The Laois senior footballers are heading back to Croke Park after defeating Westmeath in the Leinster quarter final for the second year running.
They came out two point winners today and here, we take a greater look at how they did it.
1 – Man of the Match – Evan O’Carroll
Evan O’Carroll kicked eight of Laois’s 12 points and in the absence of Donie Kingston, he stood up and became Laois’s main scoring threat.
Five of O’Carroll’s points came from set pieces but a lot of those came after he had been fouled. He won everything that went into the full forward line and worked tirelessly throughout.
But this was a complete team performance from Laois. From Graham Brody in goal, all the way up to Paul Kingston in the corner, every single Laois player, including the six subs, showed a brilliant attitude and worked like dogs for 70 minutes.
2 – Tactical masterclass from Sugrue
Laois had lost their two league meetings with Jack Cooney’s Westmeath in Mullingar in the round robin stage and in the Division 3 final in Croke Park.
On both occasions, Westmeath won by three points and they exposed Laois defensively by inviting the O’Moore men on to them and then counter-attacking.
This time, Laois played far more conservatively. Even with the aid of a gale force wind in the first half, Laois remained disciplined and did not commit too many men forward – always keeping at least one man spare in defence.
By introducing Damien O’Connor and Danny O’Reilly as wing forwards, Sugrue got savage workrate and that was matched up by debutants Sean O’Flynn and Paddy O’Sullivan on the half back line.
While Denis Booth, not one that often tends to get a lot of praise, stuck to his marker like glue and deserves special mention.
3 – Debutantes stand up
Colm Murphy, Sean O’Flynn and Paddy O’Sullivan all made starting championship debuts today while Marty Scully and Robbie Pigott got theirs as substitutes.
Murphy struggled to get supply but he worked very hard while O’Flynn and O’Sullivan really shone. The pair ran themselves into the ground and made some key interceptions at crucial times.
O’Flynn will be midway through his Leaving Cert when Laois play again against Meath in the Leinster semi final – his commitment is incredible.
4 – Key blocks and interceptions
Laois defended really well but they also had to rely on a number of crucial blocks and interceptions from a number of their defenders.
Gareth Dillon and substitute Robbie Pigott made great blocks in the first half while Paddy O’Sullivan made a crucial interception when a Sam Duncan run saw him pop the ball towards Ronan O’Toole who surely who have scored a goal.
In the second half, a high ball caused havoc for Laois and John Heslin forced the ball to Denis Corroon but his goalbound effort was spectacularly blocked by Gareth Dillon who threw his whole body at the ball.
5 – Injury situation
Laois went into this game without Stephen Attride, Trevor Collins and Paul Cahillane while Donie Kingston was only fit enough to play the last ten minutes.
Laois lost Mark Timmons in the first ten minutes with what looks like a nasty hand injury while Colm Begley limped off at the end with an ankle injury.
Laois will need to get as many players back as possible to be ready to take on Meath in two weeks time.
6 – Return of Dicey
After the 12 months that Danny O’Reilly has had to endure, when a vicious attack left him with a fractured skull and a bleed on his brain, it was brilliant to see him back on the pitch today.
The Graiguecullen man is flying it too and his return is a timely boost for Laois with hopefully a big summer ahead.
7 – Back to Croke Park again
Since John Sugrue took over as Laois manager in 2018, Laois have played in GAA HQ on five occasions.
Their record stands at two wins and three defeats – having lost on their last three visits against Dublin, Louth and Westmeath.
But Laois fans will be back in the capital again for a Leinster semi final and we can’t wait.
8 – What happens next?
Laois will now face Meath in Croke Park in the Leinster semi final on Sunday June 9.
This will form part of a double header with Dublin and the winners of Kildare/Longford.