In a Leinster derby that was far more competitive and open than the final tally of 26 scores would suggest, Meath came from five points down to prevail by 0-15 to 1-10 against Laois in Division 2 of the Allianz FL.
The Royals started brightly but a purple patch for the O’Moore County saw them kick six points in ten minutes midway through the first half.
A Ross Munnelly penalty before half time left Meath with plenty of work to do after the restart, but Mick O’Dowd’s men stepped up the intensity in the second period and gradually reeled in their opponents.
Much has been made of the increase in scoring rates in the Allianz Football League since the introduction of the black card, but this fiercely contested encounter proved that a low scoring tie can be at least as engaging when played in the right spirit.
Both these counties looked to move the ball fast and compete honestly but aggressively for loose possessions, with the result that supporters were treated to an excellent game.
Almost five minutes expired after the throw-in before there was a break in play of any kind and that high tempo was maintained throughout the tie.
Andrew Tormey and Shane O’Rourke opened the scoring for the Royals but once Laois opened their account with a Ross Munnelly free, they went on to score six times in succession.
Wing back Darren Strong contributed two particularly outstanding efforts from the right wing, while Kingston also drew a rapturous cheer with an elegant shot on the turn from the 45 metre line.
Meath broke their scoring drought with a 45 from Michael Newman but they could have had more only for Graham Brody’s incredible save to deny Dalton McDonagh’s close range strike on goal.
Shane O’Rourke and Newman added points to reduce the deficit to the minimum, but Newman went from hero to villain in a flash when he hit a stray handpass that was intercepted by Laois and worked through to Colm Begley in front of goal.
The Laois defender was dragged to the ground with just the keeper to beat, allowing Ross Munnelly to stroke the ball to the net from the penalty.
Another Munnelly free made it 1-7 to 0-5 at the break, but Meath were a changed team in the second half and they wasted no time in taking the initiative after the restart, kicking four points in succession.
Referee Michael Collins raised the ire of the away support and also the Meath sideline when he gave a string of contentious decisions to Laois in the early stages of the half, but with every disputed call that went against the Royals, they responded by growing in stature and resolve.
A fine Donie Kingston point failed to break their momentum as they continued to press hard, eventually taking the lead through a great run and point from Bryan McMahon, and two Newman efforts, one from play and one from a free.
Laois teenager Evan O’Carroll made an instant impact off the bench with a deft sidestep and accurate kick to equalise within 30 seconds of his late introduction, but by now Meath were spilling forward at pace constantly and they tacked on three more excellent scores as the game drew to a conclusion.
The home side had their chances to draw level – Colm Begley got sight of goal after cutting a great line through the defence and taking a short handpass from Kingston, but Paddy O’Rourke narrowed the angle brilliantly and parried his shot away.
MJ Tierney also had a very slight chance right at the death but he had to go for power from twenty five yards out and succeeded only in blasting the ball over the bar for what turned out to be the last score and the last action of the tie.
Laois: G Brody; P McMahon, M Timmons, P O’Leary; D Strong (0-02), P Begley, C Begley; J O’Loughlin, K Meaney; B Sheehan, C Meredith, D Conway; R Munnelly (1-02, 1-00 pen 0-02 frees), D Kingston (0-03, 0-01 free), G Walsh (0-01 free).
Subs: D Booth for Timmons (49), J Finn for Conway (53), MJ Tierney (0-01) for Munnelly (58), E O’Carroll (0-01) for Walsh (61), A Ryan for Sheehan (68).
Meath: P O’Rourke; M Burke, K Reilly, E Harrington; S Curran, D Keogan, D Carroll; B Menton (0-01), S O’Rourke (0-04); D Tobin, D McDonagh, A Tormey (0-01); B McMahon (0-01), S Bray, M Newman (0-06, 0-03 frees 0-02 ‘45s)
Subs: G Reilly (0-01) for Harrington (28 – temp), P Harnan for Carroll (34 – temp), D Bray (0-01) for McDonagh (45), Harnan for Curran (45), Reilly for Tobin (56)
Referee: Michael Collins (Cork)