Dublin claimed their sixth O'Byrne Cup title this afternoon, beating Laois 1-18 to 2-13 after a Titanic 90-minute struggle in Tullamore.
With their historic floodlit clash with Tyrone only six days away, the Dubs prevailed despite having both David Henry and Barry Cahill sent-off.
In an enthralling battle, watched by an O’Connor Park crowd of close to 5,000, Laois' Darren Rooney and Gary Kavanagh also saw red, while Longford referee Derek Fahy saw fit to dish out a flurry of yellow cards.
Paul Lawlor's fourth-minute goal inspired Laois to a 1-05 to 0-07 half-time lead. But Dublin's Conal Keaney hit four second half scores and Laois required a monster point from Padraig Clancy to force extra-time at 1-12 to 0-15.
Michael Tierney (penalty) and Kevin Bonner then swapped goals, before points from Bonner and Johnny Magee saw Dublin triumph in what was the first-ever O'Byrne Cup final meeting between the counties.
Laois, who have impressed this month under new manager Liam Kearns, came into the tie with a lot to prove. Last summer's 14-point pasting at the hands of today's opponents was obviously still fresh in the Midlanders’ minds as they moved into an early lead.
Connolly, the young St Vincent's marksman, sent over a second-minute free to get Dublin up and running. However, against the wind, Laois, who paired Clancy and Tom Kelly in midfield owing to an injury to Brendan Quigley, had the better of the opening quarter-hour.
Their goal was an excellent strike from Emo clubman Lawlor, who is a forward to watch in 2007. The build-up was equally as crisp, with Clancy hoofing through for Tierney and Colm Parkinson to link up. The ball was cushioned on for Lawlor and he made no mistake, beating the advancing Stephen Cluxton with a rifled finish to his left.
Kelly pointed soon after and Laois were looking strong as, at the other end, Paul Caffrey's Dubs hit three wides in the opening ten minutes.
The Leinster champions soon found their feet and despite an excellent defensive effort from Laois, who were missing Aidan Fennelly, Joe Higgins and Padraig McMahon, the Dubs managed to hit four of the half's final five points to close the gap.
Excellent wing-back Ger Brennan sallied forward to notch two of Dublin's points, his first being a wonderful shot off the outside of his left boot which bent into the wind. Connolly took his free-taking tally to 0-03, while Keaney and Bonner also got off the mark.
Laois had led by four points on two occasions in the opening period as Clancy, showing a clean pair of heels to Darren Magee, and 'Beano' McDonald slotted over scores.
Connolly squared up the game for the first time two minutes into the second half. Laois replied through Lawlor twice, after Keaney had shown good composure to blast over.
The game's first real twist followed on 45 minutes when, just after Connolly had levelled again at 0-10 to 1-07, full-back Rooney was banished to the sidelines for leading with his right foot as he challenged Declan O'Mahony for a ball on the ground.
20-year-old Connolly then right-footed over a free to send Dublin in front but Caffrey’s charges could never get more than a single point in front, in normal time, as 14-man Laois dug their heels in.
The O'Moore men were denied a penalty in the 56th minute when Cluxton clearly stopped a Gary Kavanagh shot with a foot block, but they regrouped with scores from Lawlor, McDonald, Brian McCormack and Clancy keeping them in the game.
Keaney hit a rich vein of form just past the hour mark as he struck three late points, the last of which, in injury-time, was a left-footed free from the right flank which he angled over superbly.
The Dubs had lost substitute corner back Henry at that stage – he walked in the 70th-minute for his second yellow – but Keaney's free looked like being the match-winner until Clancy hit an incredible long range score from wide out on the right to draw the sides level for the eighth time.
Extra-time was just two minutes old when Cahill saw red for bringing down Parkinson for a penalty as he sought to control a ball near the Dublin square. Tierney, Laois' Player of the Year in 2006, stepped up to fire the spot-kick home for a 2-12 to 0-15 lead for his side.
The first period of extra-time ended with the Dubs ahead, however, as Connolly sent over his seventh point. And, in the 77th-minute of play, a quick ball in from Quinn caught out Kevin Fitzpatrick, Laois' stand-in full-back, leaving Bonner on hand to shoot right-footed past Fergal Byron.
McDonald managed to bring the sides level for a ninth time, as he angled over a free, but points from substitute Johnny Magee and Bonner saw the 13 men of Dublin pick up the capital’s first O’Byrne Cup since 1999.
Dublin: S Cluxton; P Griffin, N O'Shea, C Prenderville; C Goggins, C Moran, G Brennan (0-02); D Magee, D O'Mahony; D Murray (0-01), D Connolly (0-07, 6f), D O’Callaghan; K Bonner (1-02), C Keaney (0-05, 1f), T Quinn.
Subs used: B Cullen for O'Callaghan, D Henry for Prenderville (both h-t), B Cahill for Moran (62 mins), J Magee (0-01) for O'Mahony (64), D Reilly for Quinn (78), S O'Shaughnessy for Reilly (86), D O'Callaghan for Connolly (90).
Laois: F Byron; C Ryan, D Rooney, P O'Leary; J Madigan, K Fitzpatrick, B McCormack (0-01, 1f); P Clancy (0-02), T Kelly (0-01); C Bergin, P Lawlor (1-05, 4f), G Kavanagh; MJ Tierney (1-00, pen), B McDonald (0-04, 3f), C Parkinson.
Subs used: D Murphy for Bergin (44 mins), B Sheehan for Madigan (51), G Ramsbottom for Madigan (66).
Referee: Derek Fahy (Longford).