Robert Tyrell in action for Laois. Pic: John Quirke
For the third championship game in succession Laois got the better of Meath as they advanced to the last eight of the Leinster MFC with a thrilling qualifier victory over Meath at Pairc Tailteann on Saturday.
Having recorded wins over the Royals in last weekend's Leinster SHC and Leinster MHC, Laois made it a championship hat-trick with this stunning from behind win.
Trailing by 0-4 to 0-6 at half-time and by 0-5 to 0-10 after 41 minutes, Laois held Meath scoreless for the last 25 minutes as they clawed their way back into the game with Diarmuid Whelan coming back on after being replaced in the 41st minute to kick the winning score in the 59th minute.
A jittery nervous opening half that lasted almost 35 minutes ended with Meath leading by just two points despite enjoying the benefit of the strong wind that blew into the hospital end at the Navan venue.
The stop-start nature of the first-half contributed to the poor standard as both sides seemed more content to square up to each other and stop the running off the ball than build on any type of positive play.
It was Laois who took the game by the scruff of the neck and looked more determined to make amends for their opening round loss to Louth with Whelan opening the scoring after just 30 seconds.
Whelan doubled the visitors lead four minutes lead as Meath struggled to mount an attack of substance with Robbie Smith and Jordan Morris firing wide.
Shane Walsh opened Meath's account in the seventh minute and he restored parity three minutes later from a free after his Na Fianna club mate Sean Martin was fouled. Whelan's third point, a first from a free, edged Laois ahead again at the end of the first quarter, but it was fairly dire stuff.
It took Meath another seven minutes to get back on level terms when Martin scored and 30 seconds later Meath should have had a goal when Conor Frayne was put through, but his drive hit goalkeeper Tom McCann in the midriff and was cleared.
Meath's best spell came in the subsequent three minutes as two frees from Walsh and a fine score from Conall Ahearne stretched their lead to 0-6 to 0-3.
A silly late foul by Adam Murphy on Whelan gifted Laois a late free which Mark Barry converted to close the gap to 0-4 to 0-6 at the break.
After the resumption Meath looked set to pull clear as their possession game plan negated the strong wind.
Saran O Finneagain made an instant impact as a half-time sub scoring within 30 seconds of the restart. However scores were difficult to come by and it wasn't until the 36th minute that Meath added to their account with Morris on target.
Laois hit four wides in the early stages of the second-half, before a brilliant tackle by Jack Hetherington set up a score for Ahearne to make it 0-9 to 0-4.
Niall Dunne kept Laois in touch with a successful '45', but when O Finneagain somehow managed to sky a great goal chance over the bar from close range it moved Meath 0-10 to 0-5 ahead - that proved to be their last score.
Whelan was withdrawn seconds later before successive points from Ciaran Comerford, who had scored 1-6 in the Laois minor hurlers victory over Meath seven days earlier, Ronan Coffey and Alan Kinsella closed the gap to 0-8 to 0-10 at the three-quarters stage.
Whelan returned as one of a plethora of subs made by both sides, but it was Laois who stayed on top with a Kinsella free and a Dunne '45' restoring parity in the 58th minute.
Whelan fired over what proved to be the winning point and while Meath did have a few late chances to force extra-time the Laois defence held out to advance.
Laois - Tom McCann (Ballyroan Abbey); Michael Dowling (Portlaoise), Sean O’Flynn (Courtwood), Daniel Comerford (The Harps); Colin Slevin (Portarlington), Seamus Lacey (Ballylinan), Gary Saunders (Portlaoise); Robert Tyrell (Camross), Diarmuid Whelan (Ballyroan Abbey 0-4 one frees); Alan Kinsella (Courtwood 0-2 one free), Niall Dunne (Courtwood 0-2 '45s'), Ronan Coffey (Portarlington 0-1); Mark Barry (O’Dempsey’s 0-1 free), Ciaran Comerford (The Harps 0-1), Dean Brophy (St Joseph’s). Subs - P J Daly (The Heath) for Brophy 30 mins, Jack Owens (Emo) for Whelan 41m, Whelan for Barry 46m, Damien McCaul (Annanough) for C Comerford 60m.
Meath - A Beakey; S Ryan, D Devine, R Clarke; A Murphy, J Keane, J Hetherington; R Smith, L Byrne; P Conway, S Martin(0-1), C Aherne (0-2); J Morris (0-1), S Walsh (0-4 three frees), C Frayne (Summerhill). Subs - S O Finneagain (0-2) for Conway half-time, P Nulty) for Frayne 47 mins, S Bannon for Clarke 52m, C Finnegan for Ahearne 55m, C Courtney for Murphy 60m.
Referee - David Hickey (Carlow)