Laois 0-20 Antrim 0-16
Laois kept their promotion hopes alive and probably ended Antrim’s by virtue of this hard-fought success in Portlaoise.
Brendan Fennelly’s charges had lost to Carlow in the second round and the Kilkenny man was looking for a positive response to that reverse.
He was pleased with what he saw and even though Antrim came back into the game after a slow start, Laois were worthy victors in the end.
One had to feel for Neil McManus though, as the Antrim sharpshooter contributed a whopping 13 points and still came away with nothing.
A lightning start was the key component of the O’Moores’ win, as they popped over the first six points in the opening 10 minutes.
The highlight was a wonderful effort from the middle of the field by Sean Burke but Brian Dunne’s point from tight on the right sideline about 40m out wasn’t far behind.
McManus drove two frees wide but he did get his side off the mark with a fine point off his left from 60m after 12 minutes, and having found his range followed up with two more frees.
That was to set the tone for an exhibition of free-taking from both Hyland and McManus until Antrim midfielder Karl Stewart ended a run of five scores from placed balls with a good effort from play.
Some wonderful play by Aaron Graffin set up a gilt-edged goal opportunity for Conor Carson but his shot was blocked and Brian Stapleton made a wonderful last ditch clearance from the rebound.
Undeterred, Antrim continued to improve and with McManus bringing his tally for the half to a staggering eight points, they were level at the break on 0-10 apiece.
There was never much between the sides after the resumption, with Hyland and McManus continuing to trade blows. Laois had the benefit of a strengthening wind though and some outstanding strikes from distance by James Walsh and the impressive Chris Murray edged them edged them two points clear.
Eddie McCloskey received a straight red card after an altercation with Burke to make it more difficult for Antrim and Laois were able to see it out from there to the end.
Laois: P Mullaney; JA Delaney, B Campion, B Stapleton; J Fitzgerald, M Whelan 0-1(65), B Galvin; J Walsh 0-1, S Burke 0-1; B Dunne 0-2, W Hyland 0-8(7fs), C Murray 0-4; J Purcell, T Fitzgerald, J Brophy 0-1. Sub: O Holohan for Purcell (ht); N Foyle0-2(1f) for T Fitzgerald (49); E Costelloe for Hyland (60)
Antrim: C O’Connell; N McAuley, C Donnelly, A Graffin; K McKeague, M Herron, J Campbell; K Stewart 0-1, C McFall; N McManus 0-13(10fs, 1 65), E McCloskey, S McCrory 0-1; D Hamill 0-1, C Carson, L Kearns. Subs: S McNaughton for Kearns (50); K Molloy for McKeague (57); T McCann for McCrory (68)
Referee: C Lyons (Cork)