By Darragh Maloney
Laois are through to the Leinster SFC final and another showdown with Dublin in two weeks' time after a narrow win over Wexford at Croke Park this afternoon.
The match turned in favour of the 2003 Leinster champions 15 minutes into the second half as Wexford had centre-back David Murphy sent-off with his second yellow card after a high challenge on Tom Kelly.
Laois had drawn level for the first time in the match just two minutes before that after a goal from full-forward Paul Lawlor.
Wexford were chasing their first appearance in the provincial decider since 1956 and they started brilliantly, racing into a five points to no score lead after only nine minutes.
Laois were off the pace all over the field, with Ciaran Lyng starring with four points during that 'purple' patch.
It took Laois ten minutes to register their first point but it was still Wexford who were in charge.
Rory Stafford and Eric Bradley were on top in midfield but they suffered a blow during the half when Bradley had to go off with a leg injury.
Wexford led by 0-10 to 0-06 at half-time and were well in control of the match.
They also had a goal from Lyng disallowed after the referee penalised Paddy Colfer for over-carrying the ball before he passed it to Lyng.
It was a very tight call but the referee had no doubt that the Wexford player had taken too many steps while in possession.
Laois had not played to their full potential during the first half and they needed to make a big statement at the start of the second.
They did that with the goal from Lawlor and the sending-off of Murphy turned the game in their favour.
Tom Kelly had looked very uncomfortable at full-back during the first half but he was moved out to centre-back in the early stages of the second and he was key in delivering good ball to the forwards.
Manager Liam Kearns may have to play Kelly there in the Leinster final as his performance was crucial to this victory.
Laois hit the front for the very first time in the match in the 17th minute of the second half with a fisted point from Colm Parkinson and they never looked back.
It took Wexford 20 minutes to score their first point after the re-start but they stayed in the match as Laois kicked wide after wide and they ended the match with a total of 18.
The loss of Murphy took its toll on Wexford in the last 20 minutes and they had to bring Matty Forde out to the half-forward line in an attempt to win some possession, as Padraig Clancy and Brendan Quigley ran the middle of the park.
Without Forde in close to the Laois goal, Wexford were always going to struggle and that is the way it turned out.
However, that wides tally left Wexford in with a slim chance of grabbing a draw in the dying minutes but it was not to be. Laois had out-scored their opponents by 1-07 to 0-03 in the second half.
Wexford will have to wait another year before they can claim a Leinster final place and that was their fourth consecutive semi-final defeat.
They now have to re-group for a tough qualifier against Fermanagh.
Laois are back in the Leinster final and they will relish another tilt at Dublin, who hammered them in the 2006 semi-final.
They will be heavily beaten again if they kick close to the same number of wides they did today, but I have a feeling they will be more effective in front of the posts on Sunday 15 July.