Injury-time Clarke penalty gives Saffrons the edge over Laois in thriller
Antrim 5-17 Laois 3-22
Antrim's hurlers edged a thrilling one-point win over Laois in the Leinster SHC round-robin series at the Ballycastle yesterday. The Saffrons had one point to spare after an injury-time penalty was blasted into to the net by Ciaran Clarke.
Antrim got off to a bright start and led by 1-2 to 0-1 after eight minutes. Paul Shiels put the home side into the lead with a free in the opening seconds, with Ross King restoring parity. The game's first goal arrived on four minutes when McManus picked out the bottom corner of Enda Rowland's net, and Conor Johnston piled on the pressure with a fine effort.
Laois got a foothold in the game with two Zane Keenan frees, and Paddy Whelan's superb effort from play left three between the sides on 10 minutes. Then came Antrim's second major, Johnston getting the faintest of touches to McManus's sideline cut.
On the quarter-hour mark, Laois reduced the deficit to a single point when Keenan converted from the penalty spot, and on 21 minutes the sides were all-square at 2-3 to 1-6. The visitors were into the lead for the first time when Tommy Fitzgerald bundled the ball over the Antrim line.
On the half-hour mark, Laois were five to the good, 2-8 to 2-3, with Keenan's first from play splitting the posts, and with the sides sharing the next 10 points, the O'Moore men held the same advantage at the break, 2-13 to 2-8, the impressive Neal McAuley and Ross King with the pick of the scores.
Laois extended their lead after the restart through Ross King, but Antrim were back in the mix on 43 minutes when a superb Johnston goal cut the gap to three, 3-10 to 2-16, and Antrim were back in front when Clarke struck for their fourth goal.
With five to go, the game remained in the melting pot, but when Ben Conroy's miss-hit effort looped over the outstretched stick of O'Connell, Laois held a 3-22 to 4-16 lead and looked to have sealed victory.
Clarke brought his tally to 1-7 for the day to cut the gap to two points, and the McQuillans player capped a superb performance at his home pitch by converting a last-minute penalty to seal a memorable win for Antrim.
Scorers - Antrim: C Clarke 2-7 (0-6fs, 1-0 pen), C Johnston 2-1, N McManus 1-2, P Shiels 0-3 (2fs), N McAuley, M Bradley, E Campbell, D Murphy 0-1 each. Laois: Z Keenan 1-9 (0-7fs, 1-0 pen), T Fitzgerald 1-1, B Conroy 1-0, PJ Scully, R King, W Hyland 0-3 each, P Purcell, P Whelan, C Dwyer 0-1 each.
Antrim: C O'Connell; R McCambridge, N McAuley, A Graffin; S McCrory, C McKinley, J Dillon; N McManus, M Bradley; M Dudley, P Shiels, E Campbell; C Clarke, D McClean, C Johnston.
Subs: C Carson for D McClean (ht), D Murphy for M Dudley (ht), T O Ciarain (52) for E Campbell
Laois: E Rowland; J Walsh, C Healy, B Stapleton; J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan, C Dunne; Z Keenan, P Purcell; PJ Scully, P Whelan, C Dwyer; R King, W Hyland, T Fitzgerald. Subs: B Conroy for R King (56), J Campion for W Hyland (61), D Palmer for PJ Scully (70)
Ref - P O'Dwyer (Carlow)