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Offaly Seal Semi Final Spot

April 13th, 2024

Offaly 2-13 Laois 1-8

By Kevin Egan at Laois Hire O’Moore Park

Laois may have ended the Allianz League with silverware and promotion secured, but the sharper edge that Offaly honed over the course of a much more competitive Division Three campaign shone through in fine style in Portlaoise tonight, as they overpowered the 14 men of the home side to become the first team into the last four of the Leinster SFC.

James Kelly’s dismissal after 21 minutes was undoubtedly a huge factor in the game, as was Laois losing midfielder Damon Larkin to injury with just over ten minutes gone, but there was so much more to Offaly’s dominance than that, and on another night they might have tacked on two or three more goals in the second half.

Even in the first half, which ended with the scores level, the Faithful men were superior. Jack Bryant leading the line well while Dyland Hyland kicked some fine scores; meanwhile at the other end of the field, the much-vaunted Laois full-forward line was shut down by a lockdown defensive display from Lee Pearson, Declan Hogan and David Dempsey.

Cormac Egan made some outstanding forays forward, once again revelling in his new wing back berth, while all across the field, Declan Kelly’s side seemed to be much better able to secure turnovers and pressurise Laois men in possession.

With the wind blocked out by the stand and so not playing a part in the game, Offaly were full value for their early 0-6 to 0-2 lead, and it could easily have been more as Jack Bryant blazed the opening score over the bar when a goal was on, while Eoin Carroll also had a snapshot well-parried by Killian Roche.

Laois struggled to make any inroads at the town end of the ground but Shaun Fitzpatrick’s goal, slammed to the net at the second attempt after Offaly goalkeeper Ian Duffy parried the wing forward’s initial effort, helped Laois to somehow get back on level terms by half-time, 1-5 to 0-8.

A free from Evan O’Carroll gave Laois their first lead of the game after half-time, but by the time they scored again, Offaly were out of sight. Dylan Hyland restored their lead with a brace of frees, Keith O’Neill pounced on a defensive spill to toe poke the ball in on goal and then slide a soccer-style finish inside the near post, and almost immediately a fast break led to Jordan Hayes sprinting through 60 metres of open country and slamming the ball to the roof of the Laois net.

At all times, Offaly seemed that bit sharper in the battle for contested ball, with Laois perhaps playing the price for playing their league football at a lower level, even if it did ultimately yield Croke Park success. Two pointed frees from Mark Barry were all the O’Moore County could muster over the course of the final 37 minutes of play (including stoppage) while Offaly will feel that they could easily have tacked on much more.

Killian Roche blocked one Rory Egan goal chance and Peter Cunningham fumbled another, both set up by magical passes from Cathal Flynn, while Offaly also racked up a handful of wides and shots off the post.

In a Leinster semi-final against Dublin or Meath, those misses would be costly. Tonight, they only served to mask the surprisingly one-sided nature of a Leinster quarter-final that looked to be very evenly poised.

Scorers for Offaly: Keith O’Neill 1-3, Dyland Hyland 0-5 (4fs), Jack Bryant 0-3 (2fs), Lee Pearson 0-1, Jack McEvoy 0-1.

Scorers for Laois: Shaun Fitzpatrick 1-0, Evan O’Carroll 0-3 (2fs), Killian Roche 0-2 (2fs), Mark Barry 0-2 (2fs), Eoin Buggie 0-1.

Offaly: Ian Duffy; David Dempsey, Declan Hogan, Lee Pearson; Cormac Egan, Peter Cunningham, John Furlong; Eoin Carroll, Jack McEvoy; Dylan Hyland, Ruairí McNamee, Jordan Hayes; Keith O’Neill, Nathan Poland, Jack Bryant.

Subs: Cathal Flynn for Bryant (49), Cian Farrell for Hyland (58), Jack O’Brien for McEvoy (61), Rory Egan for McNamee (64), Daire McDaid for Pearson (65).

Laois: Killian Roche; Ben Dempsey, Seamus Lacey, James Kelly; Eoin Buggie, Mark Timmons, Jack Lacey; Kieran Lillis, Damon Larkin; Kevin Swayne, Eoin Lowry, Shaun Fitzpatrick; Mark Barry, Evan O’Carroll, Paul Kingston.

Subs: Conor Heffernan for Larkin (11), Daniel O’Reilly for Lillis (50), Dylan Kavanagh for Dempsey (50), Niall Dunne for Kingston (55), Simon Fingleton for Timmons (65).

Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo).

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