Laois were leading by two points, when referee Fergal Smyth awarded the Royals the injury time spot-kick when, with the ball in midfield, he deemed Kieran Lillis to have fouled his man in the square. Kevin Ross sent the penalty low to the bottom corner and, even though Laois had time to kick a late equaliser through Colm Begley, Meath advanced on scoring difference.
The game also marked Joe Sheridan’s return to the Meath senior team, though this time he was tasked with keeping the ball out of the net, rather than trying to rattle the back of it. He had little to do in the first half, as he watched his side open up an eight-point lead, but his hopes of a clean sheet were dashed early in the second half as Donie Kingston goaled.
Sheridan didn’t look totally comfortable in the role, and he will have a big job on his hands to secure the position for the upcoming league campaign.
Meath had been very impressive in the opening half hour, racing into a 1-9 to 0-4 lead, the goal coming from a Cillian O’Sullivan shot, which deflected in off Alan Farrell. Graham Reilly was tormenting the Laois defence, kicking 0-3 from play, but the hosts sprung to life late in the first half. Two points from Sean Ramsbottom got them going, and they rallied to leave just the goal in it at half time, 1-10 to 0-10.
Kingston then fired past Sheridan early in the second half and he added three more points in a low-scoring half to put Laois two ahead with normal time elapsed. There was still time for late drama, however, as Ross converted Meath’s penalty to send them into the semi-finals.
D Kingston 1-4 (1f), G Walsh 0-4 (2f), S Ramsbottom, C Begley 0-2 each, K Meaney, N Donoher, C Murphy, D Conway 0-1 each.
K Ross 1-3 (3f), C O’Sullivan 1-1, G Reilly 0-3, C O’Brien 0-2, B McMahon, S Tobin (f), B O’Brien, D Lenihan (f) 0-1 each.
G Brody; D Strong, D Booth, K Lillis; S Attride, A Farrell, C Begley; K Meaney, J O’Loughlin; C Murphy, P Kingston, G Walsh; R O’Connor, D Kingston, N Donoher.
D Conway for O’Connor (19, inj), S Ramsbottom for O’Loughlin (27-29, Blood Sub), S Ramsbottom for Murphy (29, inj), J Farrell for Ramsbottom (49, inj), R Munnelly for P Kingston (54), C Lennon for Meaney (58), S Nurney for Booth (60, inj), S Moore for Walsh (63), D Luttrell for Donoher (67, BC).
J Sheridan; D Keogan, D McQuillan, M Burke; C Downey, B Power, S Curran; B Menton, C O’Brien; C O’Sullivan, G Reilly, P Kennelly; B McMahon, K Ross, D Lenihan.
S Tobin for Ross (15-17, Blood Sub), A Forde for Power (ht), A Flanagan for McQuillan (41), B O’Brien for Kennelly (45), S Tobin for McMahon (52), F Ward for Lenihan (58), D Toner for O’Sullivan (58), D Smyth for Downey (70).
F Smyth (Offaly)