Laois have qualified for the All-Ireland quarter-final after a 1-15 to 1-12 win over Meath in Round 4 of the qualifiers at O'Connor Park in Tullamore.
The wind-assisted winners controlled the first half, and Ross Munnelly’s 26th minute penalty goal sent them in with a 1-9 to 0-5 interval lead.
They led by 10 points at one stage, but the Royals fought back with a string of Brian Farrell frees, and while Peadar Byrne’s late goal cut the gap to three, they were unable to avoid the curse of the six-day turnaround.
The direct style employed by Laois with the strong wind and rain in their backs paid off handsomely as they strode into a healthy lead.
Shooting from distance and targeting full forward Padraig Clancy with long ball, the O’Moore men cashed in with points from Clancy, Munnelly and wing back Darren Strong.
And when Brendan Quigley’s long punt was allowed to hop over the bar, following a neat score from wing back Darren Strong, they led by 0-7 to 0-3, with Munnelly launching his third score to give his side a big lift.
Brian Farrell’s second converted free kept his side in touch, but having managed just one score in a 23 minute spell, the Royals were struggling badly.
And a personal catastrophe for goalkeeper David Gallagher in the 26th minute heightened the crisis they were facing.
Having fumbled a harmless delivery, he conceded a penalty by fouling Colm Kelly, and Munnelly slotted the penalty into the bottom corner of the net.
Kelly rounded off a solid first half for Justin McNulty’s side with two points to give Laois a 1-9 to 0-5 interval lead, and a flying start to the second half saw them open up a massive 10 points lead.
Meath faced an almost impossible task, but they set about cutting back the deficit with courage, refusing to panic.
Despite the defensive heroics of John O’Loughlin and Kevin Meaney, the Royals pulled back scores through Stephen Bray and Farrell, but depended much too heavily on Farrell’s free-kicking.
Quigley and Begley continued to make a huge impact around the middle, and the former brought a superb save from Gallagher when he got forward to fire in a shot on goal.
MJ Tierney came off the bench to slot over a couple of tidy Laois points, and as the game slipped into its final five minutes, Meath still trailed by six points, and their season was slipping away from them.
They were given fresh hope, however, when substitute Peadar Byrne got in for a goal, but it was too late for Seamus McEnaney’s men.
Laois scorers: R Munnelly 1-4 (1-0 pen, 0-1f), P Clancy, C Kelly (1 ’45), MJ Tierney (1f) 0-2 each, D O’Connor, B Sheehan, C Begley, B Quigley, D Strong 0-1 each.
Meath scorers: P Byrne 1-0, B Farrell 0-8 (8f), S Bray (f), G Reilly, M Burke, E Harrington 0-1 each.
Meath: D Gallagher, D Keogan, B Menton, M Burke, D Tobin, S McAnarney, B Meade, C Gillespie, G Reilly, A Forde, D Carroll, S Bray, B Farrell, J Sheridan, C Ward.
Subs: P Byrne for Forde, E Harrington for Keogan, J Queeney for Ward, T Walsh for Carroll, M Collins for Gillespie
Laois: E Culliton, C Healy, K Meaney, P O’Leary, D Strong, J O'Loughlin, C Boyle, B Quigley, C Begley, R Munnelly, B Sheehan, G Walsh, D O'Connor, P Clancy, C Kelly.
Subs: D Conroy for Walsh, MJ Tierney for Kelly, P McMahon for Sheehan
Referee: J McQuillan (Cavan).