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Willie Dunphy scored Laois' second goal against Antrim. 
Willie Dunphy scored Laois' second goal against Antrim. 

McDonagh Cup: Laois impressive victors over Antrim

Joe McDonagh Cup Round 2

LAOIS 2-24 ANTRIM 1-19

By Rory Delaney at O'Moore Park

Laois strengthened their credentials as Joe McDonagh Cup favourites with a well-deserved eight-point win over Antrim in O’Moore Park today.

The O’Moore men turned in an impressive first-half display to leave Antrim chasing the game throughout, and after their win over Offaly, they are now in a strong position to challenge for honours in this year’s competition.

Laois drew first blood with a long-range free from goalkeeper Enda Rowland, and with wind advantage in the first half they started like a team intent on pressing home that advantage. Paddy Burke replied for Antrim but a booming Rowland puckout landed kindly for Paddy Purcell, and the Laois captain swept the ball to the net.

Mark Kavanagh (65) and Cha Dwyer quickly stretched the lead out to five, and already Antrim were wilting under the pressure being exerted by the home side. Neil McManus and Ryan McCambridge tried to stem the growing Laois tide with points, but the home side were relentless.

With ten different scorers in the first half, they attacked Antrim in wave after wave, and Ross King, Kavanagh and John Lennon pushed them further ahead, as they were 1-7 to 0-4 in front after 17 minutes.

Antrim were thrown a lifeline six minutes later when Neil McManus was fouled by Padraig Delaney in the square, but the Antrim man’s penalty was expertly saved by Enda Rowland. To compound matters, Laois hit 1-1 in the next two minutes, with the goal coming from a precise finish by Willie Dunphy.

Antrim rallied late in the half with three points in the closing minutes, but Laois were well in control at the break, leading 2-13 to 0-9.

That advantage was extended in the early stages of the second half, as a run of four unanswered points between the 38th and 43rd minutes tightened their grip on the game.

Antrim kept plugging away, with Neil McManus, Ryan McCambridge and Keelan Molloy tacking on points, before McManus powered a 21-yard free to the net with ten minutes to go. Neal Peden’s men needed to build on that score, but Laois hit back with a Stephen Bergin point and then, with four minutes to go, Antrim’s Ryan McCambridge was sent off after picking up a second yellow card.

That took the sting out of the Antrim comeback, and Laois held on to record back-to-back wins in the Joe McDonagh Cup.

Scorers for Laois: Mark Kavanagh 0-7 (0-4f, 0-2 65s), Cha Dwyer 0-5, Willie Dunphy, Paddy Purcell 1-0 each, Enda Rowland 0-3 (frees), Aaron Dunphy, Jack Kelly 0-2 each, John Lennon, Matthew Whelan, Eric Killeen, Stephen Bergin 0-1 each.

Scorers for Antrim: Neil McManus 1-3 (1-1 frees, 0-1 65), Ryan McCambridge 0-4, James McNaughton 0-3 (all frees) Keelan Molloy 0-3, Eoin O’Neill, Ciaran Clarke, 0-2 each, Paddy Burke, David Kearney 0-1 each.

LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Donncha Hartnett, Matthew Whelan, Joe Phelan; Padraig Delaney, Ryan Mullaney, Lee Cleere; John Lennon, Jack Kelly; Cha Dwyer, Mark Kavanagh, Eanna Lyons; Ross King, Paddy Purcell, Willie Dunphy. Subs: Aaron Dunphy for Lyons (27), Conor Phelan for Lennon (45), Stephen Bergin for Delaney (49), Eoin Gaughan for King (58), Eric Killeen for Cleere (62)

ANTRIM: Ryan Elliott; Stephen Rooney, John Dillon, Phelim Duffin; Paddy Burke, Conor Boyd, Matthew Donnelly; Neil McManus, Nicky McKeague; James McNaughton, Ryan McCambridge, Keelan Molloy; Ciaran Clarke, Conor McCann, Eoin O’Neill. Subs: David Kearney for Donnelly (ht), Nigel Elliott for McKeague (ht), Martin Burke for Dillon (45), Eoghan Campbell for McNaughton (45), Daniel McCloskey for McCann (64)

Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)

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