Laois v Antrim, O'Moore Park, Saturday, 7pm
By Micil Glennon
After a turbulent few years in Laois hurling, Seamus Plunkett has delivered some stability and promotion to Division 1B of the NHL, in itself, something to be proud of.
Laois beat Kerry, Derry, Wicklow, Kildare and Westmeath (play-off) in the spring and now welcome the Saffrons to O'Moore Park with the winners getting a shot at either Carlow or London, who play earlier in the day.
Ahead of the game, Plunkett told Midlands 103 Radio: “I think we've probably lost the connection with the supporters over the last couple of years.
“Antrim have been competing at a higher level for the last two years and are a serious team, we've no doubt about the challenge we face...a win would be fantastic for the development of the team.”
"I think we've probably lost the connection with the supporters over the last couple of years" - Seamus Plunkett
The O'Moore County have expressed injury concerns over Zane Keenan and Tommy Fitzgerald but both are named to start.
Last year was an unmitigated disaster for Antrim, culminating in a 32-point qualifier loss to Limerick, dubbed the 'Slaughter on the Shannon'.
But Kevin Ryan and his charges have managed to stop the rot over the last couple of months.
Despite only one win in the League proper, they maintained 1B status with a play-off win over Carlow, who they also beat in Round 4.
They also saw off the challenge of Westmeath, who beat them last year, earlier this month in the preliminary tie to book a place in this tie.
Much depends on sharpshooter Neil McManus, who leads the attack in a side that is unchanged from the win over Westmeath, apart from a vacancy at corner-forward.
With the draw being kind to Ryan, this is a real chance to get three Championship wins.
Had Kilkenny or Galway awaited in the next round, a win here could have felt more like a booby prize, but both sides will see London or Carlow as beatable opponents and that may add to the tempo of this battle.
Laois: Eoin Reilly, Brian Stapleton, Brian Campion, John A Delaney, Cahir Healy, Matthew Whelan, Gearoid Burke, Joe Fitzpatrick, James Walsh; Stephen Maher, Zane Keenan, Willie Hyland, John Brophy, Tommy Fitzgerald, Brian Dunne.
Antrim: R McGarry; B McFall, A Graffin, M McFadden, C McKinley N McAuley J McGreevey, M Donnelly T McCloskey, P Shiels, N McManus, E McCloskey, S McNaughton, C Carson, A.N. Other.
Live television coverage of Cavan v Armagh and Galway v Mayo on The Sunday Game Live from 13:15 on Sunday 19 May on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only).
Live radio coverage of all the day’s action featuring Galway v Mayo from 14:00 on RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ RnaG and RTÉ.ie (Worldwide).
Highlights and analysis of all the weekend’s action on The Sunday Game from 21:30 on Sunday 19 May on RTÉ Two and RTÉ.ie (Ireland only).