Category: Archive

Irish GAA Roundup Laois lie down against Westmeath

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Malachy Clerkin

Westmeath 1-12, Laois 0-11

Westmeath’s four-point victory over their Midlands neighbors was their first since 1970 in the Senior Football Championship. True, Laois were short three key players through injury, but even that fact does not excuse their dire performance in Tullamore on Monday.

Their forwards wasted a huge number of possessions, hitting nine wides in the second half alone. The fact that goalkeeper Fergal Byron was stood out as their best performer tells its own story.

Take nothing away from Westmeath, however. They were by far the better team and in Dessie Dolan they have a forward capable of terrorizing any defense in the country. He scored six points in all, including four from play, and would have had two goals had Byron not been in such outstanding form, saving his penalty after five minutes and making a marvelous save from him just before halftime.

Laois will point to referee Michael McGrath’s performance and feel somewhat aggrieved. Manager Tom Cribben said afterward that the turning point came on 55 minutes, when McGrath should have awarded Laois a free after Paul Dunne was clearly fouled twice as he approached the Westmeath goal. Laois trailed by a single point at that stage and had they drawn level, chances are their momentum would have seen them emerge victorious.

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They didn’t get the free, however, and Westmeath took advantage while Laois players complained to the referee, scoring 1-2 in the space of 90 seconds. The goal came through Martin Flanagan after he beat three defenders and crashed the ball into the top right-hand corner of the net.

Dublin 2-15, Laois 1-14

A fitter and more motivated Dublin side overcame Laois in an enthralling encounter in Monday’s Leinster Senior Hurling Championship replay at Tullamore. In a game packed with incident, during which both teams had a player sent off, the two counties served up some wonderful hurling to provide proof that the round-robin preliminary-round system was an unmitigated success.

Dublin now go on to meet Kilkenny in the Leinster semifinal, and although there is little chance of them actually beating the Cats, going by Monday’s performance, they should at least give them a decent game.

Dublin had a numerical advantage for much of the match after P.J. Peacock was sent of on 21 minutes, so much so that they outscored Laois by six points between then and the break.

The Laois forward line began to function more fluidly after the break and picked off some magnificent scores. David Conroy was at the heart of their best work, scoring their goal and setting up Niall Rigney and David Cuddy for morale-boosting scores. With 13 minutes to go they led 1-14 to 2-9 and when Dublin had Niall Butler sent off soon after for a bad tackle on Laois goalkeeper John Lyons, it seemed as though Sean Cuddy’s men would canter to victory. Their fitness let them down, however, and Dublin finished the stronger, scoring six unanswered points to win comfortably.

Offaly 0-13, Meath 0-9

After Antrim’s surprise win over Down a week ago, the world of Gaelic football was again shaken to its very core on Sunday, this time at the expense of All-Ireland champions Meath. In front of a disappointingly sparse 21,000 crowd at Croke Park, they succumbed to an altogether more motivated and ultimately more skillful Offaly side, going down to a 0-13 to 0-9 defeat.

It was Offaly’s first victory over Meath since 1997. That year, they received little credit for their win, coming as it did against a Meath team shorn of three of its best players. There can be no complaints this time around, however, as the absence of Graham Geraghty and Hank Traynor for Meath was more than offset by the fact that Offaly had to do without their talisman Ciaran McManus.

In truth, it was a match of mediocre quality to which Meath contributed little, save for some excellent defending from Cormac Murphy and Darren Fay. They looked stale and disjointed, lacking the excellence in key areas that is usually taken for granted. John McDermott was unusually ineffective in midfield and neither Trevor Giles nor Ollie Murphy ever looked like creating enough chances to win the game. With their supposed match-winners underperforming, Meath looked bereft of class and ideas.

Offaly, on the other hand, applied themselves with a lot of vigor and not a little skill. Many players stood out for them, but the efforts of Finbar Cullen and Vinny Claffey deserve special mention. Until Saturday, Cullen was a doubtful starter, but he showed no signs of pain during an industrious performance in which he served as a wing-back, a third midfielder and even, as the game drew to a close, a makeshift forward. His two second-half points were invaluable as Offaly began to pull away from the champions.

Cork 2-17, Limerick 1-11

As first steps toward defending All-Ireland titles go, this was a useful exercise for a Cork team that won well without ever moving out of second gear. This Munster Senior Hurling Championship semifinal was dominated by the sustained excellence of Cork’s half-back line, they were much too strong for a willing but ultimately toothless Limerick side.

With the imperious Brian Corcoran directing operations from center-half back and his wing-backs Wayne Sherlock and Sean Og O hAilpin launching attack after attack, Cork quickly established a stranglehold on the match. Seanie McGrath gave the inexperienced Stephen Lucey a roasting early on, and the Limerick defender was substituted after 20 minutes.

The damage had been done by that stage, however, McGrath using his searing pace to get in behind Lucey for Cork’s first goal after 12 minutes. When he again outstripped the luckless corner-back to score a point after 18 minutes, Limerick manager Eamon Cregan decided that hauled Lucey off and replaced him with the much more effective Clem Smith.

Cork led 1-8 to 0-5 at halftime, a scoreline that pretty much reflected their overall superiority. Unsurprisingly, Limerick roused themselves after the break and got to within two points of the champions when James Butler, in his first championship appearance, battled his way past three Cork defenders to flick the sliothar past Donal Og Cusack in the Cork goal.

The Rebel County slammed the door shut almost immediately, however. From the puck-out, Timmy McCarthy sent over a beautiful point and five minutes later Joe Deane scored Cork’s second goal to put the outcome beyond doubt. Limerick full-back T.J. Ryan rose superbly beneath his own posts to collect a dangerous long ball. His clearance reached Cork’s half-back line, where, not to be outdone, Sean Og O hAilpin pulled off a tremendous catch. He sent the sliothar back to the Limerick goalmouth, where the waiting Deane applied the subtlest of touches to flick it to the net.

Armagh 0-12, Tyrone 0-8

The Ulster champions kept a firm grip on their crown at Clones on Sunday with a dogged quarterfinal performance against a Tyrone side who only managed one point from play in the entire match. Shorn of Peter Canavan from the start, Tyrone relied on the assured free-taking of Eoin Gormley to keep within striking distance of Armagh, who will now play the winners of this Sunday’s clash between Fermanagh and Donegal.

That was as far as they ever got, however. Armagh’s direct passing game was too much for the O’Neill county and time and again their defense was opened up by good work on the part of the McEntee twins, Tony and John. Oisin McConville was an ever-present threat in the forward line, contributing five points to Armagh’s total, and he was ably assisted by the mercurial Diarmuid Marsden and debutant Steven McDonnell.

When Tyrone did threaten, they were repelled by excellent defensive play from the Armagh full-back line and a top-drawer display by goalkeeper Brendan Tierney.

Roscommon 4-18, London 0-10

Two goals each for Frankie Dolan and Gerry Lohan helped Roscommon to a comprehensive victory over London at Ruislip on Sunday. Gay Sheerin’s side led 0-11 to 0-4 at halftime and pulled away in the second half to run out easy winners. They now meet Leitrim in the Connaught semifinal on July 2.

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