The Laois hurlers kept their Joe McDonagh Cup hopes alive in Dunloy in Antrim on Saturday as they beat the home side to record a first win in the Tier 2 competition.
Having lost to Westmeath and Kerry in their opening two games, another loss would have had Laois out of contention to reach the final and in serious danger of automatic relegation to the Christy Ring Cup.
But the hard-fought narrow victory – their third over Antrim this season following two in the league – means that if they beat Carlow in their next game on Saturday, June 2, then they will have a chance of finishing in the top two if the beat Meath in their final game.
Speaking to Antrim reporter Brendan McTaggart after the game, Laois boss Eamonn Kelly said that the two recent losses meant “it was my worst two weeks in hurling, to be honest”.
“These fellas are very genuine, they are training very, very well but we just weren’t getting the results, it wasn’t transferring from the training field to the match, so I’m delighted for them today.”
“I don’t think it’s a case of turning a corner, it gets us back in a winning formula.
“We hadn’t won a game since we were up here the last time. We knew to beat Antrim twice was huge and to beat them a third time was going to be phenomenal, particularly when they were going well.”
Kelly acknowledged that they still need to win a couple of games to avoid relegation – but is a fan of the new competition format despite criticisms that it leaves counties like Laois away from the top table and not able to compete in the Leinster championship.
“Listen, it gets us back in a winning formula, we still need another win or two or we could be in relegation, other than that we’re depending on other results, and that’s the way it is at the minute.”
“Yeah, I said that on a number of occasions, and I think it’s a fantastic competition.
“Every game is competitive and you will see teams beating each other and it’s an opportunity for whoever gets to the final to play on the big stage, and that’s what these teams want. I think it is a very fair competition.”
ROUND 4 – Saturday, June 2
Laois v Carlow in O’Moore Park at 3pm
Westmeath v Antrim in TEG Cusack Park at 3pm
Meath v Kerry in Pairc Tailteann at 3pm
ROUND 5 – Saturday, June 9
Meath v Laois in Pairc Tailteann at 3pm
Antrim v Kerry in Dunloy at 3pm
Carlow v Westmeath in Netwatch Cullen Park at 3pm