Donegal keep All-Ireland ambitions alive

Donegal 0-14 Laois 0-8

Donegal kept their All-Ireland SFC ambitions alive thanks to a hard-earned six-point win over Laois at Pairc Sean Mhac Diarmuda in Carrick-on-Shannon this evening.

Jimmy McGuinness's charges fired four unanswered points in the closing stages to book a last-eight encounter at Croke Park next weekend.

Colm McFadden kicked six-points for the eventual winners, with the St Michael's clubman playing a key-role throughout.

In the main McFadden was clinical from placed balls, in a game which Donegal led from the 23rd minute until the end.

The reigning All-Ireland champions were on the right side of a 0-5 to 0-1 interval score-line, with Laois finding it tough.

The O'Moore's kicked six first-half wides, with veteran player Ross Munnelly claiming their only score after 17 minutes.

Laois cut the deficit to two points with eight minutes remaining, but Donegal finished strongly.

Laois's woes were compounded late on with a straight red card for Conor Boyle deep into injury-time.

Donegal made two changes from the team listed in the programme, with Karl Lacey failing to start, with Declan Walsh coming into defence.

The other change came in the Tir Chonaill attack, with Ryan McHugh in for Leo McCloone, but both Lacey and McLoone were to play key roles in this game as substitutes.

Laois manager Justin McNulty stuck with the side he announced during the week with 17-year old Evan O'Carroll playing alongside Conor Meredith and Donie Kingston on the full-forward line.

Scores were at a premium in the opening stages of this game, with both teams claiming a point each inside the first quarter, with McFadden getting the first of his two first-half points in the 11th-minute, and Munnelly following up with a point from play six minutes later.

Tempers frayed on the sideline soon after as Donegal manager Jimmy McGuinness had words initially with the linesman on the stand-side, before Justin McNulty and respective selectors Rory Gallagher and Fergal Byron became involved.

Tensions quickly settled and when the action resumed after no action was taken by referee Marty Duffy, both sides produced some intriguing football.

Former AFL star Conor Meredith in his debut Senior Championship season has been one of Laois's most impressive players this year, and the O'Dempsey's clubman looked set for a score approaching the break as he took on the Donegal defence.

Meredith threw three dummies successfully against opposing players, but a fourth effort 21 metres out from goals failed to pay off, as Donegal regained the ball and quickly moved it upfield from defence to attack.

Paddy McBrearty punishing Meredith's mistake with Donegal's sixth point, to ensure a 0-06 to 0-01 interval lead.

Laois were fired up on the restart, with Meredith taking a point a minute after the restart, after a well-placed pass from Padraig McMahon.

McFadden and Michael Murphy took the next two scores, but Laois rallied thanks to a brace of Munnelly points to ensure a 0-07 to 0-04 score-line in the 45th minute.

Once again Donegal edged back with McFadden and McBrearty on target, but Laois were beginning to get a foothold in this game, and upped their game hugely.

A super point from Kingston cut the gap to four points, with Laois forced to work hard for their scores.

Donegal quickly punished the O'Moore's advances as Kingston's point was cancelled out by another McFadden score, a fifth of the evening from the St. Michael's player as once again double scores separated the sides.

Leading 0-10 to 0-5 entering the final quarter, Donegal were looking comfortable, but Laois were keen to cause the All-Ireland champions a tough closing 17 minutes.

Kingston fired an inspirational point from over 50 yards out, while substitute David Conway became the fourth Laois player to score as the Midlanders reduced the deficit to three points with 12 minutes left on the clock.

McFadden had a chance to restore a four-point gap in the 61st minute, but fluffed a close-range free and from the resulting kick-out Laois worked the ball up-field for Munnelly to claim his fourth point of the day.

Two points separated the sides at this juncture, with Laois manager Justin McNulty emptying his bench with three minutes remaining, following the introduction of Colm Kelly - the fifth Laois substitute of the evening.

Donegal, as they have done on countless occasions in recent years finished strongly with points from McFadden, McBrearty, Neil McGee and McLoone, to ensure a place in the quarter-finals.

Laois's work-rate in the closing stages, met with sheer Donegal resistance with Kieran Lillis unlucky not to see a 64th minute effort cross the line after some indecision by Donegal keeper Paul Durcan, while Kelly sent a blazing shot across the goalmouth late on.

Scorers for Donegal: C McFadden (4f) 0-06; P McBrearty 0-03; M Murphy (1f) 0-02; David Walsh, L McLoone, N McGee 0-01 each.

Scorers for Laois: R Munnelly (2f) 0-04; D Kingston 0-02; C Meredith, D Conway 0-01 each.

DONEGAL: P Durcan; P McGrath, N McGee, E McGee; F McGlynn, Declan Walsh, A Thompson; R Kavanagh, N Gallagher; David Walsh, R McHugh, R Bradley; P McBrearty, M Murphy, C McFadden. Subs: K Lacey for McGrath (54); M McElhinney for Bradley (66); L McLoone for David Walsh (67); D McLaughlin for Declan Walsh (71).

LAOIS: E Culliton; P Begley, M Timmons, P O'Leary; D Strong, K Lillis, P McMahon; P Clancy, J O'Loughlin; R Munnelly, B Sheehan, C Begley; C Meredith, D Kingston, E O'Carroll. Subs: C Boyle for Clancy (26); S Attride for O'Carroll (30); D Booth for P Begley (43); D Conway for O'Leary (53); C Kelly for Sheehan (67)

REFEREE: Marty Duffy (Sligo)

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