The Laois Senior footballers bowed out of the Leinster Championship following an eleven point loss to a Meath side that shot three goals past them at Croke Park this afternoon.
Laois 0 - 11
Meath 3 - 13
Leinster Senior Football Championship Semi-Final
It was a slow-burning start in Croke Park as both sides came to terms with each other. Laois didn't open their account until the fifteenth minute, while Meath laboured to just one point. In that period, Laois hit four wides as well as dropping a couple short.
Meath set the ball rolling two minutes when corner-back Seamus Lavin roamed forward to spilt the posts. The next score wouldn't arrive until the quarter of an hour mark when Evan O'Carroll sent over a close range free to open the Laois account.
Late addition to the Meath starting team James Conlon pushed them back into the lead a minute later before going on to capitalise on a rare mistake by Laois' Stephen Attride as he misjudged the hop of the ball to allow Conlon to hit his second of the afternoon.
O'Carroll converted a 13 metre free to leave the margin at a point, but Conlon popped up with his third after Ben Brennan claimed the kick-out before finding Conlon who duly fired over. John O'Loughlin rose highest to field the resulting kick-out before finding Paddy O'Sullivan who supplied Colm Murphy for his first to leave a point between them.
Colm Murphy grabbed his second two minutes later after his initial effort was blocked down and he fisted over the second time of asking. Conlon's fourth of the half restored Meath's two point cushion after twenty-five minutes, and then Meath almost had their first goal when the pacey Cillian O'Sullivan set off on a sizzling run before firing low across the goal.
Paul Kingston's long ball into Murphy was excellently caught by the Portarlington man before he was hauled down. O'Carroll sent over the resulting free, and was then substituted by Sugrue with Donie Kingston entering the fray.
Another daring run by O'Sullivan resulted in Meath's first goal when Bryan Menton slammed the Laois net on the half hour mark. Donie Kingston made an instant impact with a fine point and Daniel O'Reilly did likewise, but Bryan McMahon replied for the Meath men.
Laois were dealt a blow right before the break when Mickey Newman's skied effort was claimed by Donal Keogan in the square forcing Brody to haul him down virtually on the goal-line. Newman stepped up to convert the penalty and give Meath a five point-lead at the break, 2-6 to 0-7.
Laois would manage just four points in the closing half, twice being denied by Andrew Colgan in the Meath goals as well as the upright on one occasion as Meath powered home to secure a Leinster final berth.
Paul Kingston was denied by Colgan a minute after the restart, and Donie Kingston reduced the arrears with a point two minutes later.
Daniel O'Reilly played Colm Murphy through on goal, but his shot blazed back off the crossbar as luck evaded Sugrue's men. Donie Kingston converted a free from 25 metres out, and then found Kieran Lillis 10 metres out but the Portlaoise man's effort dragged across the face of goal and wide.
Meath rattled off 1-5 in the next ten minutes with O'Sullivan (2), Newman, Conlon and Bryan McMahon hitting points before Bryan Menton stormed through for his second goal to put the game beyond Laois.
Kingston sent over another free for the Laois cause, and he also had a shot on goal spectacularly denied by Colgan with a superb diving save. Substitute Ross Munnelly hit Laois' final point on the stroke of full-time as Sugrue's men now prepare for the qualifiers.
*See Tuesday's Leinster Express for full coverage
Scorers: Donie Kingston 0-4 (0-2 frees), Evan O'Carroll 0-3 (frees), Colm Murphy 0-2, Daniel O'Reilly and Ross Munnelly 0-1 each
Team: Graham Brody (Portlaoise); Stephen Attride (Killeshin), Denis Booth (The Heath), Gareth Dillon (Portlaoise); Sean O’Flynn (Courtwood), Robbie Piggott (Portarlington), Patrick O’Sullivan (Portarlington); John O’Loughlin (St Brigid’s), Kieran Lillis (Portlaoise); Daniel O’Reilly (Graiguecullen), Conor Boyle (Portlaoise), Damien O’Connor (Timahoe); Paul Kingston (Arles-Killeen), Colm Murphy (Portarlington), Evan O’Carroll (Crettyard). Subs: Donie Kingston (Arles-Killeen) for O'Carroll (29 mins), Marty Scully (Ballyroan Abbey) for Boyle (45 mins), Trevor Collins (Graiguecullen) for O'Flynn (54 mins), Ross Munnelly (Arles-Kilcruise) for O'Connor (58 mins), Eoin Lowry (Killeshin) for O'Reilly (58 mins), Brendan Quigley (Timahoe) for Lillis (64 mins).
Scorers: Bryan Menton 2-0, James Conlon 0-5, Mickey Newman 1-1 (1-0 pen, 0-1 free), Bryan McMahon and Cillian O'Sullivan 0-2 each, Seamus Lavin, Graham Reilly and Donal Keogan 0-1 each
Team: Andrew Colgan; Seamus Lavin, Conor McGill, Shane Gallagher; James McEntee, Donal Keogan, Gavin McCoy; Bryan Menton, Adam Flanagan; Cillian O'Sullivan, Bryan McMahon, Ben Brennan; Ronan Ryan, Mickey Newman, James Conlon. Subs: Graham Reilly for McCoy (47 mins), Shane McEntee for Flanagan (52 mins), Sean Tobin for Brennan (54 mins)
REFEREE: Joe McQuillan (Cavan)