Laois 1-19 Fermanagh 2-15
Sean Quigley top-scored with 2-8 for Fermanagh, but it wasn’t enough as Laois held out for a slender one-point win in the first ever SFC meeting between the sides at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.
The hosts were firmly on the rocks in the closing 10 minutes, as they squandered a four-point lead, with Quigley’s 63rd minute goal ensuring a tense finish.
Laois manager Tomas O Flatharta gave a starting berth to Niall Donoher for the first time in over 18 months with the Courtwood clubman returning from an injury blighted spell, but there was no luck for Fermanagh’s Tomas Corrigan who continued to be ruled out due to a hamstring injury.
After an impressive display against reigning All-Ireland and Leinster champions Dublin last time out, many fancied Laois for this encounter and they began brightly with Kingston firing the first of his six points after just 42 seconds.
Quigley equalised soon after and this would be the first of four occasions in the opening half which would see the sides level.
But Laois gained a firm foothold at midfield and really put it up to the visitors.
However, after eight minutes the O’Moore’s had registered four wides, while they were also living dangerously at the opposite end, with Peter O’Leary stopping an effort close to the goal-line.
Laois also had a goal chance of their own blocked by Marty O’Brien, after Kingston played the ball into Ross Munnelly in the 10th minute, but Strong converted the resulting 45 metre free to hand Laois a 0-02 to 0-01 lead.
A David Conway score saw Laois open up a two-point gap, but Quigley continued to work hard for the Erne County.
After 21 minutes Laois led by 0-05 to 0-02, but Fermanagh hit four of the next five scores, with the sides level on two further occasions by the 28th minute.
Quigley’s first goal came in the most dramatic of circumstances to push his side back ahead, after Tommy McElroy had initially pumped the ball inside.
Laois finished the half strongly with a trio of points, with Munnelly claiming two back-to-back before Conor Meredith slotted over the equaliser.
Tied at 0-09 to 1-06 at half-time, both teams got some strong words at the break, Fermanagh spending 18 mins and 30 secs in the dressing room at half-time with Laois in for 15 mins and 57 seconds, both over the allocated 15 minutes.
On the turnaround Laois started strongly with Meredith firing his second point just 49 seconds into the second half.
Quigley equalised and although this was cancelled out by a Kingston score, Fermanagh worked hard.
Quigley continued to punish, while an Eamon Maguire point helped Fermanagh to a 1-10 to 0-11 lead.
But then Sheehan pounced for Laois’s only goal of the contested, and although they lost the influential John O’Loughlin through injury following an off-the-ball incident. Laois pushed on.
Munnelly and Kingston impressed, and although Quigley slotted him a 63rd minute penalty to cut the gap to the minimum, and although Laois lost Kingston on a black card close to the end, and Fermanagh pushed hard for an equaliser, the hosts had done enough to book a place in Monday week’s draw.
LAOIS: G Brody; P McMahon, D Booth, P O’Leary; D Strong (0-3, 2 45), P Begley (0-1), C Begley (0-1); C Meredith (0-2), J O’Loughlin; J Finn, R Munnelly (0-4, 2f), N Donoher; B Sheehan (1-0), D Kingston (0-6, 1f), D Conway (0-1). Subs: K Meaney (0-1) for Finn (29); S Attride for Conway (49); C Coss for O’Loughlin (52); D O’Connor for Sheehan (70).
FERMANAGH: C Snow; M O’Brien, B Mulrone, N Cassidy (0-1); D McCusker, R McCluskey, T McElroy; E Donnelly, R O’Callaghan; L Cullen, R Jones (0-1), P McCusker (0-1); R Corrigan (0-1), S Quigley (2-8, 4f, 1-0pen), B Owens (0-1). Subs: E Maguire (0-2) for Cullen (35); M Murphy for McCusker (52); B Cox for Mulrone (59).
REFEREE: David Coldrick (Meath)