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O'Rourke's Royal introduction key

A FINAL clash with old foes Dublin was sufficient incentive for Meath to advance in this rescheduled clash at Pairc Tailteann last night.

In a drab encounter, the home side held the advantage for long spells and led 0-6 to 0-3 at the break. Laois did respond briefly in the third quarter to draw level at 0-6 each but didn't have sufficient scoring power to seriously trouble the home side.

It took a brief scuffle involving several players to finally bring the game to life in the final quarter.

The visitors squandered numerous chances in the opening half and a sixth-minute Ross Munnelly point was all they managed from play in that period.

Meath fared only marginally better but Paddy O'Rourke, who started out at full-forward, showed promise and accounted for two points before he replaced Brendan Murphy between the posts at the start of the second half.

Points from Munnelly, Daithi Carroll and Donal Brennan had the sides level by the 40th minute.

However, the introduction of Shane O'Rourke at the start of the second half proved decisive and he registered four points, including two from frees, as Meath regained the initiative.

Laois did manage to reduce the deficit to the minimum by the 58th minute, but failed to score again as Meath finished strongly.

The counties are set to meet again in the opening round NFL Division 2 tie and, understandably, neither Seamus McEnaney or Justin McNulty were prepared to show their strongest hand in this tie.

SCORERS -- Meath: S O'Rourke 0-4 (2f), I Davis, P O'Rourke, B Farrell (2f) 0-2 each, N Mooney 0-1. Laois: R Munnelly 0-4 (2f), D Carroll 0-2 (2f), J Enright, D Brennan 0-1 each.

MEATH -- B Murphy; C McGill, J Macken, C McGuinness; D Keoghan, B Menton, C King; T Walsh, C Gillespie; N Mooney, B Farrell, S McAnarney; P Gilsenan, P O'Rourke, I Davis. Subs: K Reilly for Macken (h-t), G O'Brien for McGill (h-t), S O'Rourke for Murphy (h-t), A Moyles for Mooney (41), B Meade for Walsh (58).

LAOIS -- M Nolan; P Begley, C Boyle, R Kehoe; D Strong, S Julian, N Donoher; C Og Greene, C Coss; R Munnelly, G Kavanagh, C Maher; J Enright, D Carroll, D Brennan. Subs: B Sheehan for Maher (44), K Lillis for Carroll (47), K Meaney for Coss (54), P McMahon for Begley (54), MJ Tierney for Brennan (66).

REF -- N Ward (Westmeath).

Irish Independent