Laois chop down Lilies
O'Moore men celebrate long overdue win over local rivals
Laois secured a long overdue win over their local rivals Kildare on Saturday night to confirm their place in Division 2 next season, while also putting a pretty large dent in the Lilywhites' promotion hopes.
The manner of the victory was very impressive, with four points doing scant justice to their superiority over the 70 minutes.
Having said that, Kildare were very disappointing, as they continue to struggle to rediscover the form that made them one of the most entertaining teams of last year's championship.
Injuries and suspension have contributed significantly to that and, though they were in a position to field a fairly strong team at O'Moore Park on Saturday night, they looked a side bereft of confidence and ideas.
"We had plenty of possession; we just kept giving the ball away, making their defence look good by running into trouble," said manager Kieran McGeeney. "We were probably lucky they didn't put a few more on us. (There were) wrong decisions all over the pitch."
He also bemoaned the tendency of his forwards in particular to "run up blind alleys", but the Laois defence was outstanding, with Cahir Healy leading the way. In the first half alone, there were five or six outstanding blocks on Kildare forwards. The home side really wanted this.
Remember, there were many recriminations at the end of last season and manager Seán Dempsey had to make a case for why he should retain his position for a second term, amid reports that players had not adopted the most monastic of regimens last year.
In the past month though, they have produced two good wins, a draw and just one narrow defeat. The turnaround in mood and results has been marked.
"Right now we're in a better place and I would have said that before tonight's performance," said selector Dermot Murphy afterwards. "We're more settled. The training has been going really well and the turnout has been 100pc. If there's anyone missing they always have a genuine excuse. Players are showing an unbelievable hunger.
"If you ask me to put my finger on one particular thing, I can't actually do that. Because last year we would have been happy with the way things were going as well. Maybe it takes a bit of time.
"The average age of this team is 22. The likes of John Scully, Denis Booth, Niall Donoher and Darren Strong were on the periphery last year. They're in now with six or seven games under their belt, which is experience you just can't buy. We're delighted for them and it augurs well."
Perhaps the best omen for Laois though, particularly in the self-imposed absence of Pádraic Clancy, was the towering performance of his Timahoe club-mate and cousin, Brendan Quigley.
Despite a slow start that saw him getting a yellow card for a clumsy tackle on James Kavanagh, with Kildare moving three points ahead after just six minutes, the midfielder was absolutely dominant around the centre, where he received some sterling support from Kevin Meaney, Pádraig McMahon and Craig Rogers.
"He's been working so hard in training" revealed Murphy.
"That type of performance we knew was very close to the surface and it was going to come sometime. We needed it tonight against Kildare, our local rivals, who are after putting a couple over on us recently.
"For Brendan to put in that type of per- formance, I'm so pleased for him. That's the standard he would have been at two years ago.
"He got a couple of injuries and his form dipped a bit, but God his workrate in training and in matches is great."
Five points from Michael John Tierney helped Laois recover from the early deficit to lead by 0-8 to 0-5 at half-time, and only the failure to capitalise on three goal-scoring opportunities in the second half (as well as another in the first when Paul Flood made a fine double save) prevented this from being a rout.
McMahon and Doyle exchanged scores, then Colm Begley and Dermot Earley, who was to limp off late on. But Laois continued to hit Kildare at pace and they finally reaped the dividends of their dominance in the final 10 minutes, when points from Rogers, Kingston and Meaney pushed them clear.