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McNulty takes debut success in stride

The inter-county managerial career of former Armagh All-Ireland winner Justin McNulty got off to the perfect start as Laois secured a gutsy victory over Meath at O'Moore Park.

This game was scheduled to take place on Saturday night but was postponed due to the heavy rain.

Seamus McEnaney will have been disappointed by the loss in his first competitive game in charge of the Royals, but the ex-Monaghan manager was far from downhearted.

McNulty threw debuts to a number of young guns but pride of place must go to goalkeeper Eoin Culleton however, as the netminder made two outstanding saves to deny Shane McAnarney and Nigel Crawford.

It was one of the regulars who took the scoring honours though, Michael John Tierney striking the ball magnificently off the sod to finish with nine points, seven from dead balls.

McNulty, though, wasn't getting carried away. "It's the first day out," he said. "There's still lots of areas for improvement. Meath are working on new systems (with a) new management team. It's not a result we'll be getting carried away with.

"It's a good positive start. It gives the lads a little bit of confidence but we have to improve, we have to grow, we have to develop more from here; learn from what we didn't do and improve those things and improve the things we did well even more.

"I think it was testament to the character of the Laois boys. They could have reverted into the position of 'here we go again, so near but yet so far'; but they dug deep and showed tremendous character to get the result in the end, even though Meath looked like they had a huge amount of ascendancy."

A John O'Loughlin goal in the fourth minute helped them to a 1-7 to 0-7 interval lead but Joe Sheridan was always a handful on the edge of the square. When Crawford beat Culleton from close range after a Sheridan flick-on, the sides were level on 1-10 apiece.

O'Loughlin and two frees from Tierney suddenly had Laois three clear and, though Brian Farrell fisted over at the other end, Brendan Quigley finished a good move with a point to secure the honours.

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"The goal was disappointing to concede early in the game but in fairness to the lads, we drove back well in the second half, got back level and had three or four chances to go ahead but we didn't take them and unfortunately we're going home without any points on the board," McEnaney said.

Scorers -- Laois: MJ Tierney 0-9 (7f); J O'Loughlin 1-1; B Sheehan, N Donoher, R Munnelly, B Quigley 0-1 each. Meath: C Ward 0-3 (3f); N Crawford 1-0; J Sheridan, S McAnarney 0-2 each; S O'Rourke, G Reilly, S Kenny, B Farrell 0-1 each.

Laois -- E Culleton; R Kehoe, C Boyle, P McMahon; D Strong, M Timmons, S Julian; B Quigley, K Meaney; C Begley, J O'Loughlin, N Donoher; R Munnelly, B Sheehan, MJ Tierney. Subs: D Carroll for Sheehan (40); C Healy for McMahon (57); P Clancy for Timmons (60); K Lillis for Kehoe (65); P Cahillane for Munnelly (68).

Meath -- B Murphy; G O'Brien, K Reilly, C King; S Kenny, B Meade, C McGuinness; M Ward, C Gillespie; S McAnarney, S O'Rourke, G Reilly; P Gilsenan, J Sheridan, C Ward. Subs: N Crawford for Gillespie (h-t); B Farrell for Reilly (47); A Moyles for C Ward; P O'Rourke for Gilsenan (60); A Nestor for McAnarney (67).

Ref -- P Fox (Westmeath).

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