Laois 1-15 Meath 1-12
Meath are the latest team to suffer the curse of the six-day turnaround, crashing to a Qualifier defeat to Leinster rivals Laois at Tullamore this afternoon.
The O’Moore men march on to the All-Ireland quarter-finals with renewed hope that they can take their oddysey at least one step further, following an impressive display at O’Connor Park.
A first-half goal from a penalty by Ross Munnelly was the vital score, but manager Justin McNulty will be somewhat concerned that after his side led by 10 points at one stage, they had to defend desperately in the closing stages to hold on.
With the wind and driving rain in their backs, Laois went direct and long, and the strategy paid off handsomely as they quickly took control of the game.
With Brendan Quigley and Colm Begley on top at midfield and Ross Munnelly a constant threat, they set about racking up the scores that would give them control.
Padraig Clancy notched the first, and while the Royals stayed in touch with points from Brian Farrell and Mickey Burke, the O’Moore men pulled away late in the opening quarter.
Munnelly and wing back Darren Strong fired over Laois points, and when Brendan Quigley’s long delivery was allowed to hop over the bar, Laois led by 0-7 to 0-3.
Brian Farrell’s second converted free kept Meath in touch, but when goalkeeper David Gallagher conceded a 26th minute penalty, they had a mountain to climb.
After allowing a harmless ball to fall from his grasp, Gallagher fouled Colm Kelly, and Munnelly slotted the penalty into the bottom corner of the net.
Kelly rounded off a solid first half for Justin McNulty’s side with two points to give Laois a 1-9 to 0-5 interval lead, and a flying start to the second half saw them open up a massive 10 points lead.
Meath faced an almost impossible task, but they set about cutting back the deficit with courage, refusing to panic.
Despite the defensive heroics of John O’Loughlin and Kevin Meaney, the Royals pulled back scores through Stephen Bray and Farrell, but depended much too heavily on Farrell’s free-kicking.
Quigley and Begley continued to make a huge impact around the middle, and the former brought a superb save from Gallagher when he got forward to fire in a shot on goal.
MJ Tierney came off the bench to slot over a couple of tidy Laois points, and as the game slipped into its final five minutes, Meath still trailed by six points, and their season was slipping away from them.
They were given fresh hope, however, when substitute Peadar Byrne got in for a goal, but it was too late for Seamus McEnaney’s men.
Laois: R Munnelly 1-4 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), P Clancy, C Kelly (1 ’45), MJ Tierney (1f) 0-2 each, D O’Connor, B Sheehan, C Begley, B Quigley, D Strong 0-1 each.
Meath: P Byrne 1-0, B Farrell 0-8 (8f), S Bray (f), G Reilly, M Burke, E Harrington 0-1 each.
LAOIS: E Culliton, C Healy, K Meaney, P O’Leary, D Strong, J O'Loughlin, C Boyle, B Quigley, C Begley, R Munnelly, B Sheehan, G Walsh, D O'Connor, P Clancy, C Kelly.
Subs: D Conroy for Walsh, MJ Tierney for Kelly, P McMahon for Sheehan.
MEATH: D Gallagher, D Keogan, B Menton, M Burke, D Tobin, S McAnarney, B Meade, C Gillespie, G Reilly, A Forde, D Carroll, S Bray, B Farrell, J Sheridan, C Ward.
Subs: P Byrne for Forde, E Harrington for Keogan, J Queeney for Ward, T Walsh for Carroll, M Collins for Gillespie
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).