Antrim fended off the Laois surge to finish their Allianz Hurling League campaign with a victory at Corrigan Park to secure fourth place in Group B.

The Saffrons led by nine at one stage in the first half, but the visitors responded well and got to within two on a couple of occasions although no closer as Antrim found the answers when it mattered in a frantic finish.

Goals from Cushendall pair Eoghan Campbell and Niall McCormack late in the game arrived either side of a PJ Scully major for the Midlanders who travelled north knowing they were already condemned to a relegation playoff, but the victory will be a boost for Antrim who scored their first win over the O'Moore County since 2015.

With the breeze at their backs, Antrim began well with Conal Cunning pointing a free within the opening minute and added another from play with Eoin O'Neill and Aodhán O'Brien also scoring from deep.

Laois took a little while to get into the game and shot a couple of their 11 first-half wides - 17 overall to Antrim's 14 - before Jack Kelly got them off the mark 10 minutes in.

Ross King landed a free and Ryan Mullaney added one from play for the Midlanders, but they were starting to put more shots outside the posts than between with Antrim opening a 0-07 to 0-03 lead at the water break with the pick of the scores coming from Niall McKenna who turned the ball over and scored.

The hosts pushed on in the second quarter with Paddy Burke, Seaan Elliott and a Cunning free increasing the lead with a Paddy Purcell effort Laois's sole response.

The wides were stacking up for both teams at this stage, but Antrim were that bit better with McKenna, Elliott and Eoghan Campbell pointing to move them nine clear, although Laois did end the half well with the final three points through Ciaran Collier, Jack Kelly and an Enda Rowland free to leave it 0-13 to 0-07 at the break.

Laois picked up where they left off as they hit five of the first six points after he break to get to within two after 45 minutes, but had their goalkeeper Enda Rowland to thank as he produced a stunning save from Cunning.

The hosts responded well with Cunning landing a brace and his Dunloy club-mate Elliott adding another before an exchange of points from Stephen Maher deep on the right and Ciaran Clarke left Antrim 0-18 to 0-13 ahead at the water break.

It was still very much all to play for in the final quarter with Willie Dunphy and Jack Kelly landing points either side of two from Elliott and after another exchange of scores, Aaron Dunphy and Maher split to posts to bring the gap down to three.

However, the opening goal of the game would arrive at the other end of the field on 66 minutes as McCormack put his Cushendall club-mate Campbell through and he made no mistake, firing low to the net.

Laois rallied and after PJ Scully pointed a free, he was then picked out by Paddy Purcell after a strong run to bury to the net to leave two in it again.

Antrim almost cancelled this out immediately as Conal Bohill saw a rasping shot crack the post with the sides again trading points before the hosts finally settled the argument with Cunning pointing a sideline and then McCormack lashing to the net in stoppage time as Peter McCallin hobbled off with all of the substitutions already made.

Laois had the final saw with Aaron Dunphy pointing and PJ Scully seeing his 20-metre free clear the bar, but this was not enough as Antrim took the win.

Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Damon McMullan, Gerard Walsh, Stephen Rooney; Eoghan Campbell (1-01), Paddy Burke (0-01), Aodhán O'Brien (0-01); Ryan McGarry, Michael Bradley; Niall McKenna (0-02), Conor Johnston, Eoin O'Neill (0-02); Dan McCloskey, Conal Cunning (0-09, 3f), Seaan Elliott (0-05).

Subs: Peter McCallin for Conor Johnston (HT), Matthew Donnelloy for Gerard Walsh (41), Ciaran Clarke (0-02) for Dan McCloskey (43), Ciaran Johnston for Michael Bradley (55), Niall McCormack (1-00) for Eoin O'Neill (55), Ryan McCambridge for Aodhán O'Brien (65), Conal Bohill for Niall McKenna (65).

Laois: Enda Rowland; Lee Cleere, Sean Downey, Donnachadh Hartnett; Ryan Mullaney (0-01), Ciaran McEvoy, Stephen Maher (0-02); Jack Kelly (0-05), Paddy Purcell (0-03); Eanna Lyons, James Keyes, Ciaran Collier (0-01); Willie Dunphy (0-02), Ross King (0-03, 2f), Cha Dwyer.

Subs: John Lennon for Eanna Lyons (HT), Conor Phelan for John Lennon (52), Donnchadh Hartnett for Diarmuid Conway (55), Aaron Dunphy (0-02) for Ciaran Collier (59), PJ Scully (1-03, 3f) for Willie Dunphy (59), James Ryan for James Keyes (68), Matthew Whelan for Lee Cleere (68).

Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)