Laois 1-16 Meath 2-13 (after extra time)
Laois showed tremendous character to score three points in the final four minutes of extra time in their Leinster SFC quarter-final with Meath at Croke Park.
They looked to have suffered a mortal blow in the 86th minute, when Cormac McGuinness’ high attempt at a point was spilled into his own net by goalkeeper Mickey Nolan.
But Seán Dempsey’s side showed a unity of purpose that has not always been noticeable in recent years, coming back with three points.
Substitute Michael John Tierney converted a free straight after that goal, before John O’Loughlin, who also started the game on the bench, roared forward from the defence to fire the levelling scores.
The first came with the left boot, while the equaliser was arced over with the right peg, having dummied to shoot on the other side.
The O’Moores had already done well to bring the tie to extra time having looked down and out when the brilliant Graham Reilly pointed in the 55th minute to put Meath 1-8 to 0-6 in front.
Significantly though, the St Colmcille’s man aggravated an ankle injury in the process of kicking that score and had to be replaced and within three minutes, Laois were back in the game.
The powerful Donie Kingston pointed after a wonderful crossfield ball by Ross Munnelly to Colm Begley, who was finally freed from being tormented by Reilly.
And in a matter of seconds, Munnelly played another fine pass to send captain Pádraig McMahon through in space down the left. The corner-back drove forward before unleashing a thunderbolt to the roof of the Meath net.
Joe Sheridan and Shane O’Rourke stretched Meath’s advantage to three but in a portent of things to come, Laois finished with three points to level.
Again Tierney started the run with a free before another sub Pádraig Clancy clipped over the important brace.
Laois began well with a first minute point from debutant Darren Strong, after astute work from Kingston and Craig Rogers but Meath’s superior attacking threat soon became evident.
Reilly was the real danger man and after Cian Ward had equalised from a free, the half-forward was on hand to lash home from close range in the fifth minute.
Sheridan was a constant menace at full-forward and the big man broke the ball well before showing good vision to toe-poked the ball in Reilly’s direction.
Kingston slotted two frees to settle Laois but Seán Dempsey’s men were too deliberate in possession, whereas Meath moved the ball with more urgency.
Reilly was proving very difficult to handle and he added two points to help his side establish a 1-6 to 0-5 interval lead.
He had two more points in the second half before injury curtailed his involvement, and his departure, allied with Dempsey’s slew of substitutions, turned the tide in Laois’ direction in the final 15 minutes.
Meath quickly went ahead in extra time thanks to Sheridan and Conor Gillespie but a magnificent free from Kingston and fisted point from Cahir Healy levelled before the game’s final, dramatic 10-minute period left the sides facing a replay next Saturday in Tullamore (7pm).
Laois: M Nolan; P O’Leary, M Timmons, P McMahon 1-0; C Healy 0-1, C Ryan, C Begley; B Quigley, K Meaney; B Sheehan, C Rogers, D Strong 0-1; P Cahillane, D Kingston 0-6(3fs), R Munnelly 0-1(f). Subs: P Clancy 0-2 for Cahillane (33); D Booth for McMahon (43-45); J O’Loughlin 0-2 for Sheehan (49); MJ Tierney 0-3(2fs 1 45) for Strong (51); P Lawlor for Rogers (64); Booth for Ryan (76); N Donoher for Munnelly (85); D Rooney for Meaney (86)
Meath: P O’Rourke; C O’Connor, K Reilly, E Harrington; M Burke, A Moyles, C King; B Meade, M Ward; S Kenny, J Sheridan 0-3, G Reilly 1-4; C Ward 0-2(fs), S O’Rourke 0-2, S Bray 0-1. Subs: P Byrne for G Reilly inj. (57); J Queeney for C Ward (63); G O’Brien for King inj (70); C McGuinness 1-0 for Kenny inj (71); B Farrell for Bray (71); C Gillespie 0-1 for M Ward (71); J Macken for Moyles (81); Bray for Farrell (81)
Referee: Marty Duffy (Sligo)