Conal Keaney leads the way for the Dubs
Cunningham happy at early Croker outing
MOMENTARILY - and wholly unnecessarily - Dublin made life difficult for themselves in Portlaoise yesterday before accelerating to the close and a 2-18 to 1-11 win over Laois.
The result gives them an earlier-than-expected trip to Croke Park and a crack at good pre-League opposition in Galway.
Largely though, the hard bit had been done.
Ger Cunningham's team were sleek of touch and physically dominant enough to establish a 1-14 to 0-6 lead in the 45th minute, close to the point at which Michael Carton got himself sent off.
It proved a development in the afternoon that briefly enlivened the frozen home crowd and stirred something inside their team.
Carton, one of Cunningham's early season positional guinea pigs and thus playing again at full-back, had given away a penalty for a tussle with Neil Foyle few, other than referee Patrick Murphy, ascribed foul status.
Perhaps then, some tension lingered longer than anticipated.
But minutes after Zane Keenan converted the penalty (the latest one-on-one strike to be snugly tucked away past a goalkeeper), the pair clashed again.
Read more: Match facts: Laois v Dublin
With play developing some distance away, Foyle was suddenly lying prone on the ground.
Carton was issued a straight red from Murphy upon counsel from one of his nearby umpires, and the O'Toole's man harboured a visible anger suggesting whatever course of action he had taken was reactionary.
And so, by the 57th minute, and inspired now by the creative stylings of Keenan (a half-time substitute in his latest incarnation as a Laois senior) 'Cheddar' Plunkett's men burrowed their way back to within four points (1-15 to 1-11).
But Conal Keaney, a man not adverse to taking matters into his own hands and playing now at wing-back having already scored 1-2, battered over a point from 100 or so metres before a fatal slip of stick from Laois 'keeper Eoin Reilly allowed Eamonn Dillon in to seal the win with a thief's goal.
"Yes, it's very early days. But it's nice. A semi-final of the Walsh Cup is grand this time of year. So it's another good game to get at this time of the year in preparation. We have a very tough National League. We start against Tipp in two weeks's time.
"It gives us a chance to try out a few things," said Cunningham afterwards of next Saturday's meeting with Galway in Croke Park, the prelude to the footballer's League clash with Donegal.
"It give us a chance to try out a few players, see how things go. But, very happy." Cunningham was non-committal about Carton's dismissal but seemed under the impression his full-back had been sent off for a second yellow card.
Either way, yesterday will have largely pleased him.
Fielding a team not far removed from League quality, they dominated the first half and in Keaney, had the game's most influential performer - in two positions.
Peter Kelly was excellent at full-back, ornamenting his defensive display with two long-range points. while Mark Schutte and David Treacy also had their moments in attack.
"That's a bonus," insisted Cuningham of getting a run-out in Croke Park, just eight days shy of welcoming Tipperary to Parnell Park for their League Division 1 opener.
"Some of those guys we're trying out, it's good for them.
"It's good practice. The fact that we're there, great."