Westmeath 1-9 Laois 1-15
Laois launched their bid to reach the Leinster SHC quarter-finals with a comeback victory over Westmeath at Cusack Park this afternoon.
The O'Moore men trailed by 1-5 to 0-5 at half-time in this qualifier group fixture, but a 52nd minute goal from Stephen Maher got them back on track.
The early exchanges in Mullingar were quite listless until Robbie Greville ended a good run with the opening point in the sixth minute. Maher and Matthew Whelan converted frees to nudge Laois in front.
Scores from Greville and Ciarán Curley saw the home side begin to find some rhythm, but it was a real tit-for-tat affair as Niall O'Brien cancelled out a Laois point from substitute Charlie Dwyer.
The scoreline stood at 0-5 apiece after Willie Hyland and Noel Conaty exchanged points. The hurling, and in particular the shooting, was of a very poor variety in the first half with Westmeath hitting 10 wides and Laois knocking seven shots wide of the posts.
A late scrappy goal, bundled over the line from a long range Derek McNicholas free, gave the Lakesiders their interval lead.
Westmeath were still a goal to the good in the 51st minute after points from McNicholas, who swept over after his own brilliant block, and Aonghus Clarke.
However, the visitors, who host winless Carlow next weekend, found an extra gear when it mattered most with Hyland going on to notch 0-5 and goal scorer Maher tallying up 1-4 (0-3f).
Despite the fluid finish, manager Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett will be disappointed with their final wides tally of 17.
Laois' strong bench came into play - Dwyer and Joe Campion were influential in this regard - and Maher's goal from close range levelled things up at 1-7 each.
From then on, there was only one team in it as Hyland landed three impressive points in quick succession and Tommy Fitzgerald and Neil Foyle joined him on the scoresheet, both rifling over from the right wing.
Westmeath, who were beaten by Antrim last time out, could have had Laois sweating late on but McNicholas missed two efforts on goal - the first of which was a 20-metre free and the second a mishit after being played in by Ciaran Curley and Eoin Price.
WESTMEATH: P Collins; K Duncan, T Doyle, L Varley; G Greville, A Craig, P Gilsenan; E Price, C Curley (0-1); R Greville (0-3), A Devine, D Gavin (0-1); N Conaty (0-1), D McNicholas (1-1, 1-0f), N O’Brien (0-1).
Sub used: A Clarke (0-1) for Craig (39 mins).
LAOIS: E Reilly; D Maher, B Campion, B Stapleton; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan (0-1, 0-1f), C Dunne; D Palmer, P Whelan; S Maher (1-4, 0-3f), J Purcell, W Hyland (0-5); N Foyle (0-1), T Fitzgerald (0-1), R King (0-1).
Subs used: C Dwyer (0-1) for Purcell (26 mins), JA Delaney for Stapleton (half-time), J Campion (0-1) for Dunne (45), J Fitzpatrick for Palmer (48, temp sub), B Reddin for King (51), J Brophy for Reddin (66).
Referee: Christy Browne (Galway)