McManus hits Laois hard to push Antrim over the line
Neil McManus was the star of the show in Rathdowney as he helped Antrim to an extra-time win over Laois to book a place in the Walsh Shield final.
The Antrim sharpshooter scored 0-11 to leave Laois manager Seamus Plunkett still waiting for his first win.
He will have been encouraged overall by the display here, but in the end McManus was the difference between the teams as he repeatedly came up with scores when Antrim needed them. The game was played in some awful conditions, with a shower of hailstones before the game certainly not helping matters.
Laois enjoyed wind advantage in the first half, and led by two points at half-time thanks to efforts from Tommy Fitzgerald and Stephen Maher.
That lead was stretched out to five early in the second half, but Antrim fought back well and had taken the lead with a little over 15 minutes to play. Laois steadied the ship, though, and by the end of normal time there could be no separating the teams, with the scores tied at 0-15 apiece.
Extra-time ensued, and Laois drew first blood with a '65' from Matthew Whelan. McManus replied within minutes, and then added another free just before the changeover to give Antrim the lead.
Both teams could manage only one further point in the final 10 minutes of play, and that was enough for Antrim to escape with a narrow victory.
SCORERS – Antrim: N McManus 0-11 (9f), N McCauley (f), P Shiels, M Donnelly, P Doherty (f), K McKiernan, D Hammill, K Barry McShane 0-1 each. Laois: S Maher 0-6 (4f), T Fitzgerald 0-3, M Whelan 0-2 (1 '65'), B Conroy, PJ Scully, W Hyland (sl), B Dunne, S Burke, J Brophy 0-1 each.
ANTRIM – R McGarry; A Graffan, C Carson, B McFall; S McCrory, N McAuley, C McKinley; P Shiels, M Donnelly; S Beattie, P Doherty, S McNaughton; K McKiernan, C McFall, N McManus. Subs: KB McShane for McKiernan (ht), D Hammill for Beattie (h-t), C Laverty for C McFall (46), D McClean for McNaughton (68), C Morgan for Hammill (80), N Peoples for McClean (80).
LAOIS – P Carroll; B Campion, D Maher, B Stapleton; JA Delaney, M Whelan, G Burke; C Dunne, B Dunne; S Maher, A Collier, S Bourke; PJ Scully, T Fitzgerald, J Brophy. Subs: B Conroy for Bourke (51), W Hyland for Collier (60), E Reilly for Carroll (70), W Young for Burke (76), O Carroll for Stapleton (83)
Ref – G Quilty (Kilkenny)