When Laois headed for the dressing rooms at half-time with a five point lead in this entertaining clash with Meath, they looked to be perfectly placed to go on and record their third win in the league.
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They had defended well against Meath’s counter attacking style restricting their opponents to long range shots while also turning over plenty of ball. Once they had possession, they attacked with purpose with Donie Kingston and Ross Munnelly leading the line well. Wing-backs Colm Begley and Darren Strong were regularly on hand to assist in the attacking third with Strong accounting for two points.
However the second-half did not go at all according to plan for Tomas O Flatharta’s side as they were outscored by ten points to three with the third of those scores only coming with the last kick of the game. They could not contend with the quicker pace of Meath’s attacks and dropped deeper and deeper inviting their opponents onto them. Meath, who pushed further forward after playing defensively in the first 35 minutes, took full advantage as Michael Newman and Shane O’Rourke kept the scoreboard ticking over eventually overhauling the home side before pushing on to win the game.
Laois struggled to find the attacking rhythm they’d had in the first-half as Meath’s defence got on top and they ended up shooting from distance which resulted in seven wides.
However despite their poor return in the second 35 minutes, Laois were right in the hunt up to the finish and had Billy Sheehan not blasted wide from close range or had Patrick O’Rourke not made a point blank save to deny Colm Begley, they could easily have ground out a win.
As it stands, Laois are only out of the relegation places by a point ahead of Galway and they face a nervous last two games against Monaghan and Down as they look to maintain their position in Division 2.
Overall this was a very entertaining game although riddled with mistakes from both sides. The ball was in play for large periods of time as it was moved from end to end. Possession was turned over regularly while stray and misplaced passes were a feature of the game.
Meath were quicker out of the blocks scoring the first two points through Shane O’Rourke and Andrew Tormey but from the eighth to the 25th minute, Laois controlled proceedings and built a healthy four point lead.
With Kevin Meaney dominating in midfield, direct passes forward created space for the forwards and they took their chances well with a free from Ross Munnelly and a point from the marauding Darren Strong levelled the scores. Meath regularly had 13 men in their own half but Laois were still finding space and points from Donie Kingston (2), a free from Gary Walsh and a super effort from Strong left them four ahead with 20 minutes on the clock.
Laois had countered Meath’s counter attacking style well allowing them to get to between the 21 and 45 metre line before closing them down and more often and not turning over possession.
Meath enjoyed a purple patch late in the half and were only denied a goal when Graham Brody made a point blank save to deny Dalton McDonagh but they did add three points with Michael Newman launching over two ‘45s and Shane O’Rourke adding a point.
That left just one between them but Laois finished with a flourish with Ross Munnelly dispatching a penalty after Colm Begley was hauled down and the Arles Kilcruise man added a point from a free to leave Laois 1-7 to 0-5 ahead.
However the game turned in the first ten minutes of the second-half as Meath seized the initiative and got the game back within one with four unanswered points. Donie Kingston briefly stopped the rot with a point after 46 minutes but Meath continued to press home their advantage with three more points to take the lead for the first time since the 11th minute.
Laois had their chances at the other end but they put up seven wides between the 40th and 66th minute. One of those came from Billy Sheehan who blasted wide from close range after being put through by Darren Strong.
Substitute Evan O’Carroll did find the target with his first contribution to the game after 63 minutes keeping Laois in the hunt. After David Bray edged Meath back in front, Laois had one more goal chance but while Colm Begley found the target, his powerful effort was well saved by Patrick O’Rourke.
Points from Bryan Menton and Graham Reilly put Meath three ahead entering injury-time and while Adam Ryan kicked over a late point, it was too late to change the outcome of the game as Meath held on for the win.
Scorers: Laois: Ross Munnelly 1-2 (1-0 pen, 0-2f); Donie Kingston 0-3 (0-1f); Darren Strong 0-2; Gary Walsh 0-1f; Evan O’Carroll 0-1; Adam Ryan 0-1. Meath: Michael Newman 0-6 (0-2f, 0-2 ‘45); Shane O’Rourke 0-4; Andrew Tormey 0-1; Brian McMahon 0-1; David Bray 0-1; Bryan Menton 0-1; Graham Reilly 0-1
Laois: Graham Brody; Peter O’Leary, Mark Timmons, Padraig McMahon; Darren Strong, Paul Begley, Colm Begley; John O’Loughlin, Kevin Meaney; David Conway, Conor Meredith, Billy Sheehan; Ross Munnelly, Donie Kingston, Gary Walsh. Subs: Denis Booth for Mark Timmons (49mins); James Finn for David Conway (53mins); MJ Tierney for Ross Munnelly (50mins); Evan O’Carroll for Gary Walsh (61mins); Adam Ryan for Billy Sheehan (68mins)
Meath: Patrick O’Rourke; Donal Keogan, Kevin Reilly, Mickey Burke; Sean Curran, Eoghan Harrington, Damien Carroll; Bryan Menton, Shane O’Rourke; Donncha Tobin, Dalton McDonagh, Andrew Tormey; Brian McMahon, Stephen Bray, Michael Newman. Subs: Graham Reilly for Eoghan Harrington (28mins, blood); Padraic Harnan for Damien Carroll (34mins, blood); David Bray for Dalton McDonagh (45mins); Padraic Harnan for Sean Curran (45mins); Graham Reilly for Donncha Tobin (56mins)
Referee: Michael Collins (Cork)