Laois manager Eddie Brennan secured his first big win since taking charge of the O’Moore County as his charges took the spoils in tonight’s midlands derby, beating Offaly 3-17 to 2-16.
The home side racked up a 13-point lead by the break, before holding their neighbours at bay while hurling into the wind in the second half of their clash in Portlaoise.
A fiercely strong breeze blew towards the town end of the ground, but Offaly hurled well into it in the opening exchanges, taking their first and only lead of the game after 12 minutes when Paddy Murphy fired over a magnificent score from the stand side touchline to put the visitors 0-04 to 0-03 in front.
The game changed completely, however, when a high ball down the left side was pounced on by Willie Dunphy and he sprinted through on goal before rifling an inch-perfect shot into the roof of the Offaly net.
That was the catalyst for Laois to go on a scoring spree, firing over an array of magnificent points from a variety of angles.
Aaron Dunphy picked off three superb scores from the right wing, Mark Kavanagh was in scintillating form from dead balls and added in another superb strike over the shoulder, while Stephen Maher also pitched in with a point.
Crucially, they added a second goal through Dunphy after a short puck-out from Eoghan Cahill wasn’t controlled by Shane Kinsella, and Paddy Purcell was able to sneak in and set up the chance for his full forward.
Offaly conceded 2-07 on the spin before Joe Bergin broke their dry spell with a free, but they still trailed by 2-13 to 0-06 at the interval and looked utterly at sea against a far more cohesive Laois team.
Manager Kevin Martin made his displeasure obvious when he brought on three half-time subs and there was a marked increase in competitiveness from the Faithful men after half-time, their challenge ignited by a Colm Gath goal after three minutes.
Laois always looked to have far more structure and plan to their attacking play, however, and their sharp running play continue to carve out openings in the Offaly back line.
Eoghan Cahill made two superb saves in one-on-one situations to keep his team in touch, but he could only look on in distress after 50 minutes when Paddy Purcell sprinted through from the 45m line.
After Cahill saved the Laois man’s low shot, Stephen Maher was on hand to sweep the rebound to the net.
The next four points all went Offaly’s way as they tried to set up a late comeback, but the Laois full-back line held firm, and it was only in the last play of the game that Joe Bergin’s free floated into the area and crept into the bottom corner of the net through a crowd of hurls.
That left the gap at four points at full-time, a scoreline that was more than a little flattering to an Offaly side that will now need a remarkable series of results to avoid dropping to Division 2A of the league next year.
Laois meanwhile will play Carlow next weekend with both league safety and a place in the quarter-finals of the Allianz League on offer for the winning side.
Laois: Enda Rowland; Donncha Hartnett, Matthew Whelan, Joe Phelan; Jake Cranny, Ryan Mullaney, Jack Kelly; John Lennon (0-01), Sean Downey; Aaron Dunphy (0-03), Éanna Lyons (0-01), Paddy Purcell; Mark Kavanagh (0-10, 0-08 frees, 0-01 sideline), Willie Dunphy (2-01), Stephen Maher (1-01).
Subs used: Mark Dowling for W Dunphy (50), Conor Phelan for Lyons (64), Eoin Gaughan for A Dunphy (67), Lorcan Burke for Cranny (69), Padraig Delaney for Downey (70+3).
Offaly: Eoghan Cahill (0-01, free); Tom Spain, Niall Houlihan, Ben Conneely; Andy Flynn, Pat Camon (0-01), Enda Grogan; Shane Kinsella, Mark Egan (0-02); Damien Egan, Paddy Murphy (0-01), Colin Egan; Kevin Connolly (0-01), Joe Bergin (1-08, 1-07 frees), Colm Gath (1-00).
Subs used: Kevin Dunne for D Egan (35, blood), Shane Dooley (0-02, 0-01 free) for Murphy (half-time), Aidan Treacy for D Egan (half time), Sean Dolan for Spain (half time), Paddy Rigney for Grogan (50), Dunne for Flynn (67).
Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway).