After leading on three occasions in the first-half and getting to the break level against the reigning Ulster champions, Laois ultimately left Clones empty handed and staring squarely down the barrel of relegation.
In the first-half they defended very well and dealt comfortably with Monaghan’s attacking threat. Despite defending deep and getting players behind the ball, Laois also caused their hosts plenty of problems on the break with Darren Strong particularly effective storming forward from wing-back. They went to the break level but could easily have been ahead had Padraig McMahon converted a guilt edged chance just before half-time.
However, in an almost carbon copy of the Meath game, when their opponents clearly upped the tempo. There was no lack of effort and no one area where you could say Laois were deficient, but they just couldn’t seem to match Monaghan’s increased pace and intensity after the restart. The introduction of Stephen Gollogly added a new attacking impetus to the Monaghan attack and they eased away as the half progressed.
Laois never dropped their work-rate and that work ethic allowed them to hang on to Monaghan’s coat-tails but they never really looked like getting anything out of the game,
The forwards struggled to make an impact with the starting six contributing just three points from play with two coming from David Conway. In the system Laois play, they are expected to contribute defensively but even allowing for that, it was not their best day at the office with the Monaghan full-back line in particular having a comparatively easy ride.
Laois looked most dangerous when they attacked at pace and in numbers from deep, but as the game progressed, those incisive moves became more infrequent with Monaghan applying pressure higher up the pitch and turning ball over in the Laois half.
The Laois full-back line put in a noteworthy shift with Graham Brody not having a meaningful save to make all day but the Monaghan full-forward line dropped further out the field and were able to pick off points at their ease from distance with Kieran Hughes and Conor McManus accounting for nine points between them.
Laois now go into their final game against Down needing at very least a draw, but more than likely a win to maintain their status in Division 2. Even a win however might not be enough as they are also dependent on results elsewhere.
Without any of their U-21s who face Cavan in the Ulster Final this week, Monaghan were quickly out of the blocks and were 0-4 to 0-1 ahead after 11 minutes with Laois’ score coming after six minutes from a Ross Munnelly free.
Two excellent points from Darren Strong got Laois back within one and after Monaghan extended their lead to two through Conor McManus, Strong was in action at the other end making a timely tackle on Jack McCarron as the Monaghan looked set to score.
After seeing off Monaghan’s early onslaught, Laois got a foothold in the game and by filling their half-back line, they thwarted numerous attacks keeping their opponents scoreless for 11 minutes. In that period, Laois kept the scoreboard ticking over as they broke forward in numbers with Conor Meredith, David Conway and a Donie Kingston free putting them in front for the first time after 24 minutes.
A point apiece from McManus and Conway left one between the sides before Laois spurned the best goal chance of the game. Another fast break opened up the Monghan defence and an astute ball from Ross Munnelly put Padraig McMahon clean through on goal. Despite having Darren Strong unmarked with an open goal beside him, McMahon chose to shoot as Rory Beggan came out to narrow the angle but his effort flashed wide of the post.
Before half-time Monaghan added points from Kieran Hughes and Dick Clerkin with John O’Loughlin adding one to Laois’ total to leave the sides level at 0-8 apiece at the break.
That left Laois in a good position but the second-half was dominated for large periods by Monaghan who upped their intensity to a level Laois struggled to match. They had three points and four wides on the board before Laois had a meaningful effort but they hit two in a minute around the 50 minute mark from Ross Munnelly and Billy Sheehan to keep themselves in contention.
Monaghan responded emphatically hitting five of the next six points with Laois’ only score in this period coming from Darren Strong. Entering the final three minutes the game seemed to be wrapped up with Monaghan still five to the good but Damien O’Connor and the outstanding Strong added points to leave just three in it entering injury-time.
However and hopes Laois harboured of snatching a draw were soon dashed as Conor McManus and Martin McElroy slotted over points to wrap up the win for the home side and leave Laois teetering on the brink of relegation.
Scorers: Monaghan: Conor McManus 0-6 (0-3f); Kieran Hughes 0-4; Stephen Gollogly 0-2; Dessie Mone 0-2; Gavin Doogan 0-1; Dick Clerkin 0-1; Fintan Kelly 0-1; Paul Finlay 0-1; Martin McElroy 0-1 Laois: Darren Strong 0-4; Ross Munnelly 0-2f; David Conway 0-2; Conor Meredith 0-1; Donie Kingston 0-1f; John O’Loughlin 0-1; Billy Sheehan 0-1; Gary Walsh 0-1f; Damien O’Connor 0-1
Monaghan: Rory Beggan; Kieran Duffy, Drew Wylie, Fintan Kelly; Colin Walshe, Vinny Corey, Dessie Mone; Padraig Keenan, Gavin Doogan; Karl O’Connell, Jack McCarron, Padraig Donaghy; Dermot Malone, Kieran Hughes, Conor McManus. Subs: Stephen Gollogly for Padraig Donaghy (40mins); Chris McGuinness for Jack McCarron (40mins); Damien Hughes for Dick Clerkin (52mins); Paul Finlay for Dermot Malone (62mins); Martin McElroy for Dessie Mone (65mins)
Laois: Graham Brody; Padraig McMahon, Denis Booth, Peter O’Leary; Darren Strong, Paul Begley, Colm Begley; Kevin Meaney, John O’Loughlin; Ross Munnelly, Conor Meredith, Billy Sheehan; Evan O’Carroll, Donie Kingston, David Conway. Subs: Gary Walsh for Evan O’Carroll (HT); James Finn for Kevin Meaney (50mins); Paul Kingston for David Conway (58mins); Damien O’Connor for Billy Sheehan (63mins); MJ Tierney for Ross Munnelly (66mins)
Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)