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Laois Football Memory: One that got away in 1999

The Laois senior football team that drew with Dublin in the 1999 Leinster semi-final

Dublin 1-11 Laois 0-14
1999 Leinster SFC Semi-final

The phrases “one that got away” and “left it behind them” were coined with games like this in mind.

Back in 1999, in the days before Qualifiers and long before the Super 8s, Laois and Dublin met in the Leinster semi-final in Croke Park.

Dublin had won the Sam Maguire four years earlier but the old Meath-Dublin grip on Leinster had been broken in 1997 when Offaly claimed provincial honours and re-inforced in 1998 when Kildare went all the way to the All Ireland final. Laois could be next, surely?

Under Tom Cribbin’s management in ’99, Laois came very close to reaching the Leinster final – but were denied by a late Dublin comeback in Croke Park before Dublin won the replay.

Laois were excellent in the drawn game and were four points up late in the game only for a late 1-1 from Dublin full-forward Ian Robertson rescued a draw for Tommy Carr’s men.

Robertson’s equalising punched point came after a blatant pick off the ground wasn’t spotted by referee Seamus Prior from Leitrim.

It was a day when Michael Lawlor came on a sub for Laois and was “simply inspirational” according to the Irish Independent report on the Monday after the game.

Fergal Byron was also in top form and saved a penalty in the second half while Eugene McGee, in his column in the Independent, was well impressed with the Laois display.

“When the fans reflect on yesterday’s game in total, they will surely recognise that a new era has dawned for Laois football,” wrote McGee.

“Gone is the indiscipline that cost them so many games over the years. Gone too is the imbalance in fitness between players that proved so costly in the past.

Declan Darcy, Dublin in action against Joe Higgins, Laois, in the Leinster SFC semi-final in 1999

“Instead of these traits, Laois now epitomise the very basic qualities of good Gaelic football … the result of this transformation was that yesterday we got one of the great championship games of recent times.”

Dublin won the replay three weeks later by two points before then losing to Meath in the final. Laois could only reflect on what might have been.

Among the Dublin team that day was Jim Gavin, who would later go on to manage Dublin with great success, while Jason Sherlock and Declan Darcy – who form part of Gavin’s backroom team – were also playing.

Paudge Conway in action for Laois against Dublin in 1999

SCORERS – Laois: Damian Delaney 0-5 (all frees), Stephen Kelly, Hughie Emerson and David Sweeney 0-2 each, Ian Fitzgerald (free), Tony Maher and Michael Lawlor 0-1 each. Dublin: Ian Robertson 1-2, Jim Gavin 0-3 (two frees), Declan Darcy 0-2, Paddy Christie (penalty), Keith Galvin, Brian Stynes and Dessie Farrell 0-1 each

LAOIS: Fergal Byron (Courtwood); Eamon Delaney (Stradbally), Declan Rooney (Clonaslee), Paudge Conway (Arles-Kilcruise); Derek Conroy (The Rock), Kevin Fitzpatrick (Portlaoise), Joe Higgins (St Joseph’s); Tony Maher (Stradbally), George Doyle (Courtwood); Ian Fitzgerald (Portlaoise), Hughie Emerson (Portarlington), Tom Kelly (St Joseph’s); Stephen Kelly (St Joseph’s), Damian Delaney (Stradbally), Chris Conway (Arles-Kilcruise). Subs: Mick Lawlor (Emo) for C Conway, D Sweeney (Portarlington) for T Kelly, Greg Ramsbottom (Stradbally) for Fitzgerald

DUBLIN: Davy Byrne; Paddy Moran, Paddy Christie, Tom Lynch; Paul Croft, Paul Curran, Keith Galvin; Ciaran Whelan, Brian Stynes; Enda Sheehy, Jim Gavin, Declan Darcy; Dessie Farrell, Ian Robertson, Barry O’Brien. Subs: Jason Sherlock for O’Brien, Darren Homan for Stynes, Shane Ryan for Curran

Laois supporters in Croke Park for the Leinster SFC semi-final in 1999 between Laois and Dublin

SEE ALSO – Check out more Laois football memories here