It was far from an All-Ireland final victory but Laois supporters were overjoyed at the full-time whistle of this All-Ireland SHC first round qualifier, as Liam McCarthy status was secured for 2010 thanks to a three-point dismissal of Antrim.

Willie Hyland bagged seven points for the hosts as Laois gained revenge for last year's qualifier loss to the same opposition.

Niall Rigney's charges showed great hunger and determination throughout this closely fought encounter, which saw the sides level on five occasions in the opening half, including at the interval.

Laois manager Niall Rigney made two changes to his attack before the throw-in.

Portlaoise's Tommy Fitzgerald started at full-forward in place of John Rowney, with John Brophy taking the left-corner forward berth at the expense of John Purcell.

Both Fitzgerald and Brophy had solid games throughout and of course the clinical Hyland, but Laois also impressed in defence where half-back Michael McEvoy was singled out by Antrim joint-manager Dominic McKinley afterwards as having an excellent game.

Laois drew first blood thanks to points from John Brophy and James Walsh in the opening seven minutes, but a trio of Antrim scores – including two from the ever-alert Karl McKeegan – ensured the Saffrons led by 0-03 to 0-02 after 16 minutes.

The sides were traded points on three further occasions before half-time, with Laois looking most dangerous, as both midfielders Colin Delaney and Walsh added scores.

Defender Brian Campion also chipped in from placed balls, with the sides tied at 0-06 apiece at the break.

The game notably stepped up a gear in the second half, with Willie Hyland missing a 37th minute penalty after a foul on Fitzgerald.

McKeegan and James Walsh swapped points before Laois edged in front after another Campion effort.

Raising the tempo, Antrim hit back with the game's only goal. Neil McManus slotted the ball to the net from a 43rd minute penalty, to push his side into a 1-07 to 0-08.

However, tellingly, Laois outscored the visitors by nine points to two over the next 19 minutes to take a 0-17 to 1-09 lead and effectively confirm their progress in the qualifiers.

Substitute Michael Herron (0-02) and Paddy Richmond added late points for Antrim, but the damage was done and Laois march on.