Historic Championship win for Antrim

Laois 3-12 Antrim 1-21

Laois 3-12 Antrim 1-21

Antrim recorded their first ever win in the Leinster Championship by beating hosts Laois at O'Moore Park this evening.

The Saffrons trailed by 2-07 to 1-05 at the interval, with Neil Foyle and Willie Hyland netting Laois's goals while Simon McCrory got Antrim’s goal.

Antrim were reduced to 14 men following a straight red card for Neal McAuley in the 40th minute.

However, the visitors put in a strong performance in the second half with free-taker Neil McManus (0-10) leading their scoring.

Laois were dealt a major blow before the start of this SHC opener as both Brian Campion and Ger Reddin failed fitness tests. Campion was replaced by Brian Smith at full-back, while Noel Costelloe slotted in at centre-forward in place of Reddin.

Antrim were also forced to make a late change - Simon McCrory was added to the Saffrons' attack instead of Shane McNaughton.

Both sides were guilty of missed opportunities in the opening stages, before Laois got off the mark thanks to a fifth minute point from midfielder Sean Bourke.

McCrory's inclusion on the Antrim starting line-up proved to be of worth early on. The St John's clubman planted the ball into the Laois net in the sixth minute for Antrim's opening score.

The goal came after McCrory pounced on a rebounded effort. Conor McCann's initial shot had been saved by Patrick Mullaney in the Laois goal.

Neil McManus extended the visitors' advantage, but Laois cut the deficit to a point by the end of the opening quarter, following scores from James Walsh and Willie Hyland.

Ten wides had been amassed by the 20-minute mark, with Laois accounting for six of them. The O'Moore men increased their accuracy as Hyland and defender Matthew Whelan slotted over pointed frees to give them a 0-05 to 1-01 lead after 23 minutes.

McManus tied the game with Antrim's first score in 15 minutes, however he hosts offered the perfect response s from the resulting puck-out they worked the ball up field for Neil Foyle to grab his goal.

Foyle took a John Brophy pass and rippled the net in the 25th minute. The home side continued to press hard for scores, Hyland almost adding a second goal and Whelan failing to convert the resulting '65'.

McManus and Owen Holohan traded points to leave the score at 1-06 to 1-03 and although McAuley and Karl Stewart replied for the Saffrons, Laois ended the half with a quick 1-01.

Hyland, Laois' scorer-in-chief, smashed a 20-metre free past goalkeeper Chris O'Connell and then tagged on his second point of the game, leaving Antrim five points adrift at half-time.

Nevertheless, Antrim were far hungrier in the second half and showed great determination and skill to register their first Leinster Championship victory in their third year in the province.

The Saffrons outscored Laois by nine points to two in the third quarter as they took a 1-14 to 2-09 lead. Ciaran Herron, McManus and Karl Stewart all impressed with points, with the dismissal of defender McAuley failing to knock them off their stride.

Laois battled back thanks to an Owen Holohan goal 13 minutes from the end, but Antrim had more in the tank. They scored six of the game's final nine points, with corner forward Conor McCann most impressive with three points from play.

Following their success in Portlaoise, Dinny Cahill's men will face Wexford at the quarter-final stage in a fortnight's time.

ANTRIM: C O'Connell; C McGuinness, A Graffin, K Molloy; N McAuley (0-01,0-01f), M Herron, C Herron (0-01); P Shiels, B McFall; S McCrory (1-00), K Stewart (0-04), J Black; C McCann (0-04), N McManus (0-10,0-07f, 0-01 '65'), K McKeegan.

Subs used: M Armstrong (0-01) for Black (43 mins), D Hamill for McKeegan (57), K McGourty for B McFall (67).

LAOIS: P Mullaney; J A Delaney, B Smith, B Stapleton; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan (0-02, 0-02f), B Galvin; J Walsh (0-01), S Bourke (0-01); B Dunne, N Costelloe, W Hyland (1-04, 0-04f); O Holohan (1-01), N Foyle (1-01), J Brophy.

Subs used: C Dunne for Fitzpatrick (half-time), W Dunphy (0-02) for Dunne (38 mins), S Dollard for Costelloe (61).

Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway)

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