Free-scoring Tierney helps Laois to soar into top flight
MJ Tierney was in scintillating form as Laois produced an impressive display to beat 14-man Donegal at O'Moore Park and clinch promotion to the top flight.
Results elsewhere helped them, but Justin McNulty's men looked determined to sign off in front of their passionate home crowd with a big display before the championship begins, and they certainly delivered on that.
No one delivered more than their pocket rocket corner-forward Tierney, who gave a near flawless display of free-taking and a cool goal finish to end up with 1-10 in all.
It hands McNulty's men a league final appearance where they again meet Donegal -- who were kept back in their dressing-room by manager Jim McGuinness for close on an hour afterwards.
"It was an error-strewn performance but the work rate, effort and application of the whole team gives us huge encouragement. It was a huge match in terms of preparation for the championship," said McNulty.
Donegal were disappointing and had Michael Hegarty dismissed when he picked up two yellows in the first 15 minutes of the second half, while Laois clearly relished the firm conditions and zipped to a 0-9 to 0-3 interval lead.
The architect-in-chief was Tierney, who produced a master class in free-taking to reward their blitzkrieg football. At the other end, Donegal were struggling to run the ball through a well-disciplined Laois defence, which forced them to rack up seven wides.
With the aid of the wind, Donegal were better after half-time and brought Michael Murphy out from full-forward, but the match turned in the 44th minute when, after Dermot Molloy had a one-on-one chance saved by Eoin Culleton, Laois swept downfield and Tierney beat two defenders to send a stinging shot to the net.
Trailing by 1-10 to 0-5, this provoked a response in Donegal with Kavanagh and McElhinney doing well in the middle and Dermot Molloy soon cashed in on a bad handpass to score a great goal.
Hegarty saw red in the 50th minute but Donegal kicked the next point to cut the gap to two. However, just when it seemed that Laois were in danger of throwing all the good work away, Padraic Clancy took control again and, with John O'Loughlin and Colm Begley working hard, Laois pulled away.
Man of the Match: MJ Tierney (Laois)
SCORERS -- Laois: MJ Tierney 1-10 (9f, 1 '45), M Timmons, D Strong , P O'Leary, C Begley, J O'Loughlin 0-1 each. Donegal: D Molloy 1-1, C McFadden 0-3 (2f), M Murphy (1f), R Kavanagh, M McElhinney 0-2 each, A Thompson 0-1.
LAOIS -- E Culleton 8; D Booth 7, K Meaney 6, M Timmons 7; D Strong 8, S Julian 7, P O'Leary 8; P Clancy 9, B Quigley 7; C Begley 7, J O'Loughlin 8, N Donoher 7; R Munnelly 8, B Sheehan 6, MJ Tierney 9. Subs: D Kingston 6 for Sheehan (53), P Cahillane 6 for Munnelly (65).
DONEGAL -- P Durkan 6; F McGlynn 6, N McGee 6, A Thompson 7; M Boyle 6, K Cassidy 6, P McGrath 6; R Kavanagh 8, M McElhinney 7; M Hegarty 6, M McHugh 6, D Molloy 8; R Bradley 6, M Murphy 6, C McFadden 7. Subs: A Hanlon 6 for McElhinney (60).
Ref -- M Higgins (Fermanagh).