Fintan O’Toole reports from Tullamore
THE OPPORTUNITY TO make amends was gratefully seized by the Laois footballers today, correcting a pattern of results against Westmeath that had afflicted their team to date in 2019.
Evan O’Carroll in action for Westmeath against Laois.
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
A Division 3 final reversal in April was preceded by a loss in a regular league fixture in February and saw John Sugrue’s team land at the Offaly venue with a clear goal in their sight this afternoon.
Smarting after suffering a pair of three-point losses to Westmeath, they achieved their objective in booking a Leinster semi-final joust with Meath.
It was hard fought in the end, tough and tense in the finale before the Laois faithful were able to let out a cry of delight and relief in injury time. Substitute Eoin Lowry did a swift exchange of passes with Evan O’Carroll, raced clear and sensibly punched over a point. That sent Laois two clear to copper-fasten their victory. They dealt successfully with a late delivery pumped in by Westmeath in pursuit of the goal required to salvage their Leinster campaign.
Laois ultimately deserved this success. It was not as clearcut as the one they enjoyed last May against Westmeath when Paul Kingston bagged a hat-trick of goals but they had another key attacking weapon in their ranks today. O’Carroll provided the assist for that late point but had contributed eight before that, five from frees and three from play. It was an invaluable return that helped to separate the teams as the sun shone in O’Connor Park.
Laois had a hefty breeze at their backs and utilised it to forge a six-point advantage by the interval, 0-8 to 0-2. Their attacking strategy was based around the class they had inside in O’Carroll and Kingston.
In the first quarter Kingston swung over two tidy scores from play and in the second quarter O’Carroll notched a lovely brace of points. A trio of converted O’Carroll frees swelled the lead Laois enjoyed and Conor Boyle ensured another player got in on the scoring act for Laois with his first-half point in added time.
Laois defender Sean O’Flynn in action against Westmeath’s David Lynch.
Source: James Crombie/INPHO
While all this was unfolding, Westmeath were toiling away at the other end with scant reward. They didn’t feature in the recording of scores until the 23rd minute when Ger Egan knocked over a free and another placed ball from him seven minutes later was the sum total of their first-half scoring efforts.
Playing against the wind was a factor and they did finally get off the mark from play when John Heslin stroked over a stylish point 10 seconds into the second half. But the attacking struggles didn’t end there and as the game drifted towards the last quarter, they were staring at deficit of 0-10 to 0-5.
A late onslaught materialised. Denis Corroon got clear sight of goal but blasted in a shot that was bravely blocked by Laois defender Gareth Dillon. Ger Egan started to take the fight to Laois with a pair of points, O’Carroll hit back with a score before Ronan O’Toole clipped over a 60th minute score to leave three in it.
Westmeath pushed on as the 70 minute mark approached, Kieran Martin made a couple of big catches around the middle with Egan and Callum McCormack both raising white flags. Suddenly Laois were clinging to a slim advantage, 0-11 to 0-10, but Westmeath couldn’t engineer a levelling score. Lowry stole in for that vital late point and after a dogged battle Laois could look forward to the last four stage.
Scorers for Laois: Evan O’Carroll 0-8 (0-5f), Paul Kingston 0-2, Conor Boyle, Eoin Lowry 0-1 each.
Scorers for Westmeath: Ger Egan 0-7 (0-6f), Callum McCormack, John Heslin, Ronan O’Toole 0-1 each.
1. Graham Brody (Portlaoise)
2. Denis Booth (The Heath)
3. Mark Timmons (Graiguecullen)
4. Gareth Dillon (Portlaoise)
of the team
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5. Seán O’Flynn (Courtwood)
6. Colm Begley (Stradbally)
7. Patrick O’Sullivan (Portarlington)
8. John O’Loughlin (St Brigid’s)
9. Kieran Lillis (Portlaoise)
10. Daniel O’Reilly (Graiguecullen)
11. Conor Boyle (Portlaoise)
12. Damien O’Connor (Timahoe)
13. Paul Kingston (Arles-Killeen)
14. Colm Murphy (Portarlington)
15. Evan O’Carroll (Crettyard)
17. Robbie Piggott (Portarlington) for Timmons (inj) (8)
19. Martin Scully (Ballyroan Abbey) for Murphy (half-time)
18. Donal Kingston (Arles Killeen) for Boyle (60)
24. Brendan Quigley (Timahoe) for O’Connor (67)
20. Eoin Lowry (Killeshin) for O’Reilly (67)
22. Seán Byrne (Portarlington) for Begley (70)
1. Eoin Carberry (Rosemount)
2. Kevin Maguire (Caulry)
3. Ronan Wallace (Multyfarnham)
4. Boidu Sayeh (Rosemount)
5. Killian Daly (Mullingar Shamrocks)
6. Noel Mulligan (Athlone)
7. James Dolan (Garrycastle)
8. Sam Duncan (Milltownpass)
9. Denis Corroon (Mullingar Shamrocks)
10. David Lynch (St Malachy’s)
11. John Heslin (St. Loman’s, Mullingar)
17. Frank Boyle (Killucan)
13. Ronan O’Toole (St. Loman’s, Mullingar)
14. Kieran Martin (Maryland)
15. Ger Egan (Tyrrellspass)
12. Callum McCormack (Maryland) for Duncan (32)
23. Luke Loughlin (The Downs) for Boyle (half-time)
18. Darren Giles (Coralstown Kinnegad) for Corroon (61)
Referee: Fergal Kelly (Longford)
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