McDonagh Cup: Vital victory for Laois
Joe McDonagh Cup
LAOIS 1-20 ANTRIM 1-19
By David Mohan in Dunloy
Laois kept their hopes of a top two finish in the Joe McDonagh Cup live as they edged past Antrim by the minimum in Dunloy.
The visitors were full value for their win even though they were hanging on a little in the end having lost Lee Cleere to a red card in the 64th minute for a foul on Nigel Elliott, but they still managed to see the game out to grab their first points of the competition.
Antrim, aided by a strong wind made the brighter start, but their shooting way wayward and this was to prove the theme of the opening half as they hit 11 wides.
Conor Johnston did give them a third minute lead, but Ross King was to open his account at the other end from a free soon after.
The hosts his the next three in a row through Neil McManus (two) and Donal McKinley, but Laois began to get on top and they edged ahead thanks to scores from King (two), Willie Dunphy and Patrick Purcell who gathered a puck-out low and galloped upfield to score.
The sides were locked at 0-6 on 23 minutes, but Antrim were making too many basic errors with their first touch and decision making letting them down. Laois capitalised with four points in a row and they really should have had a goal on 27 minutes when King played in Dunphy who missed the target from close range.
Antrim were hanging on a little, but a McManus free kept the sides in touch before he cancelled out a Ben Conroy score on the stroke of half-time to leave Antrim trailing 0-11 to 0-8 at the break.
Whatever was said in the Antrim dressing room at the break had the desired effect as they came out with much more energy and a trio of long-range McManus frees into the teeth of the wind tied the game on 40 minutes.
It was now Laois who were struggling with their shooting a little, but they were to benefit from a Ciaran Comerford shot that came back off the post on 41 minutes and dropped to Dunphy who whipped the sliotar high into the top right corner of the net to reestablish a three-point lead.
Antrim stuck to their task and stayed in the hunt, getting back to one point on five occasions, but could get no closer.
They hit some good scores with McManus tapping over the frees, while Conor Johnston and Conor McCann landed points having been set-up by substitute, Ciaran Clarke. King kept tapping over frees at the other end and Conroy with a quickfire brace to leave 1-19 to 0-17 ahead entering stoppage time.
It appeared the game was safe for the O'Moore man when substitute, Aidan Corby fired over a great score from out on the right in stoppage time, but Antrim weren't done yet and a long Conor McCann delivery was well taken down by Clarke who found a yard of space to fire into the bottom right corner of the net.
Antrim now had belief and they tried to work a second, match-winning goal, but James McNaughton elected to tap over with a minute of added time remaining.
However, they couldn't work the ball into a shooting position as Laois held firm and breathed life into their McDonagh Cup campaign.
Scorers for Laois: Ross King 0-11 (10 frees), Ben Conroy 0-4, Willie Dunphy 1-1, Patrick Purcell 0-2, Cha Dwyer 0-1, Aidan Corby 0-1.
Scorers for Antrim: Neil McManus 0-11 (9 fs, 1 65), Conor Johnston 0-3, Ciaran Clarke 1-0, Eddie McCloskey 0-1, Nigel Elliott 0-1, James McNaughton 0-1, Donal McKinley 0-1, Conor McCann 0-1.
LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Joe Phelan, Matthew Whelan, Lee Cleere; Colm Stapleton, James Ryan, Ryan Mullaney; Paddy Purcell, Cian Taylor; Cha Dwyer, Ben Conroy, Ciaran Comerford; Ross King, Neil Foyle, Willie Dunphy.
Subs: Stephen Maher for Cian Taylor (57), Jake Creagh for Ryan Mullaney (61), Patrick McKane for Willie Dunphy (66), Aidan Corby for Neil Foyle (70), Eanna Lyons for Cha Dwyer (70+1). Blood sub: Eric Killeen for Joe Phelan (8, reversed 16).
ANTRIM: Ryan Elliott; Stephen Rooney, John Dillon, Arron Graffin; Paddy Burke, Conor McKinley, Ryan McCambridge; Eddie McCloskey, Simon McCrory; Nigel Elliott, Conor Johnston, Neil McManus; Donal McKinley, Conor Carson, Dan McCloskey.
Subs: James McNaughton for Ryan McCambridge (26), Conor McCann for Dan McCloskey (26), Neal McAuley for Stephen Rooney (45), Ciaran Clarke for Donal McKinley (49).
REFEREE: Justin Heffernan (Wexford).