Eddie Brennan's Laois hurlers are a step closer to reaching the Joe McDonagh Cup final after defeating Antrim at O'Moore Park on Saturday afternoon. 

A strong first half was crucial for Laois as they built up a lead that they could maintain in the second half to see out a very important win.

Keeper Enda Rowland was Laois's main man as he hit three long range frees and saved a first half penalty - which proved crucial.

Laois had the breeze in the opening half and they used very well - scoring two goals to take a ten point lead by half time.

Paddy Purcell got their first goal in the opening ten minutes after a long puck-out from Enda Rowland was fielded by the captain on the edge of the square.

Laois were very dominant in the opening period with Mark Kavanagh, Cha Dwyer, Jack Kelly and keeper Rowland all getting in on the scoring act. A second goal from Willie Dunphy after Neil McManus had missed a penalty meant  Laois led 2-13 to 0-9 at the break. 

Aaron Dunphy and Rowland extended the hosts' lead on the resumption of play and although McCambridge responded for Antrim, Laois went 12 clear with a Kavanagh free.

McManus and Keelan Molloy (2) hit back for Antrim but Rowland's third put 11 between them as we entered the closing 20 minutes.

Ryan McCambridge and Ciaran Clarke pointed for Antrim but Mark Kavanagh's sixth point left it 2-19 to 0-15 after 55 minutes.

Cha Dwyer and Stephen Bergin extended the lead but an Antrim goal after 60 minutes from a Neil McManus from a 21 metre free made things closer for the final stages.

But any chance Antrim had evaporated five minutes from the end when Ryan McCambridge was shown a second yellow card.

Laois saw out the win and now sit safely at the top of the table before their next game against Kerry in three weeks.

Laois: Enda Rowland (0-03); Donnacha Hartnett, Matthew Whelan (0-01), Joe Phelan; Padraig Delaney, Ryan Mullaney, Lee Cleere; John Lennon (0-01), Jack Kelly (0-02); Cha Dwyer (0-05), Willie Dunphy (1-00), Paddy Purcell (1-00); Mark Kavanagh (0-07); Eanna Lyons, Ross King (0-01).

Subs: Aaron Dunphy (0-02) for Lyons (26), Conor Phelan (0-01) for Lennon (45), Stephen Bergin (0-01) for Delaney (48), Eoin Gaughan for King (58), Eric Killeen for Cleere (63)

Antrim:Ryan Elliott; Stephen Rooney, John Dillon, Phelim Duffin; Paddy Burke (0-01), Conor Boyd, Matthew Donnelly; Neil McManus, (1-03) Nicky McKeague; James McNaughton (0-03) , Ryan McCambridge (0-04), Keelan Molloy (0-03); Ciaran Clarke (0-02) , Conor McCann, Eoin O'Neill (0-02).

Subs: David Kearney (0-01) for Donnelly and Nigel Elliott for McKeague (both ht)

Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)