Friday 24 January 2020

Laois overpower Saffrons

Laois 1-16 Antrim 0-13 Leinster SHC

James Walsh of Laois is tackled by Antrim’s Neil McManus
James Walsh of Laois is tackled by Antrim’s Neil McManus

Declan Rooney

Zane Keenan and Willie Hyland destroyed Antrim to send Laois into a quarter-final clash against Carlow.

Antrim were hoping to put Leinster championship wins back-to-back for the first time in their history, but they never got to grips with a passionate display from the home side.

Keenan hit five points for the O'Moore County, but three each from Hyland and Brian Dunne gave Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett's side a deserved victory.

It has been two years since Antrim beat Laois to pick up their first ever win in the Leinster Championship, but Kevin Ryan has built a much different outfit to the one that took the field that day, with just five players starting both games.

With eight of last night's Laois side featuring that day, it was expected their greater experience would come to the fore, and that proved to be the case when Tommy Fitzgerald struck the first telling blow in the sixth minute. He was quickest to the break after a booming delivery in on top of Aaron Graffin and gave Ryan McGarry no chance with a super finish to the net.

Shane McNaughton had put Antrim in front after three minutes however and, after points from play by Jackson McGreevy and Neil McManus, McNaughton added a brace of frees to give Antrim a 0-5 to 1-1 lead by the 20th minute.

Laois, who have won three Leinster hurling titles in their history, but none for 64 years, looked hungry to build on their early enterprise and soon pulled ahead with a couple of well-worked scores from Stephen Maher and Brian Dunne.

Despite making his Laois debut seven years ago Keenan's starring roles have been few and far between due to injury and emigration, but the powerful centre-forward showed the O'Moore Park crowd his talents with an excellent point in the 31st minute which helped Laois to a 1-6 to 0-7 lead at half-time.

Antrim skipper Neil McManus hit 2-4 in their opening round win over Westmeath, and he was needed once again by the Saffrons when they fell three points behind after the restart when Maher hit his third point of the game.

McManus hit a free and a '65' to put a point between the sides, but with Keenan becoming an influential force in the game Laois hit three points without reply to move four points to the good by the 47th minute.

Antrim looked in trouble midway through the half but McManus' accuracy from frees and a couple of quick points from Conor McKinley and Paul Shiels brought them back to a two-point deficit by the 55th minute.

However, scores seemed easier to come by for Laois following Shiels' point, Willie Hyland replying immediately after fielding Eoin Reilly's puck-out, and they never looked back. In the closing stages Keenan was able to drive a penalty over the bar such was their utter dominance throughout.

Scorers – Laois: Z Keenan 0-5 (0-1 pen), T Fitzgerald 1-1, S Maher 0-4 (2f), W Hyland, B Dunne 0-3 each. Antrim: S McNaughton 0-5f, N McManus 0-5 (2f, 1 '65'), J McGreevy, P Shiels, C McKinley 0-1 each.

Antrim: R McGarry; C McKinley, A Graffin, B McFall; O McFadden, N McAuley, P Shiels; J McGreevey, T McCloskey; N McManus, M Donnelly, E McCloskey; C Clark, C Carson, S McNaughton. Subs: K B McShane for McGreevey (30-32 blood), D Hammill for Clarke (h-t), K B McShane for Donnelly (h-t), R McCloskey for McGreevey (45), S Casey for E McCloskey (57).

Laois: E Reilly; B Stapleton, B Campion, J A Delaney; J Fitzpatrick, C Healy, G Burke; J Walsh, M Whelan; B Dunne, S Maher, Z Keenan; T Fitzgerald, W Hyland, J Brophy. Subs: N Foyle for Maher (2-3 blood), N Foyle for Brophy (46), B Duggan for Burke (53), C Dunne for Walsh (61).

Referee: C Lyons (Cork)

Irish Independent

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