The Laois footballers were beaten 1-18 to 0-13 by Westmeath in TEG Cusack Park on Saturday afternoon in Round 6 of the Allianz Football League Division 2.
Here we go through some of the game’s main talking points.
1 – Man of the match – Gary Walsh
Probably only three candidates that can be considered for this – Niall Corbet, Robbie Pigott and Gary Walsh.
Keeper Corbet kicked two fine frees and made a brilliant save from James Dolan in the first half but could do nothing about the goal that did beat him.
Robbie Pigott started corner back but after John Heslin kicked four points from play in the first 15 minutes from centre forward. Laois switched Pigott onto him then and he largely nullified him – reducing Heslin to frees and just one point from play.
But we’ll go with Ballylinan’s Gary Walsh. Laois’s top scorer on the day, he was the main vocal point and won a number of other frees that were scored. One of the few Laois players to get the better of Boidu Sayeh and was unlucky not to have a goal too.
2 – Lack of scores
Laois failed to score for the first 15 minutes of the game and their first point from play didn’t arrive until the half hour.
And only two more points from play followed in the second half. This was a trend that was happening earlier in the year too.
Laois used ten forwards in their last game against Kildare and only two of them, Evan O’Carroll and sub Brian Byrne managed to score from play. This was a similar story in the defeat to Cavan where an Eoin Lowry goal was the only score from play.
It is something that is going to have to change.
3 – Absences and injuries
From the team that lost to Kildare last March, Laois made eight changes. Out of the team came Gearoid Hanrahan, Sean Byrne, Damien O’Connor and Colm Murphy who are no longer on the panel while Mark Timmons, Paddy O’Sullivan, Eoin Lowry and Ross Munnelly didn’t start either.
Timmons missed out through injury while Colm Begley, who was named to start centre back, was hurt in the warm up and was unable to play either.
Laois would hope to have Timmons and Begley available next week – and also Paul Kingston who missed this match due to his sister’s wedding. While wing back Paddy O’Sullivan should be closer after returning from Syria in recent weeks.
4 – Poor league record against Westmeath continues
Westmeath are quickly becoming Laois’s bogey team in the league as this is the third consecutive time the Lake County have beaten us.
Westmeath won both league encounters last year – including the Division 3 final in Croke Park.
But Laois edged them out in the most recent meeting which was last year’s Leinster quarter final in Tullamore.
5 – The new Covid inter-county rules
Inter-county GAA, like everything else, has had to adapt to this new Covid world.
Laois players drove to this game individually rather than on a bus and wore masks while in the dressing rooms – a place they didn’t return to at half time as they spent that sitting in the stand.
There were no fans which led to a strange atmosphere whereby us in the media could clearly hear everything that was being said by both management and players.
6 – Streaming problems
The GAA Go service that streams live GAA coverage of games has apologised for the poor quality of the service of today’s Laois v Westmeath game and said all subscribers will be fully refunded.
With supporters unable to attend games, the GAA has increased its online streaming services but Laois supporters were left hugely frustrated watching today’s Allianz Football League Division 2 game between Laois and Westmeath in Mullingar.
The first-half broadcast of the game was particularly disrupted and ‘jumpy’ leading to an array of complaints on social media from supporters who had paid €5 to watch the game.
7 – How the table stands now and what happens next?
In the other game played today, Roscommon defeated Armagh to almost guarantee they will play in Division 1 next year.
Tomorrow, there are two more games. Clare host Fermanagh at 1pm and Kildare host Cavan at 2pm. If Clare win, Fermanagh are relegated and that will mean the second relegation spot will be between Clare, Laois and Kildare.
The final round next Saturday sees Laois travel to Fermanagh, Kildare host Westmeath, Armagh head to Clare and Cavan face Roscommon.
As the table has not been updated, we’ll do our best to draw one for you below:
1 – Roscommon P6, 9pts, +21
2 – Armagh P6, 7pts, +22
3 – Westmeath P6, 7pts, 0
4 – Cavan P5, 6pts, +2
5 – Laois P6, 5pts, -16
6 – Kildare P5, 4pts, -2
7 – Clare P5, 4pts, -6
8 – Fermanagh P5, 2pts, -21