Wexford were leading by two points when Tierney came into the fray in the 63rd minute for black card recipient, Damian O’Connor.
Ben Brosnan fired over a 45 as he entered the fray but Tierney made no mistake with two placed balls into the wind from frees and the Ballyroan man spotted match-winner, Niall Donoher and sent a cross-field kick-pass in his colleague’s direction. Donoher did brilliantly to win possession under pressure and held his nerve to kick his third and most valuable point.
That left Ó Flatharta with a beaming smile and while extolling the virtues of John O’Loughlin, Colm Begley and a host of other players, he was effusive in his praise of Tierney and Donoher.
“If you want a finisher, MJ is the man,” said Ó Flatharta. “We were saying ‘Well, who can score for us?’ and we said MJ would be the man for us to do that and that’s why we brought him in, to kick a few scores. In fairness to him, he did the job.
“He has been very patient. He was a bit late coming into the panel with us. He has worked very hard since then and I’m delighted for him.
“The story with Niall is that he has been out injured for the past three years and he has done tremendous work trying to get himself right. Nobody knows the work that he has done except himself.
“He used today to show what that meant to him, to do something special. We asked that of him, whether he was going to put in an average performance or something special and I think he gave us that something special.”
A disconsolate Aidan O’Brien wouldn’t be drawn on his future as Wexford manager. While he was unhappy with Anthony Nolan’s decision-making late on, he agreed his team should have seen the game out.
“We were in a good position” said O’Brien. “I felt we would see it out but a few decisions went against us and there was one minute extra time, which I thought was staggering given the amount of stoppages there were in the second half. But we missed chances too and made mistakes that proved costly.”
Laois had the benefit of a 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.
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, 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.
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 pacy nature of the opening period but Wexford generally held the upper hand. PJ Banville kicked three points and Lyng scored one tremendous score. When Ben Brosnan kicked a 45 — after a lengthy delay — it was a two-point game.
But that wasn’t enough as Tierney and Donoher had the final say.
A combination of Kevin O’Grady’s horror miss from in front of the posts to put Wexford three points clear and the late introduction of MJ Tierney.
Laois defender, Robbie Kehoe was spotted kicking a sliotar off the field in the second half.
John O’Loughlin gave another Trojan performance for Laois, constantly driving forward and kicking four points from midfield. Colm Begley was excellent too while Ciaran Lyng and Graeme Molloy excelled for Wexford.
Black card watch
Just the one, for Damien O’Connor. Not even a threat of another.
Anthony Nolan was cruising along nicely until two late frees for Laois, which looked marginal. There was post-match debate too about the one minute of extra time.
Laois will play an A group semi-final next Saturday.
Scorers for Laois: J O’Loughlin, D Kingston (3fs) (0-4 each), N Donoher (0-3), MJ Tierney (0-2fs), C Begley, D O’Connor, K Meaney, C Meredith, R Munnelly (0-1 each).
Scorers for 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)