute, meaning Laois went over 100 minutes of league football without scoring from play. Again, as in Navan, there was only two scorers in total, with one of them, Kevin Meaney, playing at wing back. The forward line is in major need of some sort of shape and direction as attack after attack continues to fizzle out.
It was a marked difference compared to the Cork forward line, who set about pulling Laois apart from the first minute. Donncha O'Connor and Michael Cussen had points on the board in the first five minutes before John Hayes spurned a glorious goal chance by fumbling the ball with the goal at his mercy. He recovered though, and pointed.
Another Cork point followed before they were in on goal again as Pearse O'Neill left Darren Rooney in his wake and collected a pass from Conor McCarthy, but his left footed shot hit the post.
Eighteen minutes had elapsed before Laois opened their account through an MJ Tierney free, but O'Connor responded with two points for Cork as they continued to dominate every aspect of the game.
Tierney added another free but even at this stage it looked cosmetic. Billy Sheehan, after an awkward fall, was substituted and his reaction was to unleash his fury on the advertising hoarding with his right boot. His replacement, Kevin Meaney, had managed a point within seconds. MJ Tierney added another moments later, but Cork retained the upper hand at the break, leading by double scores, 0-10 to 0-5.
The second half brought some life into the Laois challenge, and they briefly looked like they were interested enough to give Cork a game of it. Peter O'Leary won an early free and Laois eventually got the gap back to four points, but they would have to content themselves with the fact that that was as good as they could muster.
With their lead threatened Cork upped their intensity once again, and within 10 minutes had a seven point cushion and two more points secured in their bid for promotion. On a brighter note, Aidan Fennelly made his come back, but that was as bright as it got for Laois.
It is back to the drawing board for Laois after this, or maybe more pressingly, the treatment room. With a number of players out injured, on the basis of this performance some of them can't come back soon enough, as a good few players performed like it wouldn't bother them if they were to lose their places on the team. Perhaps some of them will have to, for them to realize the error of their ways.
For most of this game, Cork and Laois looked like they belonged in different divisions. If Laois continue to play like this, then pretty soon they will.
LAOIS: Michael Nolan; Paul Begley, Cathal Ryan, Rory Stapleton; Peter O'Leary, Darren Rooney, Padraig McMahon; Padraig Clancy, Brendan Quigley; Brian McCormack, Donie Brennan, Billy Sheehan; Peter McNulty, Ross Munnelly, Michael John Tierney. Subs: Kevin Meaney for Sheehan (29 mins), Aidan Fennelly for Begley (55 mins), Craig Rogers for McCormack (57 mins), Niall Donoher for McMahon (65 mins), Damien Murphy for O'Leary (65 mins)
CORK: Alan Quirke; Ray Carey, Noel O'Donovan, Anthony Lynch; Noel O'Leary, Graham Canty, Michael Shields; Alan O'Connor, Paul O'Flynn; Conor McCarthy, Pearse O'Neill, John Hayes; Kevin O'Sullivan, Michael Cussen, Donncha O'Connor. Subs: Paul Kerrigan for McCarthy (35 mins – yellow card), Kieran O'Connor for O'Donovan (46 mins), Andrew O'Sullivan for Alan O'Connor (51 mins), Kevin O'Sullivan for Hayes (57 mins), James Masters for Murphy (59 mins)
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath)
Main Man – Rory Stapleton
From a Laois point of view, there was little to cheer, but Stapleton produced as a good a performance as any Laois player. Was one of only three backs to survive the full 70 minutes, and won a good amount of ball considering the pressure the Laois back line was under for most of the game
Talking Point 1
Why were so many of the senior players so disinterested? When things were going badly the players Laois should be relying on produced nothing. Padraig Clancy and Brendan Quigley were bystanders, Darren Rooney offered little and Brian McCormack was anonymous. If Laois want to start turning things around, these players need to start justifying their roles as Laois so called marquee players.
Talking Point 2
With Noel Garvan ruled out with injury before the game, it seemed the logical choice would be to replace him with Kevin Meaney, the man who replaced him for the Meath game. Instead, Donie Brennan came in at centre forward and Brendan Quigley moved out to midfield.
For the sake of filling one position, Laois made two changes, and against probably the biggest team in the country, started their smallest player in one of the central positions. It backfired, Laois were at a disadvantage straight away, and it was a very strange selection for Sean Dempsey to make, given the opposition.