Antrim 2-18 Laois 0-16

Updated: Wednesday, 06 Aug 2008 02:43

Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton's Antrim are guaranteed their place in the Liam McCarthy Cup next year
Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton's Antrim are guaranteed their place in the Liam McCarthy Cup next year

Goals were the catalyst for this Antrim victory as they ensured their Liam MacCarthy Cup status by beating 14-man Laois in Navan.

The Saffrons began well with a Shane McNaughton goal after 19 seconds, but Laois pressed hard thanks to the efforts of Noel Costello (0-05).

Although the sides were level on three occasions, Antrim led by 1-10 to 0-10 at half-time.

The dismissal of John A Delaney failed to hit Laois badly, but a 62nd-minute Paddy Richmond goal sealed the issue.

Scarcely 150 spectators watched on as the Ulster champions guaranteed themselves a place in next year's All-Ireland championship, with Laois' status now depending on a play-off against the 2008 Christy Ring Cup champions.

Neither side hit top gear in this game, which was dominated by two crucial scores - goals in either half for the Saffrons from Shane McNaughton and Paddy Richmond.

Both McNaughton and Richmond impressed in a full-forward line that bagged a tally of 2-12 over the course of the contest.

Antrim could not have asked for a better start, and aided by a strong wind, they signalled their intent right from the throw-in.

The ball was worked in towards full-forward Richmond, who directed a pass to McNaughton, and the son of joint-manager 'Sambo' McNaughton exposed the Laois defence and slotted home the first goal.

Despite that leaking of an early goal, Laois would not give Antrim an easy game and the O'Moore men cut the gap to the minimum thanks to points from Noel Costello and John Brophy.

But an eager Antrim attack restored their goal lead, after Richmond slotted between the posts.

The sides were level on three occasions over the remainder of a keenly-contested opening half, but McNaughton's goal continued to be difference as the Saffrons took a 1-10 to 0-10 buffer into the second period.

Costello hit five first half points for Laois, with his half-forward colleagues Colin Delaney and Willie Hyland also effective.

Despite Antrim also possessing a strong attack, with five of their six starting forwards on target before the interval, they should have converted a lot more chances in the opening 35 minutes, hitting seven first half wides.

Laois goalkeeper Paddy Mullaney also pulled off some fine saves including a penalty stop from Antrim's net minder Ryan McGarry in the 30th-minute.

Laois were keen to begin the second half on a positive note, but paid dearly for two early missed chances from Costello, who was subsequently replaced by John Rowney.

The Midlanders' opponents hit three points in succession, including a Paul Shiels brace of frees, to open up a 1-13 to 0-10 lead by the 44th-minute.

Niall Rigney's side failed to throw in the towel as an excellent string of points - all from open play - ensured that a goal separated the sides as the game entered the final quarter with Hyland, Colin Delaney and John Brophy all on target.

However, Antrim's full-forward line of McNaughton, Richmond and Paul Shiels continued to impress, and a McNaughton point in injury-time put the icing on the win.

Scorers - Antrim: P Shiels 0-08, 0-08f, S McNaughton 1-03, P Richmond 1-01, K Stewart 0-02, J Campbell, E McCloskey, M Herron, C Duffin 0-01 each. Laois: N Costello 0-05 (0-04f), W Hyland, J Brophy (0-01f) 0-03 each, E Holohan, C Delaney 0-02 each, T Fitzgerald 0-01.

ANTRIM: R McGarry; A Graffin, C Donnelly, M Kettle; C Herron, K McKeegan, J Campbell; E McCloskey, PJ O'Connell; M Herron, K Stewart, P Magill; S McNaughton, P Richmond, P Shiels.

Subs used: C Duffin for O'Connell (41 mins), C McKinley for Herron (66), J McKeague for Magill (70).

LAOIS: P Mullaney; D Maher, B Campion, M McEvoy; J A Delaney, J Phelan, C Coonan; E Holohan, J Walsh; C Delaney, W Hyland, N Costello; N Holmes, T Fitzgerald, J Brophy.

Subs used: E Browne for Walsh (27-29 mins, blood sub), J Rowney for Costello (39), C Dunne for Coonan (56), S Hanlon for Holohan (58).

Referee: Jason O'Mahony (Limerick).