Quirke holds nerve as Faithful prevail
Offaly 2-16 Laois 2-15
A nip-and-tuck clash between these two midlands rivals in Portlaoise came down to two injury-time frees – one for each side – before Offaly's Stephen Quirke emerged the hero.
Quirke was first up and held his nerve superbly to drill his opportunity straight and true from 50 metres.
Unfortunately for Laois, Stephen Maher pulled his chance to level wide, giving the visitors a first championship win at this grade for five years.
Offaly made a great start, bursting out of the blocks with four points in eight minutes. Adrian Hynes then got the game's first goal for the winners.
However, Laois soon got going and Ben Conroy netted to reduce the deficit to two in the 13th minute.
Offaly led 1-11 to 1-7 after 40 minutes, but that lead owed a lot to goalkeeper Conor Clancy. The introduction of 'Cha' Dwyer and Paddy Keating added good physical presence to the Laois forward line and, with Maher in fine scoring form, they soon reeled in the visitors.
PJ Scully gave the home side a lead with 11 minutes to play when he batted a loose ball to the net, but Offaly responded with a goal from Quirke.
The O'Moore county continued to push and when Maher sent an 80-yard free over to make it 2-15 to 2-13 with two minutes left, the home side looked poised to progress. But Quirke stepped up to save his side, striking 0-3 (2fs) to secure the win.
SCORERS – Offaly: S Quirke 1-9 (0-6fs), A Hynes 1-0, S Cleary, T Carroll, P Geraghty 0-2 each, T Geraghty 0-1. Laois: S Maher 0-10 (6fs), PJ Scully 1-1, B Conroy 1-0, R King 0-2, P Purcell, P Keating 0-1 each.
Offaly – C Clancy; N Wynne, D Kelliher, M Cleary; D King, P Camon, S Gardiner; S Cleary, T Carroll; S Dolan, A Kealey, P Geraghty; S Quirke, T Geraghty, A Hynes. Subs: P Murphy for Dolan (55).
Laois – E Fleming; O Carroll, G Burke, D Duggan; M Collier, B Duggan, N Unwin; P Purcell, J Ryan; B Conroy, MJ Lalor, S Maher; PJ Scully, P Whelan, R King. Subs: C Dwyer for Lalor (h-t), P Keating for Whelan (39), T Dowling for Conroy (55).
Ref – P Burke (Kilkenny).