From Kevin Egan in Ashbourne
Aisling Doonan and Claragh O'Reilly posted an impressive tally of 1-11 between them as Cavan easily accounted for Laois in this afternoon's TG4 All-Ireland ladies senior football championship preliminary round clash in Ashbourne.
Cavan's victory moves them onto a round 1 qualifier clash with Munster runners-up Waterford next weekend, while the defeat almost certainly condemns Laois to playing football at intermediate level in 2018.
The foundations for the victory were laid late in the first half when the Ulster county rattled off six points in quick succession before half time, using the wind very well and establishing a ten point interval lead. Once Aisling Doonan took advantage of a fast break out of defence to slip the ball into the Laois net with a low finish just three minutes after half time, the Ulster County could afford to start planning for their clash with the Déise county at the same venue next Saturday.
Laois came into the tie as massive underdogs but a point from Clare Conlon after just fifteen seconds suggested they were up for the battle, and they continued to hold their own in the early stages, even after Aishling Sheridan rattled the net from close range for Cavan.
Playing with a strong wind, Cavan enjoyed the lion's share of possession but missed the target far too often in the first twenty minutes, and their 1-7 to 0-5 lead at that stage looked manageable from a Laois perspective. However points from Doonan, O'Reilly and Caitriona Smith (2) helped build a ten point half time advantage and they clinched victory three minutes after the restart when Sheila Reilly initiated a break out of defence and helped set up Doonan's low finish.
Neither side really hit the high notes for the rest of the second half as Laois struggled to break down the Cavan defence, while errant shooting continued to prevent the victors from putting real distance between the sides. As the sun beat down on the impressive Meath venue both sides emptied their bench early, with Laois replacing four of their starting forwards by the 40th minute, however the sin binning of full back Jenny McEvoy left them with too much to do with a depleted side.
Substitute Caoimhe Simms struck a late goal for the midlanders as they cut the deficit back to ten points while Emma Lawlor could have added a second major, only to see her effort crash off the post and out for a goal kick - however by then Cavan's victory was safely assured.
Cavan Scorers: A Doonan 1-5 (0-2f), C O'Reilly 0-6 (0-1f), A Sheridan 1-1, C Smith 0-2, D English, S McGovern & S McKenna 0-1 each.
Laois Scorers: C Simms 1-0, C Conlon (0-1f) & E Fitzpatrick 0-2 each, R Williams, LM Maher, E Lawlor, A Kehoe, C Burke & M Nerney (f) 0-1 each.
Cavan: E Walsh; R Doonan, A Cornyn, S Reilly; S Greene, L Fitzpatrick, S Lynch; D English, S O'Sullivan; C Smith, A Doonan, M Sheridan; N Byrd, C O'Reilly, A Sheridan. Subs: S McGovern for C Smith (39), S McKenna for M Sheridan (40), G McLoughlin for R Doonan (49), A O'Reilly for English (55), G Smith for A Doonan (56)
Laois: C Dollard; A Potts, J McEvoy, M Kirwan; A Healy, M McEvoy, L Nerney; A O'Loughlin, A McEvoy; E Fitzpatrick, C Conlon, LM Maher; E Lawlor, R Williams, A Kehoe. Subs: A Haberlin for Williams (ht), M Nerney for Maher (ht), C Simms for Kehoe (40), C Burke for Conlon (40)
Referee - G Corrigan (Down)