Laois 2-12 Monaghan 0-12
Two top-class goals from Colm Kelly and Brendan Quigley proved the difference for Laois as they ended Monaghan's Championship challenge at O’Moore Park.
The beaten Ulster semi-finalists recovered from a slow start to lead 0-5 to 0-2, but Kelly and Quigley both netted to move the hosts 2-7 to 0-8 ahead for half-time.
Although Monaghan worked hard to get back on terms, they struggled to build scores and the O’Moore men extended their lead to six points in a scrappy second half.
The counties’ first ever Championship meeting was a hotly-contested one with referee David Coldrick forced to use his yellow card early on.
Laois started with purpose and pace, threading a number of diagonal balls through and Ross Munnelly popped over a free after an initial Colm Kelly wide.
The midlanders doubled their lead as Munnelly picked out the advancing Conor Boyle who pointed in plenty of space, before free-taker Paul Finlay got Monaghan off the mark.
Tommy Freeman began to threaten in open play and Conor McManus slotted a free to get the Farney men level at 0-2 apiece, as the visitors began to dictate.
They won a number of breaking balls, forcing Laois on the back foot and Darren Hughes drove forward to set up a 25-yard effort from Freeman.
McManus right-footed a free to move the Ulster side 0-4 to 0-2 ahead, with Kieran Duffy helping Monaghan maintain their stranglehold on midfield.
The Laois defence was caught on the hop as McManus broke away from Cahir Healy to collect Hughes’ quickly-taken free and clip over his first point from play.
But both sides were guilty of playing in fits and starts and two soft frees from Munnelly got Laois back on track, whittling the deficit down to 0-5 to 0-4.
Justin McNulty’s men then enjoyed their best spell as corner forward Kelly took centre stage. He levelled with a point before firing home the game’s first goal.
Kevin Meaney drilled a brilliant 45-yard pass downfield into Kelly’s hands and his measured finish gave Mark Keogh little chance of saving it.
Another inch-perfect ball out of defence from Meaney teed up a Clancy point, edging Laois into a 1-6 to 0-5 lead with 29 minutes gone.
The long-ball tactic then paid dividends for Monaghan as McManus got away from Healy but his goal effort sneaked over the crossbar rather than under it.
Finlay’s left boot had the gap down to two points, however Laois conjured up a superb second goal as half-time approached.
Midfielder Brendan Quigley was played in by Munnelly and his rasping shot off the outside of his right boot flew into the top corner with Keogh stranded.
McManus’ third successful free and a fine score from Laois wing forward Damien O’Connor closed out the first half’s scoring, as the hosts led by five at the break.
Dick Clerkin won the throw-in and a subsequent free as Finlay immediately pulled a point back at the start of the second half.
Clerkin got on the scoresheet soon after but Laois duly tightened up in defence, tracking back and smothering a series of attacking moves from the visitors.
Gary Walsh replied for the midlanders before he was replaced by MJ Tierney, with defences on top during a scrappy period of play.
Laois made further headway with points from Kelly and O’Connor and the former had a goal-bound shot tipped away by Keogh, with substitute Tierney converting the ‘45’.
Monaghan brought Vincent Corey forward to the edge of the Laois square with the hour mark in sight, and fellow defender Dessie Mone then ended a scoreless 16-minute spell for them.
Centre-fielder Owen Lennon made it two on the trot as the margin was reduced to 2-11 to 0-12 and Laois needed a brilliant save from goalkeeper Eoin Culliton to stop a 25-yard thunderbolt from Hughes.
But Monaghan looked rudderless at times and lacked the necessary thrust to unsettle a resilient Laois rearguard.
A well-taken point from Quigley duly restored the home side’s two-goal buffer.
Monaghan resorted to lobbing high balls in towards Corey and company in a desperate search of goals and another very good stop from Culliton denied them in injury-time.
Laois: C Kelly 1-2, B Quigley 1-1, R Munnelly 0-3 (0-3f), D O’Connor 0-2, C Boyle, P Clancy, G Walsh, MJ Tierney (0-1 ‘45’) 0-1 each
Monaghan: C McManus 0-5 (0-3f), P Finlay 0-3 (0-2f), T Freeman, D Clerkin, D Mone, O Lennon 0-1 each
LAOIS: Eoin Culliton; Cahir Healy, Kevin Meaney, Jamie Kavanagh; Darren Strong, John O'Loughlin, Conor Boyle; Brendan Quigley, Colm Begley; Damien O'Connor, Billy Sheehan, Gary Walsh; Ross Munnelly, Padraig Clancy, Colm Kelly.
Subs used: MJ Tierney for Walsh (50 mins), Padraig McMahon for Strong (52), David Conway for Kelly (66), Stephen O’Leary for Clancy (68).
MONAGHAN: Mark Keogh; Drew Wylie, Vincent Corey, Colin Walshe; Karl O'Connell, Dessie Mone, Kieran Duffy; Owen Lennon, Dick Clerkin; Pete Dooney, Darren Hughes, James Turley; Paul Finlay, Conor McManus, Thomas Freeman.
Subs used: Stephen Gollogly for Dooney (52 mins), David Hughes for O’Connell (58), Stephen Smyth for Turley (60), Christopher McGuinness for Finlay (70).
Referee: David Coldrick (Meath).