/ GAA

Laois 0-20 Antrim 0-22

Updated: Sunday, 25 May 2014 22:18 | Comments

Antrim's strong showing in the second-half gave them the victory
Antrim's strong showing in the second-half gave them the victory

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Underdogs Antrim produced a storming second-half to overcome Laois 0-22 to 0-20 and secure a Leinster Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final clash with Wexford next weekend.

The Saffrons looked down and out at one stage in the first-half at O'Moore Park when they trailed by five and lacked a cutting edge.

But a much improved second-half saw them wipe out a four-point interval deficit in just minutes and eventually seal a battling if narrow victory.

It means they preserve their 100 per cent record in the new qualifying series of games and will face Wexford next weekend instead of Galway.

The winners of that quarter-final tie will then play holders Dublin in the semi-finals.

It's a far more attractive proposition than that awaiting Laois now, the round robin runners-up, who must play Galway for a likely shot at Kilkenny in the semi-finals.

Laois will kick themselves for missing a late penalty. There was just four in it when Tommy Fitzgerald won the 63rd minute penalty but goalkeeper Eoin Reilly's shot was blocked on the line.

A draw would have earned Laois top spot in the group and they reduced their arrears to a single point twice late on but couldn't get level.

Both sides made sweeping changes beforehand to the line-ups they'd announced during the week. Laois' full-back line was the only one that wasn't altered with Tom Delaney and Charles Dwyer late additions to defence and attack, forcing a reshuffle.

As for Antrim, they added free-taker Paul Shiels, Conor Johnson and PJ O'Connell to their attack before throw-in.

The trio actually scored all but one of Antrim's first-half tally of eight points.

But Antrim were surprisingly poor early on and Laois should have led by more than just 0-12 to 0-08 at half-time.

Willie Hyland, named at centre-forward but playing on the left wing for Laois, was superb, shooting five first-half points from play.

Laois punished Antrim mistakes too, hitting three in a row at one stage from Stephen Maher (2), and Hyland that all came from opposition errors.

Laois led from their second score in the seventh minute until the 43rd minute. They took a double scores, 0-10 to 0-05 advantage after 27 minutes.

But they failed to capitalise on their momentum and six bad wides meant they only led by four at the break. It would cost them dearly because Antrim restarted with vigour and had the deficit wiped out in just six second-half minutes.

They overwhelmed Laois with their pace, physical conditioning and, crucially, their point scoring ability.

The Saffrons moved three points clear on three different occasions with PJ O'Connell, Aaron Graffin and Conor McCann scoring some stunning points.

That margin separated them with 10 minutes to go as Antrim led 0-19 to 0-16. And the Ulster men just about held on with Paul Shiels top scoring on 0-09.

Antrim: C O'Connell, A Graffin (0-02), C McKinley, Ciaran Johnson, N McManus, N McAuley, O McFadden, S McCrory, E Campbell (0-01), C Carson, P Shiels (0-09, 8f), C McCann (0-03), C Clarke (0-01), Conor Johnson (0-01), PJ O'Connell (0-04).

Subs.: B McFall for McCrory, S McToal for Ciaran Johnson, D Hamill for McFadden, S McAfee (0-01) for Clarke, M Donnelly for Conor Johnson.

Laois: E Reilly, JA Delaney, B Campion, B Stapleton, J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, T Delaney, D Palmer, P Whelan (0-01), C Dwyer, J Purcell, W Hyland (0-05), N Foyle (0-01), T Fitzgerald (0-01), S Maher (0-09, 5f).

Subs.: R King for Fitzgerald (blood), King (0-02) for Purcell, D Maher for Delaney, J Campion (0-01) for Palmer, J Brophy for P Whelan,

Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary).

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