Dublin 2-21 Laois 2-10
Dublin may have worn new jerseys, but there was no disguising the sheer class of the All-Ireland champions as they dissected Laois at Nowlan Park in Kilkenny, triumphing by 2-21 to 2-10.
It was Dublin’s first championship match outside Croke Park in a decade, but two goals in the opening five minutes illustrated they were none the worse for the road trip.
Laois’ cause suffered another massive blow after 27 minutes when midfielder John O’Loughlin was sent off when he retaliated after being held by Michael Darragh Macauley.
Dublin built on the early goals and led by 11 points at the break on a scoreline of 2-12 to 0-07.
It took Dublin less than 15 seconds to find the net when Dean Rock slipped in behind Paul Cotter and slotted the ball past Graham Brody from close range.
It was the worst possible start for Laois and while Gary Walsh responded with a point, any prospect of a shock result disappeared shortly afterwards when Diarmuid Connolly neatly finished to the net with a low shot after being set up when James McCarthy collected a Stephen Cluxton kickout and soloed through.
Rock hit two more frees and one from play, while Ciaran Kilkenny also kicked one as Dublin built on the early goals to lead by 2-04 to 0-01 after just ten minutes.
Gary Walsh got Laois’ only score of the opening 17 minutes when he found the range in between the two Dublin goals.
Laois responded with Donie Kingston and Paul Cahillane provided some respite for Laois before Connolly and O’Loughlin exchanged points.
Rock, who hit 1-10 in eleven shots at the posts, and Davey Byrne pushed Dublin further in front to lead by 2-07 to 0-04 before O’Loughlin saw red for Laois, and there really was no way back.
It seemed like another home match for Dublin, with the vast majority of the 16,764 crowd cheering the All-Ireland champions, as Laois fans stayed away in protest at the game not being played in Portlaoise.
Dublin continued to enjoy their first championship match outside Croke Park in a decade, with some flowing football.
Kingston and Kevin Meaney picked off points for Laois before the break but it looked a hopeless cause when they trailed by 2-12 to 0-07 at the interval.
But Laois will get some hope as they head for the qualifiers, scoring two goals after half-time despite having a man less than the champions.
Cahillane got the first from a penalty after 42 minutes after Damien O’Connor was fouled by Jonny Cooper.
Then Stephen Attride scored what could be one of the contenders for goal of the season.
The move started with Meaney knocking Bernard Brogan out of his way as he burst from defence and when a long ball was delivered, Kingston knocked it down for Attride to race through and blast to the roof of the net.
That cut the deficit to 2-14 to 2-08 but the response from the Dubs was superb and they killed off the game.
Diarmuid Connolly, who finished with 1-04 from play in a superb display, fired over a couple of points and Rock added two more to wrap up the issue at 2-18 to 2-08 with 13 minutes remaining.
Rock continued to land superb scores, kicking two more from play before taking his leave to one of the biggest cheers of the night as Eoghan O’Gara made his entrance after his injury nightmare, while Under-21 star Con O’Callaghan came on to make his Championship debut.
Dublin: S Cluxton; D Byrne (0-01), J Cooper, P McMahon; J McCarthy, C O’Sullivan, J Small; B Fenton, MD Macauley; C Kilkenny (0-04), K McManamon (0-01), D Connolly (1-04); P Mannion, D Rock (1-10 0-06f), B Brogan
Subs: D Bastick for Macauley (28), Macauley for Bastick (45), C Costello for Brogan (51), C O’Callaghan (0-01) for Mannion (57), D Daly for O’Sullivan (59), E Lowndes for Cooper (63), E O’Gara for Rock (63)
Laois: G Brody; M Timmons, P Cotter, S Attride (1-00); D O’Connor (0-01), D Strong (0-01), G Dillon; J O’Loughlin (0-01), B Quigley; C Begley P Cahillane (1-02, 1-0pen, 0-02f), E O’Carroll; D Kingston (0-02, 1f), C Meredith, G Walsh (0-01)
Subs: K Meaney (0-01) for O’Carroll (30), N Donoher for Walsh (35), R Munnelly (0-01) for Dillon (45), A Farrell for Cahillane (64), R O’Connor for Meredith (65), G Hanrahan for Cotter (65)
Referee: Ciaran Branagan (Down)