Five points in the closing 15 minutes proved to be a crucial run of scores for the home side. Laois led for most of the game without ever looking like nailed-on winners, but when they got their chances late on they showed a clinical touch in front of goal and manager Seamus Plunkett was full of praise for his side afterwards.
“It took us a little while to get on the front foot,” he admitted.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be patient and think you’re way through and wait for the opportunities to come for you.
“I think they came to us in the second half and we got a few scores, but listen, I wouldn’t be unhappy. We had a few chances around the half forward line and got some scores but we also spilled a couple of balls that we normally wouldn’t, I feel like we need a little bit more conviction, and when we get that we’ll be in a good place then.”
For Antrim, their toothless display (only five points from play) left new manager Kevin Ryan wondering where it all went wrong.
“I won’t say we never showed up, but we really didn’t in relation to how we thought we would play.
“We weren’t one bit surprised with Laois. I thought they were very good, in fairness to them, they had a game plan and they stuck to it, and that’s the way we knew they would hurl, and all credit to them.
“Anything I say I don’t want to take from them, but we didn’t turn up today in a lot of areas, particularly in our forward line, we never really threatened.”
Antrim started well, with Shane McNaughton giving them the lead after two minutes with a free. Tommy Fitzgerald’s crucial goal arrived in the sixth minute, when the Portlaoise man cracked home from close range after a jinking run, but Antrim rattled off four points to Laois’s one over the next 10 minutes.
They couldn’t hold onto it though and Laois fought back through Brian Dunne and Zane Keenan to lead 1-6 to 0-7 at half time.
Antrim again started strongly in the second half, with a brace of Neil McManus points following a Stephen Maher free for Laois to leave Antrim just one behind. Laois would score next, however, and they kept themselves just ahead of the Saffrons until the final quarter of an hour.
They pulled clear at that stage, with Zane Keenan even pointing a late penalty to secure Laois’s passage to the next round.
Scorers for Laois: Z Keenan 0-5 (0-1 pen), S Maher 0-4 (2fs), T Fitzgerald 1-1, W Hyland, B Dunne 0-3 each.
Scorers for Antrim: S McNaughton (5fs), N McManus (2fs, 1 65) 0-5 each, P Shiels, C McKinley, J McGreevey 0-1 each.
LAOIS: E Reilly; B Stapleton, B Campion, JA Delaney; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, G Burke; C Healy, J Walsh; S Maher, Z Keenan, B Dunne; J Brophy, W Hyland, T Fitzgerald.
Subs: N Foyle for Maher (blood-sub, 1-6), N Foyle for Brophy (46), B Duggan for Burke (53), C Dunne for Walsh (60), PJ Scully for Fitzgerald (70).
ANTRIM: R McGarry; B McFall, A Graffin, C McKinley; O McFadden, N McAuley, P Shiels; J McGreevey, T McCloskey; N McManus, M Donnelly, E McCloskey; S McNaughton, C Carson, C Clarke.
Subs: KB McShane for McGreevey (b-sub, 30-32), KB McShane for Donnelly (ht), D Hamill for Clarke (ht), R McCloskey for McGreevey (45), S Casey for E McCloskey (56).
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork).