Laois 1-22, Derry 5-10
Brendan Rogers said it was vital Derry avoided defeat after Damian Barton’s men fought back to secure their first league point in three games in Sunday’s high scoring thriller against Laois in O’Moore Park.
James Kielt’s injury time point finally secured a share of the spoils and Derry were forced to dig deep on several occasions with Slaughtneil’s Christopher ‘Sammy’ Bradley helping himself to 2-01 on a day when neither defence covered itself in glory.
“For entertainment value that was great ‘Sunday Game’ watching,” admitted Rogers afterwards.
“I think we were lucky to be in the game at times but also unlucky not to win it. Laois had a few chances and didn’t take them while we had a few misses in the first half. Football is all about taking your chances and thankfully we got in at in the end.
“Laois are a good side. They were a kick of a ball away from taking something against Tyrone whose keeper made a save in the last few minutes to stop that game ending in a draw as well.
“To say they are a bad side would be very naive. They have a lot of big men in them middle who are handy footballers and they are set up well. Maybe after the couple of weeks we’ve had, that was as good a result as we could take.”
The draw leaves Derry fourth, one point behind both Cavan and Galway who currently have six points. Tyrone still lead the way on 10 points with the chasing pack now playing for second spot.
With the home side scoring 23 times and Derry just 15 over a remarkable 70 minutes, it was the visitors’ ability to fashion and take goal chances that dragged them back into the game on more than one occasion.
Barton’s team got off to the worse possible start as indecision in defence was punished by Laois’ Paul Kingston who found the net with Paul Cahillane tagging on a point before Ryan Bell opened Derry’s account from a close-range free.
Trailing by four after an opening quarter in which they had been second best, Daniel Heavron grabbed the first of his two goals to cut the deficit but Laois once again built a lead, this time five points.
Goal time again as Shane Heavron unerringly converted a Derry penalty but the 1-10 to 2-06 half-time was hiding the home side’s dominance.
If the first half had been dramatic, the second took it to a new level with not a blanket defence - at least not a functioning one - in sight.
Laois had engineered a three point lead when ‘Sammy’ Bradley found the net to level but rather than disrupt the home side, it fuelled their play as they built a four after two superb points by Darren Strong.
What the sides were lacking defensively, they were making up for in character though and Bradley’s emphatic second goal ensured Derry were back within a point.
The worry for the Oak Leafers though was that every time they gained a foothold in the match they allowed Laois to retake the initiative almost instantly and again the home side fashioned another three point lead with 67 minutes on the clock.
Danny Heavron’s second goal set up a grandstand finish but it looked like Oak Leaf heartbreak when Conor Meredith’s injury time point edged Laois in front again.
With time all but up, step forward substitute James Kielt to level and secure a point which doesn’t leave things any clearer in a table where second spot is only three points clear of bottom.
Laois: G Brody; R Kehoe, M Timmons, C Begley; D Strong (0-2), P Cotter, G Dillon; K Lillis, B Quigley (0-1); J O’Loughlin (0-5), D Kingston (0-2), N Donoher (0-2); P Kingston (1-0), C Meredith (0-2), P Cahillane (0-2); Subs E O’Carroll (0-5) for K Lillis inj 8m, S Attride for R Kehoe (Bl Card 33m), G Walsh (0-1) for P Kingston ht, D O’Reilly for P Cahillane 59m, K Meaney for M Timmons inj 69m
Derry: T Mallon; O Duff (0-1), C McKaigue, K McKaigue; G McKinless, B Rogers, D Heavron (2-0); N Holly (0-1), E Bradley; R Bell (0-3), C Bradley (2-1), B Heron; S Hearvon (1-2), E McGuckin, S L McGoldrick; Subs M Lynch for E Bradley HT; J Kielt (0-1) for R Bell 45m; C O’Boyle (0-1) for E McGuckin 60m; D McKinless for B Heron 60m,
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow)