croker stroll It's one-way traffic for Dublin as they ease past Laois to clinch Leinster final date with Meath
DUBLIN 2-23 LAOIS 0-7
ON the day the race for Sam Maguire dwindled to just seven teams, as Mayo won their first Connacht title since 2015 and Meath scored 12 goals in a week, Dublin qualified for their tenth Leinster final in a row, drawing as little attention to themselves as possible in doing so.
In the end, they beat Laois by 2-23 to 0-7, the disparity between the teams every bit as as the scoreline suggests.
Croke Park’s quota of drama was well used up by the time the All-Ireland champions took the field.
There was nothing new to see here.
Dublin mowed down another Leinster team. Ciarán Kilkenny and Brian Fenton providing much of the energy and inspiration.
And the game masqueraded as a contest for roughly a quarter of its duration.
At the first-half water break, Dublin led by just 0-3 to 0-2 having played with none of their usual accuracy or urgency.
Laois did nothing more sophisticated than hold their shape in that period, absorbing Dublin’s runners and pilfering from their curious mistakes.
Mike Quirke’s team played with three men up front at all times, a much more attacking gambit than most.
They created a higher number of scoring chances in that period too, but slowly Dublin’s intent became more evident.
Leading the charge was Kilkenny.
The Castleknock man knitted some of Dublin’s best attacking moves together and as the game wore on offered himself as a battering ram, and then, finally, as a target man.
His second-half goal – much like Seán Bugler’s in the first – came from the same move that Dublin had tried twice before it came off.
For Bugler’s, the score that gave Dublin clear distance between themselves and Laois, it was Brian Fenton who passed into the space created by the clever movement of the Dublin forwards.
Bugler zoomed into the gap and fired low for his second championship goal in two games.
Kilkenny’s execution was much more intricate.
Having been put through by James McCarthy, Kilkenny opted to volley his shot first time past Niall Corbett into the Hill 16 net.
He finished with 1-4, but for Dublin, it was an evening for simply getting the job done before they meet a resurgent Meath in next Saturday’s Leinster final.
SCORERS – Dublin: C Kilkenny 1-4, Costello 0-7 (3f, 1m, 1 ‘45), B Fenton 0-4, S Bugler 1-0, N Scully 0-3, D Rock 0-2 (1’45, 1f), R McDaid, P Small, C O’Callaghan 0-1. Laois: P Kingston, G Walsh (f) 0-2 each, B Byrne, E O’Carroll (m), R Munnelly (f) 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; J Cooper, M Fitzsimons, E Murchan; J McCarthy, J Small, R McDaid; B Fenton, T Lahiff; N Scully, C Kilkenny, S Bugler; P Small, C O’Callaghan, D Rock. Subs: P Mannion for P Small (h-t), C Costello for Rock (45), D Byrne for Lahiff (46), B Howard for Bugler (52), P McMahon for Murchan (64)
LAOIS: N Corbett; T Collins, M Timmons, R Pigott; S O’Flynn, J O’Loughlin; G Dillon, P Kingston, B Byrne; E O’Carroll, K Lillis, G Walsh. Subs: M Barry for O’Loughlin (45), M Keogh for Dillon (45), A Farrell for Buggy (48), R Munelly for Walsh (48), D Whelan for Byrne (57)
REF: C Branagan (Down)