THREE soft goals for Laois, one at a crucial stage in the second half when Offaly had gotten back to within a point, and a string of missed chances proved decisive as Emmett McDonnell’s side exited the Leinster U-21 Football Championship at the first hurdle.
Cadbury’s Leinster U-21 FC
Offaly 2-13 .
With nine players who featured in the U-21 Championship last year and with several players on the current Offaly Senior panel, the Faithful County went into the game as favourites and they started strongly.
They had a glorious goal scoring opportunity early in the game but captain David Hanlon’s close range shot was somehow deflected away for a ‘45.
Paul McPadden slotted over two early frees to put Offaly in front but Laois hit back with a quickfire 1-1 to take the lead with Evan O’Carroll fisting home the goal from close range.
Offaly hit back wit points from Aaron McDonagh and Stuart Cullen and they were the better team at this stage but again Laois took back the momentum with another opportunist goal when O’Carroll again fisted home a goal latching on to a speculative high ball.
Offaly again responded with three points, two from the outstanding Peter Cunningham and one for Ciaran Hurley while Evan Costello pulled one back for Laois.
That left Offaly trailing 0-7 to 2-6 at the break and early in the second-half Laois had extended the lead to 2-9 to 0-9.
However Offaly finally clicked into gear and lead superbly by Cunningham they set about reducing the lead. He hit three points from play either side of a calmly converted penalty from David Hanlon and Offaly were back within a point with the momentum very much on their side.
Then against the run of play, Laois added a third goal with O’Carroll again in the midst of the action. He forced an error from Mark Langtry and Kevin McGrath was on hand to slot home the rebound.
Offaly had chances to eat into the lead but a string of wides, three from frees, halted their progress.
Entering injury-time they were four points adrift when Ciaran Hurley rattled the back of the net to reduce the gap to the minimum.
Unfortunately for Offaly, time ran out and they were left to rue the three goals conceded and the missed chances as Laois progressed to play Wicklow in the quarter-final
Offaly: Peter Cunningham 0-6 (0-2 frees), Ciaran Hurley 1-1 (0-1 free), Paul McPadden 0-3 (frees), David Hanlon 1-0 (penalty), Stuart Cullen 0-1, Aaron McDonagh 0-1, Barry Cushen 0-1.
Laois: Evan O’Carroll 2-0, Kevin McGrath 1-1, Evan Costello 0-4 (frees), Dan Dunne 0-2 (0-1 ’45, 0-1 free), Adam Ryan 0-2, Padraig McEvoy 0-1, Paul Kingston 0-1.
Offaly: Mark Langtry; Eoin Rigney, Declan Hogan, James McPadden; David Hanlon (capt.), Derek Kelly, Philip Foy; Conor McNamee, Eoin Carroll; Stuart Cullen, Peter Cunningham, Aaron McDonagh; Paul McPadden, Ciaran Hurley, Stephen Hannon.
Subs: Joey O’Connor for D Hogan (20 mins), Luke Kelly for C McNamee (25 mins), Barry Cushen for S Hannon (half time), Joe Maher for S Cullen (39 mins), Sean Doyle for P McPadden (50 mins). . Laois: Graham Brody; Mark Dowling, Mark O’Halloran, Stephen Attride; Ciaran Lennon, Padraig McEvoy, Dan Dunne; Adam Ryan, Matthew Campion; Alan Farrell, Liam McGovern, Kevin McGrath; Evan O’Carroll, Evan Costello, Paul Kingston.
Subs: Adam Campion for M Dowling (15 mins), Jamie Farrell for A Farrell (50 mins), James Brennan for C Lennon (50 mins), Jason Campion for E O’Carroll (60 mins), Shane Murphy for K McGrath (61 mins). . Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare).