Leinster U21FC: Faithfuls pip Laois to final berth

March 15, 2017

Offaly management team of Declan Farrell, Pat Flanagan and James Stewart.
©INPHO/James Crombie.

Offaly's thrilling 2-9 to 2-8 victory over Laois at Dr Cullen Park means they are through to the 2017 Leinster U21 football final.

The Faithful County haven't contested a provincial decider at this level in a decade but tonight's win has secured them a date with either Dublin or Longford in the last-ever Leinster U21 FC final on March 29th.

After a shaky start, the victors outscored their opponents by 1-5 to a solitary point in the last twelve minutes of the first half to claim a narrow 1-5 to 1-3 interval lead.

A brace of Sean Moore frees had the O'Moore County ahead by two points to no score inside eight minutes and the 13th minute proved unlucky for the Faithful County as Colm Murphy bundled the ball cross their goal-line to make it a five-point game, 1-2 to no score.

Offaly didn't register until the 18th minute but it was a huge score as Cillian Farrell opened their account with a goal. Farrell followed up with a pointed free to reduce the arrears to the minimum and Paddy Dunican tied the scores up seven minutes from the interval.

Shane Tiernan and Jordan Hayes (free) added to the Faithful tally but a Moore free ended their run of 1-4 without reply. However, Dunican smashed over a terrific Offaly point from the left to assure his side of a two-point cushion at the turnaround.

Jack Walsh's strike increased the gap to three within three minutes of the restart and Adam Mahon brilliantly slotted the Faithfuls' second major in the 39th minute to give them what proved to be an unassailable double-scores advantage, 2-6 to 1-3.

Moore's fourth converted free closed the gap coming up to the three-quarters stage but Hayes replied in the 46th minute as the winners restored their six-point lead. Another Tierney point left it double scores again and Moore's next free flew between the posts five minutes from the end, with the O'Moore County needing goals not points.

Dramatically, a second Laois three-pointer did arrive on 57 minutes when the superb Moore fired a penalty to the net to make it potentially a one-score game, 2-8 to 2-5. A sensational Tom Shiel point and yet another Moore free left the minimum between the sides in stoppage time but Tierney bagged the insurance point in the 63rd minute and Gary Kavanagh's men were unable to muster a match-salvaging goal.

In a tense finale, Shiel went for goal from a last-gasp 14-metre free but his effort was saved and Murphy's point from the rebound was too little, too late.

Offaly - B Rohan; C Horan, D Dempsey, C Doyle; A Mahon (1-0), C Stewart, PJ Daly; J Hayes (0-2, 1f), J Lalor; C Farrell (1-1, 0-1f), P Dunican (0-2), J Walsh (0-1); S Tierney (0-3, 1f), R McNamee, R McEvoy. Subs: J Egan for C Stewart, K Higgins for R McEvoy, J Clancy for P Dunican (BC), C Brazil for D Dempsey.

Laois - A Cooney; J Kelly, S Nerney, L Knowles (0-1); P O'Sullivan, E Buggie, T Collins; D O'Reilly, D Luttrell; D Connolly, B Daly, C Whelahan; C Murphy (1-0), S Moore (1-6, 1-0pen, 0-6f), B Byrne. Subs: A Carroll for B Byrne, D Doyle for D Connolly, T Shiel (0-1) for J Kelly.

Referee - B Cawley.

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