Laois 0-18 Wexford 0-17
Niall Donoher was the hero as Laois hit Wexford with a smash-and-grab raid in a hugely entertaining All-Ireland SFC qualifier at Wexford Park.
Substitute Michael John Tierney played a significant role too in helping Tomás Ó Flatharta’s side turn around a two-point deficit with four minutes remaining.
Tierney converted two frees inside a minute to bring the teams level and just when we were looking at extra time, it was the Ballyroan man’s crossfield ball in injury time that was brilliantly won by Donoher, who held his nerve to kick the winner.
Laois had very strong wind and started well to lead by two points to one after two minutes but Wexford responded with a purple patch that yielded five consecutive points.
They managed this largely due to utilising the space in front of their two-man full-forward line with a nice combination of direct ball to Ciarán Lyng and using runners from deep.
PJ Banville found Lyng with an intelligent ball for the Wexford equaliser and after Brosnan slotted a free from in front of the posts, James Holmes fired over from a tight angle.
Full-back Graeme Molloy ventured forward unattended to stretch the margin to three before Paddy Byrne hit Holmes with another astute pass and the Castletown man registered his second point.
Ironically, it was an injury to Denis Booth that appeared to spark a turnaround for Laois. Up to that juncture, Peter O’Leary was deployed as a sweeper but with Damien O’Connor coming on for the stricken Booth, Laois reverted to a man-on-man formation and flourished.
John O’Loughlin helped them gain a foothold at midfield and was a scoring threat too.
The St Brigid’s man was amongst those to add to the scoresheet as Laois scored four on the trot, with the highlight being a Ross Munnelly point after a raking 40m diagonal kick-pass from Kevin Meaney.
It was nip and tuck from there to the end of a tremendously free-flowing half. O’Loughlin brought his tally to the half for three while the equally excellent Lyng was also on target again.
Robert Tierney came forward to edge Wexford in front but Kingston levelled before O’Connor finished a length-of-the-field move started by goalkeeper, Graham Brody with a sumptuous score with the outside of the right boot from the right flank to make it 0-11 to 0-10 at the change of ends.
The second half never matched the pacey nature of the opening period but Wexford generally held the upper hand, backed as they were by the elements.
Having said that, Laois did have their opportunities and O’Loughlin put them two ahead. Wexford hit three in a row, with PJ Banville responsible for two of them. By the time Banville brought his tally to three with a quarter of an hour remaining, the home team were two ahead.
That was as far as they managed to go though, despite some excellent kicking by Lyng and a well-taken 45 by Ben Brosnan.
That made it 0-17 to 0-15 but Kevin O’Grady missed a simple chance to put three between them and he was punished severely, as Laois found the wherewithal to prevail.
Laois: J O’Loughlin 0-4, D Kingston (3fs) 0-4 each; N Donoher 0-3; MJ Tierney 0-2(fs); C Begley, D O’Connor, K Meaney, C Meredith, R Munnelly 0-1 each
Wexford: C Lyng 0-5; B Brosnan 0-4(3fs, 1 45); PJ Banville 0-3; J Holmes 0-2; R Tierney, G Molloy, P Byrne 0-1 each
WEXFORD: S Roche, R Tierney, G Molloy, C Carty, T Rossiter, B Malone, A Flynn, D Waters, P Byrne, M Furlong, PJ Banville, J Holmes, C Lyng, B Brosnan, K O’Grady. Sub: M O’Regan for Rossiter (48)
LAOIS: G Brody, P McMahon, C Begley, D Booth, P O’Leary, P Begley, R Kehoe, K Meaney, J O’Loughlin, C Meredith, B Sheehan, S Attride, R Munnelly, D Kingston, N Donoher. Subs: D O’Connor for Booth inj (19); MJ Tierney for O’Connor BC (63)
REFEREE: A Nolan (Wexford).