King in control as Laois secure vital victory against Antrim
Laois 0-27 Antrim 2-16
Laois claimed a crucial victory in NHL Division 1B last night, as they beat Antrim by five points in O'Moore Park.
A brilliant display of free-taking from Ross King was crucial for Laois, as the team captain kept punishing poor Antrim defending to steer his side to glory.
Laois started brightly with Cha Dwyer getting the first score, but four wides in the opening four minutes denied them the chance to build early momentum. Antrim took advantage, and the excellent Neil McManus rattled off four points without reply, two from play and two from frees, to see the visitors lead 0-4 to 0-1 after 12 minutes.
Laois finally atoned for their wasteful start after that, as captain Ross King brought them level with three pointed frees, and then Cha Dwyer put them back ahead. Neil Foyle and King (free) kept Laois on the front foot, with McManus again leading the response for Antrim with another free.
That set up an entertaining first half, with both teams picking off some impressive scores. James Ryan and Ciaran Comerford landed two good scores for Laois, while a brilliant run down the right wing from Nigel Elliott ended with a wonderful point from a tight angle.
The last five minutes of the half belonged to Laois though, and they scored four in a row before Johnny Ryan blew his half-time whistle. All the scores came from frees, with King and goalkeeper Enda Rowland landing two each to see the home side lead 0-13 to 0-8 at the interval.
Laois kept their foot on the throttle when play resumed, with King, Paddy Purcell and James Ryan all pointing to see them lead by double scores, 0-16 to 0-8, in the 42nd minutes.
Antrim needed a response, and sub Eoghan Campbell provided it with a goal, and the Saffron were right back in it. Neil McManus tried to narrow the gap further, but Antrim's indiscipline was repeatedly punished by Ross King, who ended the night with 0-15.
Nigel Elliott's late goal made things interesting, but King guided Laois to a crucial win.
SCORERS - Laois: R King 0-15 (13f, 65), E Rowland (fs), C Dwyer, J Ryan, N Foyle 0-2 each, M Kavanagh, P Purcell, C Comerford, S Downey 0-1 each.
Antrim: N McManus 0-11 (9f), E Campbell, N Elliott 1-1 each, C Johnston, N McAuley, M Connolly 0-1 each.
LAOIS: E Rowland; D Hartnett, L Bergin, L Cleere; P Lawlor, M Whelan, E Killeen; J Ryan, P Purcell; B Conroy, C Dwyer, W Dunphy; R King, N Foyle, C Comerford. Subs: J Phelan for Killeen (50), M Kavanagh for Comerford (54 mins), S Downey for Foyle (58 mins), C Taylor for Conroy (62 mins), J Kelly for Dunphy (65 mins)
ANTRIM: C O'Connell; A Graffin, J Dillon, P Burke; R McCambridge, N McAuley, D Kearney; J Maskey, C McKinley; N Elliott, N McManus, D McKinley; J McNaughton, C McCann, C Johnston. Subs: E Campbell for McCann (ht), C Carson for McNaughton (43), S Rooney for Kearney (45 mins), G Walsh for Maskey (47 mins), M Connelly for McKinley (47 mins)
Referee: J Murphy (Limerick)