Meath defeat Laois in O'Byrne Cup
MEATH 4-16 LAOIS 1-15
By Paul Keane at Pairc Tailteann, Navan
Goal hungry Meath signed off on their pre-season campaign with a powerful display in Navan, overcoming Laois with plenty to spare in the O'Byrne Cup.
Goals from Jack O'Connor, Ronan Ryan, Shane Walsh and Sean Tobin eased Meath to their first win in the three-game campaign.
It was a commanding display from the 2019 Leinster finalists who had 12 different scorers and were only briefly troubled when Laois rallied during the third quarter.
That insurgence from Micheal Quirke's side yielded eight points without reply between the 39th and 51st minutes, cutting the gap to just four points.
But Andy McEntee's Meath responded with an unanswered 1-4 themselves, including Tobin's goal, to reassert their authority and freewheeled from there to a 10-point win.
Both sides began the afternoon knowing they couldn't progress in the competition so were seeking to sign off on a winning note before the Allianz league begins.
Tyrone travel to play Tyrone in Division 1 on January 26 while Laois will be in Roscommon for a Division 2 encounter the same afternoon.
Meath will travel with more momentum after largely dominating this encounter having previously drawn with Westmeath in Round 2.
Their Round 1 loss to Louth ultimately cost them a semi-final spot though they played as if qualification was still at stake.
Bryan Menton and Thomas O'Reilly struck scores to put Meath into a three-point lead and they led 1-7 to 0-1 after 23 minutes when O'Connor netted.
Meath punished a poor restart from Laois with O'Reilly feeding O'Connor who slid a low finish beyond Laois 'keeper Niall Corbett.
Ryan added a second Meath major six minutes later after a flowing move involving Mathew Costello, Robin Clarke and Donal Keogan.
Evan O'Carroll palmed home a Laois goal in the 33rd minute but the hosts responded with their third through rising star Walsh to make it 3-8 to 1-3 at half-time.
Laois did impress during that third quarter with Mark Barry curling over three fine points and the scoreline read 3-9 to 1-11 after 51 minutes.
But Meath finished strong from there and Tobin's goal, when Barry Dardis broke Eamon Wallace's high ball in down to the Simonstown man, sealed the deal.
Wallace, a county title winner with Ratoath, was back after missing all of 2019 to recuperate from injury while Dunboyne's Ronan Jones was back for his first action since 2017 after a period in the US.
Scorers for Meath: Shane Walsh 1-2 (1 45, 1f), Sean Tobin 1-1, Jack O'Connor 1-0, Ronan Ryan 1-0, Bryan Menton 0-2, Thomas O'Reilly 0-2, Ben Brennan 0-2, Barry Dardis 0-2 (2fs), Mathew Costello 0-2, Paddy Kennelly 0-1, Oisin O'Brien 0-1, Ronan Jones 0-1.
Scorers for Laois: Evan O'Carroll 1-6 (4fs), Mark Barry 0-3, Gary Comerford 0-3 (2fs), Michael Keogh 0-1, Eoin Buggie 0-1, Ross Munnelly 0-1.
MEATH: Dominic Yore; Robin Clarke, Conor McGill, David Toner; James McEntee, Ronan Ryan, Donal Keogan; Bryan Menton, Brian Conlon; Jack O'Connor, Ben Brennan, Mathew Costello; Thomas O'Reilly, Shane Walsh, Donal Lenihan.
Subs: Sean Tobin for Lenihan (7), R Jones for Conlon (HT), E Wallace for Jones (HT), Barry Dardis for Walsh (45), Gavin McCoy for Toner (54), Oisin O'Brien for O'Reilly (55), Paddy Kennelly for Brennan (56), Eoin Lynch for McEntee (56).
LAOIS: Niall Corbett; Shane Bolger, Ruaidhri C Fennell, Brian Byrne; Eoin Buggie, Robert Pigott, Patrick O'Sullivan; John O'Loughlin, Robert Tyrrell; Eoin Lowry, Mark Barry, Michael Keogh; Gary Comerford, Evan O'Carroll, Diarmuid Whelan.
Subs: Darragh Connolly for Tyrrell (HT), Ross Munnelly for Whelan (50), Seamus Lacey for Pigott (54), Mark Timmons for Fennell (56), Gary Walsh for Comerford (57), Alan Kinsella for Keogh (59), Adam Campion for Lowry (64), Brian Daly for Bolger (64), Cormac O'Hora for O'Loughlin (64), Evan Lowry for Byrne (64).
REFEREE: Patrick Maguire (Longford).