A ruthlessly workmanlike display of tactical football from Mickey Harte's Tyrone saw Mick O'Dwyer's Laois absolutely routed in a game that was a mere procession as artisan prevailed over artist on a scoreline of 3-15 to 2-04 in the fourth round of the Bank of Ireland football qualifiers in Croke Park today.
The first half was a wretched affair.
Although Laois stepped up with a great point to open the scoring, a fantastic Noel Garvan pass from midfield finding Shane Cook who pointed well. That score was to be the only hint of any competition in the game as a Laois team crippled by injury, drained by previous exertions and riven by internal unrest completely surrendered to their Ulster rivals.
Tyrone simply mopped up around the half-back line as Laois' attacks seemed limited to punting the ball long from their own backline and the Ulster side threw every Laois attack back up the field with all the emphasis on running, working hard and tracking back. It was not going to make for a pleasant afternoon's football for purists, neutrals or Laois fans, but Tyrone were never going to lose this game.
Their first score came from a free kick given when a Laois back emerged with the ball only to bounce it twice. The quick free found Sean Cavanagh who offloaded to Eoin Mulligan to palm the ball to the net from inside the square.
It would be more than eight minutes before another score was registered, a converted Mulligan free after yet another silly foul in defence by the Laois backs.
A minute later and it was Mark Harte who converted from a third needless foul in front of the Laois posts. With neither side playing particularly well or dominating the game, it had still not reached the point where Tyrone were out of sight. Only 15 minutes had elapsed and Mick O'Dwyer's men were playing quite decent football while Mickey Harte's team's scores had all come from free-kicks.
But it was about to turn from a potential match into a boring rout. When Mulligan pointed from play on 19 minutes, Laois' only answer was a too-short kick from Ross Munnelly. Sean Cavanagh pointed from play on 23 minutes beginning a wave of Tyrone attacks. Only Colm Parkinson seemed to be fighting for Laois and even then his efforts were proving futile without the support of his team-mates. As if to underline this, a Ciaran Gourley attempted-kick from the sideline was blocked brilliantly by Parkinson but, with no Laois men willing to put in the tackles, it dropped to Steven O'Neill who popped it over the bar to leave the score at 1-05 to 0-01.
It was to get worse for both Laois and the spectators.
Cavanagh once again slipped through the defence with ease and, probably finding too many options open to him, he suffered a moment of indecision and fouled the ball. It was to provide little respite for Laois as Mark Harte pointed on 27 minutes and followed it up with a rocket shot to the back of the net having received a fist-pass from Gourley to leave the scores at 2-06 to 0-01.
It seemed that Laois' spirit had been quite effectively broken when, on 32 minutes, a free-kick directly in front of the posts was driven away and wide by captain Ross Munnelly, who had been largely absent from the game.
The score of the game came deep in injury time when a wayward pass from Brian Dooher, who had been covering a tremendous amount of ground in the half, was chased down by Mulligan who turned, beat Cathal Ryan and sliced it over the bar, all done with the extra handicap of an injured ankle and an injured thigh.
O'Neill pointed just before the half-time whistle to leave Laois looking down the barrel of a 2-08 to 0-01 scoreline.
The second period started as many would have predicted. With a tongue-lashing from Micko ringing in their ears and the wind at their backs, Laois started with a goal. Noel Garvan passed off to Beano McDonald whose shot at the goal took a wicked deflection of the hands of Michael McGee to end up in the net.
When Mulligan finally went off with his injuries it looked as if Laois might have a chance to, at the very least, put a respectable look on the scoreline. Indeed, it would be just under twenty minutes before Tyrone would score, but in the intervening period Laois simply couldn't seem to rouse themselves.
While Tyrone failed to bisect the posts until the 54th minute, only Beano McDonald and Shane Cook could point for Micko's men before Seán Cavanagh got Tyrone off the mark.
Even another goal for Laois, once again ricocheting home off a Tyrone back, wasn't enough to turn the tide for the midlanders. Although Kevin Fitzpatrick's goal, which went in off Ryan McMenamin, left Laois only six points adrift on a scoreline of 2-09 2-03, it served only to rouse Harte's Army from their slumber and Laois would never be as close again.
Points from Brian McGuigan, Mark Harte and Steven O'Neill cancelled out the goal, but then tragedy struck for Laois. Beano McDonald was racing with Ryan McMenamin towards a lose ball when McDonald seemed to get his studs caught in the turf, snapping his leg mid-shin. The gravity of the situation was not lost on McMenamin who did his utmost to call attention to the stricken Laois-man.
This effectively killed any fight in the Laois team and Tyrone racked up a third goal when a fantastic pass from Brian McGuigan found Steven O'Neill whose pass ended up with Mark Harte and the manager's son slipped his shot under Fergal Byron's body, making it 3-12 to 2-03.
It was followed by points from Brian Dooher, Sean Cavanagh and McGuigan, punctuated by a Donal Miller point for Laois before the referee blew the game up after seven minutes of injury time had been, perhaps cruelly for Laois, allowed to elapse.
Filed by Barry J Whyte