Munnelly makes the difference for Laois

Meath 0-13 Laois 2-13

Ross Munnelly was on fire today as his 2-04 haul saw Laois vault over the challenge of Meath and into the fourth round of the SFC qualifiers with a 2-13 to 0-13 win.

The nippy wing forward raced through to beat Brendan Murphy on 55 and 63 minutes to stamp his name all over this Navan tie. Backed by the breeze, Laois ended the first half with a 0-10 to 0-06 advantage with Chris Conway contributing five points.

Points from Peter Curran (0-02), Mark Ward, Graham Geraghty and Mairtin Doran saw Meath suddenly 0-11 to 0-10 in front.

But Munnelly helped the O’Moore men boss the closing quarter and gain revenge for the National League defeat to the same opposition in the spring.

What proved to be only Laois’ second championship win over Meath since 1992 – they also won the 2004 Leinster semi-final – saw Eamonn Barry’s side shoot out of the traps.

Former captain Graham Geraghty should have done better with an early goal chance but, after latching on Joe Sheridan’s knock down he dinked his shot off the crossbar. Barry Lynch, teed up by Geraghty, opened the scoring soon after with a fisted point.

Doran added another before Conway opened his and Laois’ account from a 45-metre free. The open nature of the game continued with Daithi Regan (free) and Conway trading scores, Mark Ward and Munnelly (free) also pointed, but the first quarter ended with Laois on the up.

Meath lost centre forward Lynch to injury and brought Charles McCarthy in and successive points from Brian McCormack and Conway (free) sent the visitors 0-05 to 0-04 in front.

Conway’s next point had a degree of good fortune about it as it amazingly clipped both posts before going over. Laois’ fifth point on the trot was their best of the opening half with Munnelly firing over with his left foot after a mazy run from Tom Kelly.

The classy Conway helped Laois continue their increasing dominance as despite conceding points from Geraghty and Curran, Mick O’Dwyer’s men tallied up impressive scores from Brian ‘Beano’ McDonald (0-02) and Conway again to take in the half-time break with a four-point lead.

It took a while for it to tell on the scoreboard but Meath played themselves right back into contention in the early part of the second half. Looking refreshed and reignited, Barry’s lot clearly had the bit between their teeth in front of the 9,900-strong crowd.

Geraghty kicked a few wayward shots but Meath kept plugging away and a series of scores followed – Laois were forced to wait until the 20th-minute of the second half to add to the tally and that was fittingly through the magic of Munnelly.

A Doran free had Meath ahead at 0-11 to 0-10, but not even the wily old O’Dwyer could have foreseen what was to happen in the closing 15 minutes.

Right after Doran’s score, Laois worked the ball downfield and Brian McCormack suddenly split the Meath defence with a flick over the top. Munnelly was onto it in a flash and he ripped a great shot beyond Murphy’s reach to undo the majority of home side’s good work.

Munnelly brought his tally to 1-03 with a free, although a Curran point – his fourth of the evening – still had Meath within two points.

Munnelly, showing exceptional stamina and pace, burst onto another through ball and beat Murphy to his right with a low cushioned drive to crush Meath’s Sam Maguire hopes into pieces.

Meath had nothing left to give – even enigmatic veteran Ollie Murphy, whom Barry threw on for the closing minutes, had little left in his bag of tricks.

Conway and Munnelly completed their tallies in injury-time as Laois’ All-Ireland odyssey continues.

Laois: F Byron; A Fennelly, D Rooney, J Higgins; P McDonald, T Kelly, P McMahon; B Quigley, N Garvan; B McCormack (0-02), C Conway (0-06 (4f)), R Munnelly (2-04 (2f)); B Sheehan, B McDonald (0-01), G Kavanagh (capt).

Sub used: I Fitzgerald for Kavanagh (51 mins)

Meath: B Murphy; C King, K Reilly, N McKeigue; N McLoughlin, A Moyles, S Kenny; N Crawford (capt), M Ward (0-02); M Doran (0-02), B Lynch (0-01), P Curran (0-04 (3f)); D. Regan (0-01 (1f)), J Sheridan, G Geraghty (0-02).

Subs used: C McCarthy for Lynch (13 mins), R Magee for Regan (47), S Bray for McCarthy (61), S MacGabhann (0-01) for McKeigue (64), O Murphy for Doran (66).

Referee: Pat McEnaney (Monaghan).

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