Antrim produce shock comeback to stun Laois on their own turf
Frank Fitzsimons pulled off the shock of the weekend as Antrim toppled Laois in dramatic circumstances in this SFC Qualifier at O’Moore Park.
Eight points in arrears early in the second half, the visitors fired 1-3 unanswered in the closing eight minutes, including a goal from substitute Dermot McAleese to ensure a place in Monday’s Round 2 qualifier draw.
Antrim boss Fitzsimons had 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 to make the victory even more remarkable.
Laois led by 1-9 to 0-5 at half-time, with Paul Kingston netting their goal, and worked hard to hang onto a four-point lead with 15 minutes remaining, after Ryan Murray netted for Antrim.
However, the visitors worked hard for an impressive win, with McAleese netting a 68th minute goal, while Laois midfielder Brendan Quigley saw red in injury-time.
Speaking on Saturday Sport on RTE Radio One, Fitzsimons said: "The boys just dug in deep and were absolutely fantastic in the second half.
"At half-time we walked in and spoke to the boys and told them that we had to step up or get on the bus and go home and to be fair every last one of them stepped up in the second half.
"It's a fantastic results for us."
On the omission of the St Gall's trio, he added: "We've a panel of 30 and to be fair to the rest of the panel I had to pick fresh player and thankfully for us, it worked out."
Antrim registered seven wides in the opening 20 minutes, with Laois holding a 1-7 to 0-1 advantage after 24 minutes, with Paul Kingston netting their goal, after an Evan O’Carroll delivery.
Antrim custodian Chris Kerr and his Laois counterpart Graham Brody saw plenty of action on the restart, with both making fine saves.
The Saffrons grew in confidence scoring 1-4 unanswered between the 42nd and 46th minutes to cut the gap to the minimum, including a Ryan Murray goal.
The sides traded scores, with Laois holding a 1-16 to 1-12 lead after 60 minutes, following Donal Kingston’s seventh points.
But Antrim fired 1-3 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)