Gaelic GamesMatch Report

‘We were blown out of the water’: Dublin do historic demolition job on Laois

Con O’Callaghan, Colm Basquel, Lee Gannon and Ciarán Kilkenny scored the goals at O’Moore Park

Leinster SFC quarter-final: Dublin 4-30 Laois 2-9

Another dispatch from the killing fields. Predictable, unmerciful, pointless. In the end even the participants struggled to make much sense of the facile victory and crushing defeat.

By his own solemn admission Dessie Farrell is no wiser afterwards than he was before, this quiet mismatch of a Leinster football quarter-final serving up nothing other than what felt like the premeditated result.

“Coming from Division Two, we were coming into the championship slightly unsure of where we were really at,” said the Dublin manager. “We probably don’t know much more after today’s challenge.”


At the other end of the corridor, Billy Sheehan felt hopeless and forlorn about what had unfolded, so suddenly too. “No,” the Laois manager replied when asked if he could take anything positive from it.

“We spoke about it. We’ve got to realise that we are simply not at that level. We thought we were. We trained very hard for the game, we felt that we had a good chance and then we were blown out of the water.”

Oh Lordy. In the 111 years since Laois last hosted Dublin in the championship, fortunes occasionally veered, most significantly when Laois last beat Dublin to win the Leinster title, 20 years ago. History here was written in another way, Dublin’s biggest win over Laois, 27 points in the end, coming on top of last year’s 22-point victory.

Dublin were already ahead of that by half-time, up by 23, 4-15 to 0-4, goals from Con O’Callaghan, Colm Basquel, Lee Gannon and Ciarán Kilkenny adding to their 15 points. In the end Dublin had 11 different scorers, including Dean Rock with his first touch off the bench, and Brian Howard came on late to add one of his own.

On first viewing Dublin seemed a better team than last year, for two obvious reasons, their two shining lights. Jack McCaffrey made his first championship appearance in over 3½ years, clearly nothing short of the player he once was, still industrious and inventive. Likewise with Paul Mannion, also 29 and still in peak physical condition after 2½ years away. Both got roaring ovations when replaced.

Dublin’s first half was marked by sheer hunger and intent. Bite? There wasn’t even a single booking.

Only a familiar steaming towards a 13th successive Leinster football title. Kildare are up from the trenches next in the semi-final in Croke Park on Sunday.

“No lack of desire,” added Farrell, “but there was no lack of desire last year and we came up short. There’s more layers, than desire, and we’ll see can we get there as we progress. We got a good start, kept the momentum for much of the first half, and that was always going to be difficult [for Laois], playing a team that’s expected to beat you. The belief can wane very, very quickly.”

Laois did hit back with 1-2 inside three minutes early in the second half, all thanks to Eoin Lowry, Dublin taking their eye off the ball and inevitably backing down. That was the only bright spot for Laois, who gave Dublin free rein in front of goal, although Scott Osbourne did deny Seán Bugler after the forward was allowed to go clean through on goal.

At least that helped to ensure that Dublin did not record their biggest win against anyone in the Leinster championship; that remains the 31-point crushing of Westmeath in the 2017 semi-final (4-29 to 0-10).

Dublin fired the first-half 4-15 into the town end, with all six of their forwards scoring from play. Brian Fenton chipped in with his trademark monster kicks from midfield; he finished with 0-3, utterly dominant. James McCarthy switched to midfield, his engine purring as ever.

So Dublin were unstoppable, but Laois sometimes helped them by losing possession in prime locations. O’Callaghan started the goal-fest just after five minutes, followed by Basquel (eight minutes), Gannon (25 minutes), then Kilkenny (33 mins), his neat finish among the sweetest, deftly set up by O’Callaghan.

McCaffrey came in for Tom Lahiff, Cian Murphy replaced Eoin Murchan, Seán MacMahon entered for John Small; Murphy and MacMahon were also notable additions. Farrell emptied his bench, Howard, Cormac Costello, Rock coming on to assist in the conquest.

“The way the goals were looking we looked like we could concede seven or eight,” said Sheehan. “You have to take on its merits. That Dublin team are a train and they continue to be relentless.”

On to the next killing field.

DUBLIN: D O’Hanlon; C Murphy (0-1), D Byrne, D Newcombe; S McMahon, J McCaffrey, L Gannon (1-0); B Fenton (0-3), J McCarthy; S Bugler (0-1), C Basquel (1-5), C Kilkenny (1-4); P Mannion (0-3, one frees), C O’Callaghan (1-7, two marks one free), R McGarry (0-2). Subs: B Howard (0-1) for McCarthy (half-time), R Murchan for McCaffrey (47 mins), C Costello for O’Callaghan (55 mins), D Rock (0-3) for Mannion (58 mins), C Dias for Fenton (63 mins).

LAOIS: S Osborne; S Greene, T Collins, R Pigott; S O’Flynn, M Timmons (0-1), P Kirwan (0-1); K Lillis, D Larkin; K Swayne, P Kingston (0-3, one free, one mark), P O’Sullivan; E Lowry (2-1), E O’Carroll (0-2, one free, one mark), M Barry (0-1). Subs: D Kavanagh for Greene, S Lucey for Pigott (both half-time), C Murphy for Barry (49 mins), J Finn for Swayne (55 mins), A Mohan for O’Flynn (64 mins).

Referee: Barry Judge (Sligo).

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics