Laois 1-16 Antrim 2-15

Antrim worked the oracle to come away with a first ever SFC win over Laois at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise in their All-Ireland Qualifier Round 1A clash.

Eight points in arrears, a minute into the second half, Frank Fitzsimons men dug deep, with Michael Pollock (0-05), Ryan Murray (1-04) and Dermot McAleese (1-00) impressive.

Laois led by 1-09 to 0-05 at half-time with Paul Kingston netting their goal, and worked hard to hang onto a four-point lead with 15 minutes remaining after Murray netted for Antrim.

However, the visitors went to record an impressive win, with McAleese netting a 68th minute goal while Laois midfielder Brendan Quigley saw red in injury-time.

Laois showed two changes from their replay loss to Kildare, with Gearoid Hanrahan coming in for Robbie Kehoe in defence, while Paul Kingston replaced Tom Shiel, with the Stradbally clubman going to America midweek.

Antrim manager Frank Fitzsimons welded the axe before throw-in, with Connor Burke, and McGourty brothers Conor and Kieran benched, after playing for their club St Galls in an Antrim Senior Hurling league match on Friday night.

The Saffrons showed great hunger early on, but struggled in front of the posts and registered five wides inside the opening 10 minutes, including efforts from Conor Murray and Owen Gallagher.

The sides were level at 0-01 apiece at this stage, with Donie Kingston and Michael Pollock trading scores.

Laois kicked on to move 1-07 to 0-01 ahead after 24 minutes, with Donie Kingston netting a 23rd minute goal after a delivery from Evan O’Carroll who won possession from the kick-out.

Antrim kept in touch with scores from Ryan Murray and Michael Pollock, but were left with a lot of work to do to topple Laois on the restart.

The O’Moore’s extended their lead to eight points a little over a minute into the second half thanks to a second point from half-back Darren Strong.

Indeed, both sides’ defences featured strongly in their respective attacks in the opening eight minutes of the second half, particularly the goalkeepers.

Antrim custodian Chris Kerr slotted a 38th minute free over the cross-bar before denying Ross Munnelly from the penalty spot with a one-handed save, after Brendan Quigley was dragged back by Niall Delargy.

Niall Donoher pointed from the rebound, while at the opposite end Laois goalkeeper Graham Brody blocked a Ryan Murray goal shot, but Kerr failed to convert the resulting 45-metre free.

However, the Saffrons were eager not to be on the wrong end of a drubbing, scoring 1-04 unanswered between the 42nd and 46th minutes to cut the gap to the minimum.

Ryan Murray, Owen Gallagher and Pollock added points, before brothers Conor and Ryan Murray combined for the latter to finish past Brody and ensure a 1-11 to 1-10 scoreline.

Donal Kingston pointed his first free of the day to bring his tally to four points, with Laois’s first score in nine minutes.

But Antrim were growing in confidence, with Patrick McBride cancelling out this effort, as the St John’s clubman fired a superb score.

Donie Kingston pointed from play to restore a two-point lead for Laois, before Kerr drove a free wide for Antrim.

Evan O’Carroll and Kingston kept Laois on top, but Antrim fired 1-03 without reply in the closing eight minutes, including McAleese’s goal, with Ryan Murray, Tony Scullion and Justin Crozier also involved, before the Roger Casements clubman fired past Brody.

Laois’s woes were heightened late on by Quigley’s dismissal, as the 'Green Glens of Antrim' rang around O’Moore Park, at the full-time whistle.

Antrim: C Kerr (0-01, 1f); N Delargy, J Crozier, D Lynch; P McAleer, J Laverty, T Scullion; O Gallagher (0-01), B Hasson (0-01); M Sweeney, C Murray (0-01), M Armstrong; P McBride (0-02), R Murray (1-04), M Pollock (0-05, 4f).

Subs: D McAleese (1-00) for McAleer (29); J Dowling for Armstrong (HT); R McGrady for Gallagher (64).

Laois: G Brody; D O’Connor, M Timmons, S Attride; D Strong (0-02), G Hanrahan, C Begley; B Quigley, J O’Loughlin (0-01); N Donoher (0-01), C Boyle, E O’Carroll (0-01); R Munnelly (0-04, 2f), D Kingston (0-07, 1f), P Kingston (1-00).

Subs: R Kehoe for Attride (48); B Sheehan for O’Carroll (62); C Meredith for Munnelly (63); J Finn for P Kingston (68).

Referee: Derek O’Mahony (Tipperary).