WITH LIAM O’NEILL watching in the Celtic Park stand, Laois didn’t so much halt Derry’s potential run to the Division 2A final as blow the Oak Leafers dream apart with a ruthlessly efficient display in a disappointingly one-sided match.
Michael Wilson reports
Ger Rogan’s pre-match plans suffered a severe blow even before throw-in when key duo Liam Hinphey and captain Ruairi Convery were both ruled out through injury meaning it was a very inexperienced 15 that took to the field against Seamus Plunkett’s side. And despite Paddy Henry’s free inside 30 seconds for the home team, that difference was soon evident as the visitors eased to a 1-13 to 0-04 half-time lead and a victory that moves them into pole position at the top the table with a home game against Wicklow to finish their campaign.
Derry travel to Kerry in their final game and will want to see a response after an abject display which was not been in keeping with what had been a very encouraging campaign beforehand. To his credit the Derry manager refused to use the loss of key men as an excuse for the defeat and when the dust has settled, Rogan will know that it is in games against teams like Laois’ that he will discover just how far his young team can progress.
Sunday though was one to forget for Derry and probably Laois as well who will have learned little from a game which at times resembled a training match for the visitors.
Henry’s early free proved a false dawn for the home team as Laois clicked into gear immediately with the impressive Willie Hyland equalising within one minute and from there one it was cruise control for Plunkett’s team
Within 20 minutes the visitors were 0-09 to 0-3 up with Hyland and Zane Keenan the tormentors-in-chief. Derry were clinging to the Laois coat-tails at this stage courtesy of scores from Kevin Hinphey and and another Henry free but Tommy Fitzgerald’s opening goal on 22 minutes signalled the end of the game as a contest.
Fitzgerald was perfectly positioned to capitalise when a high ball toward the Derry square was broken down, the full forward seizing on the loose ball to fire an unstoppable shot into the roof of Darrell McDermott’s net for a nine point advantage.
Cahir Healy could have added a second goal five minutes before the break but good defending from Michael Warnock forced him to rush his shot and he blasted into the side-netting though the scores kept coming as Laois went in 12 points up at half-time.
Little changed after the break and when Keenan scored Laois’ second goal fro a ridiculously acute angle on 41 minutes it was well into damage limitation territory for Rogan’s side who had ironically defended well throughout but badly missed the focal point Convery provided further up the field.
Ten minutes into the half and with Laois 2-17 to 0-05 ahead, McDermott produced a superb save to deny Laois substitute PJ Scully but the visitors were being handed possession back with each Derry clearance so there was no let up in the pressure.
Both sides went to their benches as the second half progressed but the pattern of the game changed little, Derry unable to make any real impact against the Laois backline while the Oak Leaf backs defended manfully in the face of incessant visiting pressure.
Derry: Darrell McDermott; Michael Warnock, Conor Quinn, John McCloskey; Ruairi McCloskey, Michael Kirkpatrick, Paddy Kelly; Chrissy Convery, Kevin Hinphey (0-2); Brendan Rodgers (0-1), Alan Grant, Paddy Henry (0-5, 3f); Paul Cleary, Tiernan McCloskey, Shane Farren. (Subs) Darragh McCloskey for M Kirkpatrick, H/T; Niall Farren for R McCloskey, H/T; Malachy O’Hagan for T McCloskey, 46mins; Declan McAlary for P Cleary, 54mins; Breandan Quigley for K Hinphey, 63mins;
Laois: Eoin Riley; Brian Stapleton, Brian Campion, John A Delaney; Joe Fitzpatrick, Mathew Whelan (0-1, 1f), Gearoid Burke; Cahir Healy, Brian Dunne (0-1); Stephen Maher (0-4, 2f), Zane Keenan (1-4), Willie Hyland (0-6, 1f); Charlie Dwyer (0-1), Tommy Fitzgerald (1-1), Neil Foyle (0-1). (Subs) PJ Scully (0-1) for C Dwyer, 46mins; Andrew Collier for G Burke, 52mins; Brian Guilfoyle for T Fitzgerald, 52mins; Ben Conroy for Stephen Maher, 61mins; Conor Dunne for B Dunne, 61mins.
Referee: Owen Elliott (Antrim)