Antrim come from behind to continue winning run

Laois 0-20 Antrim 0-22

Antrim come from behind to continue winning run

Laois 0-20 Antrim 0-22

Antrim will face Wexford in next weekend's Leinster SHC quarter-finals after coming from behind to beat Laois at O'Moore Park.

The Saffron hurlers finished top of the qualifier group thanks to this result which was sewn up by closing points from PJ O'Connell and Conor McCann.

Antrim's 100% record in the qualifier fixtures means they will meet Wexford in the quarter-final double header here in Portlaoise, while runners-up Laois will be Galway's opponents.

In slippery conditions, Laois opened up an early lead against the Glensmen and were 0-12 to 0-8 to the good at the break with Willie Hyland and Stephen Maher scoring 0-5 apiece.

Hyland landed two early scores and Maher slotted a free to move the home side into a 0-3 to 0-2 advantage, with free-taker Paul Shiels responding responding for Antrim.

By the midpoint of the half, Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett's men had opened up a 0-6 to 0-2 lead with the in-form Hyland taking his tally to four points. The Laois defence were also impressing, winning a number of 50-50 contests with late additions Tom Delaney and Charles Dwyer showing well.

Shiels, himself a late inclusion in the Antrim line-up, landed their first point from play in the 21st minute and busy corner back Arron Graffin added his name to the scoresheet soon after.

Laois should really have been further in front at the turnaround, with Antrim goalkeeper Chris O'Connell saving Neil Foyle's goal-bound effort and they accumulated some disappointing wides throughout.

They were also heavily reliant on Antrim mistakes, scoring many of their points from turnovers with Hyland hitting 0-5 (0-4f) during the opening 35 minutes.

Antrim looked a different team on the resumption. They turned the tables by hitting the first six points in the second half to go ahead for the first time - Shiels, McCann, PJ O'Connell, Graffin and Conor Carson all striking cleanly and finding the target.

Laois remained in touch through Maher and substitutes Ross King and Joe Campion, and Tommy Fitzgerald forced a 63rd minute penalty as they trailed by 0-20 to 0-16. However, goalkeeper Eoin Reilly had his shot saved on the line.

The hosts kept battling and cut the gap to two points thanks to Maher's accurate free-taking. He had it down to the minimum in the 67th minute, but white flags from O'Connell and McCann sandwiched a final score from Maher as Antrim advanced as group winners.

LAOIS: E Reilly; JA Delaney, B Campion, B Stapleton; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, T Delaney; D Palmer, P Whelan (0-1); C Dwyer, J Purcell, W Hyland (0-5); N Foyle (0-1), T Fitzgerald (0-1), S Maher (0-9, 0-5f).

Subs used: R King for Fitzgerald (blood sub), King (0-2) for Purcell, D Maher for Delaney, J Campion (0-1) for Palmer, J Brophy for P Whelan.

ANTRIM: C O'Connell; A Graffin (0-2), C McKinley, Ciaran Johnson; N McManus, N McAuley, O McFadden; S McCrory, E Campbell (0-1); C Carson, P Shiels (0-9, 0-8f), C McCann (0-3); C Clarke (0-1), Conor Johnson (0-1), PJ O'Connell (0-4).

Subs used: B McFall for McCrory, S McToal for Ciaran Johnson, D Hamill for McFadden, S McAfee (0-1) for Clarke, M Donnelly for Conor Johnson.

Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)

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