Whelan's star turn seals Laois comeback as Royals fall flat
Laois 0-11 Meath 0-10
Laois upset the odds when they travelled to Páirc Tailteann and dumped a much-fancied Meath side out of the Leinster MFC on Saturday.
Colm Coyle's Royal side, who blew a 10-point lead against Dublin in the opening round, led by five 10 minutes into the second-half of this qualifier, but they failed to score for the remaining 20 minutes, plus five minutes of added time, against a driven Laois outfit.
Top scorer Diarmuid Whelan proved a match-winner for the O'Moore county by snatching the winning point six minutes from the finish as they held out in the face of intense pressure from the home side.
Half-forward Whelan, who hit three points in the opening half, was amazingly substituted in the third quarter, but returned to the action after five minutes on the bench and made the all-important difference.
Meath had the advantage of a stiff breeze in the opening half and despite being wasteful in attack they deservedly led 0-6 to 0-4 at the break, with four of those points courtesy of full-forward Shane Walsh, three from placed balls.
The visitors worked hard to keep within touching distance at the interval, but when half-time substitute Saran Ó Fionnagain accounted for two quick Meath points to stretch 0-10 to 0-5 in the third quarter, Laois looked beaten.
A long-range effort from dual player Ciaran Comerford, who along with twin brother Daniel has played five consecutive weekends for the O'Moore minors, kick-started the Laois revival and they eventually drew level from a Niall Dunne 45, his second of the match.
The winning point came a minute later to earn Laois an unlikely place in the quarter-finals.
SCORERS - Laois: D Whelan 0-4 (1f), N Dunne (2 '45s), A Kinsella (1f) 0-2 each, R Coffey, M Barry (f), C Comerford 0-1 each.
Meath: S Walsh 0-4 (3f), C Aherne, S O Fionnagain 0-2 each, S Martin, J Morris 0-1 each.
LAOIS - T McCann; M Dowling, S O'Flynn, D Comerford; C Slevin, G Saunders, R Coffey; R Tyrell, S Lacey; D Whelan, A Kinsella, N Dunne; M Berry, C Comerford, D Brophy. Subs: PJ Daly for Brophy (28), J Owens for Whelan (41), Whelan for Barry (46), D McCaul for C Comerford (60).
MEATH - A Beakey; S Ryan, D Devine, R Clarke; A Murphy, J Keane, R Smyth; J Hetherington, L Byrne; P Conway, S Martin, C Aherne; J Morris, S Walsh, C Frayne. Subs: S O Fionnagain for Martin (h-t), P Nulty for Frayne (47), S Bannon for Clarke (52), C Finnegan for Aherne (55), C Courtney for Murphy (60).
REF - D Hickey (Carlow)