SF Qualifier: Laois survive as courageous Garden County bloom too late

June 17, 2017

Wicklow's Paul Cunningham with Trevor Collins of Laois.
©INPHO/Donall Farmer.

Laois' summer is still alive following a nervy 2-16 to 3-10 victory over Wicklow at sun-kissed Aughrim.

Dumped out of Leinster by Kildare, the visitors looked to be cruising into the second round of the Qualifiers when leading by nine points with just a few minutes left but quickfire goals from Paddy Byrne and Paul Cunningham (who finished the day with 2-3) threatened to throw the cat amongst the proverbial pigeons. However, Peter Creedon's men held on to progress, while Wicklow exited the championship with heads held high.

The second half of this match was superb. A Cunningham shot to the top corner of the Laois net saw the Garden County reduce an eight-point deficit to three with 51 minutes played, 1-12 to 1-9, but the visitors kicked on again with scores from Donie Kingston (scorer of 1-4) and John O'Loughlin before Kingston replied to a Seanie Furlong free by drilling to the bottom corner in the 59th minute - 2-14 to 1-10.

Damien O'Connor and Colm Begley added further points for the winners, who had nine different scorers. Edged out of the Leinster SFC by Louth, Johnny Magee's men never threw in the towel but came up marginally short in the end.

It was the O'Moore County's game to lose by half time as they carried a healthy 1-8 to 0-5 advantage into the interval. Gary Walsh (1-3) netted the all-important goal in the tenth minute after a Furlong free had opened the hosts' account.

The winners had notched the first three points of the game through Walsh (2) and Kingston - a second Kingston free in the 14th minute made it 1-4 to 0-1.

Furlong (free) and David Conway traded points, as did Cunningham and Walsh - his second converted '45' - before a pair of points from O'Loughlin and Begley fired the midlanders eight clear. The Garden County struck the last two points of the half through Mark Kenny and Cunningham to stay in touch.

Kingston and Trevor Collins supplied the first two scores after the resumption but Cunningham and John McGrath (2) were amongst the Garden County scorers before the former tested Laois' resolve for the first time with his wonderful first goal coming up to the three-quarters mark. Even when Laois seemed to have repelled them for good, the underdogs kept fighting back ... but the O'Moore County just about passed the test, beating Wicklow in the championship for the third time in four years.

Laois - G Brody; D Strong, M Timmons, T Collins (0-1); E Buggie, P McMahon, C Begley (0-2); J O'Loughlin (0-2), B Quigley; D O'Connor (0-1), D Conway (0-1), A Farrell (0-1); G Walsh (1-3, 0-2'45), D Kingston (1-4, 0-2f), S Attride. Subs: J Finn for B Quigley, E O'Carroll for S Attride (BC), R Munnelly (0-1) for G Walsh, K Lillis for P McMahon, A Doran for E O'Carroll, G Dillon for D Conway.

Wicklow - R Lambert; B Kennedy, A McLoughlin, S Kelly; J Crowe, C Hyland, D Fitzgerald; D Boothman, R Finn; C Ffrench, D Healy, D Hayden; M Kenny (0-2), S Furlong (0-3f), P Cunningham (2-3, 0-1f). Subs: J McGrath (0-2) for D Boothman, P Traynor for C Ffrench, P Byrne (1-0) for D Fitzgerald.

Referee - B Cassidy.

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