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Heroic Laois repel Antrim comeback to claim first win of 2021 and progress to All-Ireland Qualifiers

Photo: Paul Dargan

Laois 2-27 Antrim 2-21
All-Ireland Hurling Qualifier Preliminary Round

Laois are through to the first round proper of the All-Ireland Qualifiers following a dramatic victory over Antrim in Parnell Park this afternoon.

Cheddar Plunkett’s men had lost every game they played this year but two Paddy Purcell goals, one in either half, proved crucial as they pulled off a great win.

They had to play for the final 20 minutes of the game with 14 men and see an 11 point lead almost evaporate but they managed to hold on.

They will now play either Cork, Waterford or Clare next weekend while Antrim are back to Joe McDonagh Cup level for 2022.

Laois played with the breeze in the first half and unlike in all of the games this year, they actually made a really good start.

Podge Delaney, Paddy Purcell, Ciaran McEvoy and Ross King had them four points to one up after six minutes.

Antrim recovered through a brace from Ciaran Clarke but Laois stepped on the gas once again and scored seven of the next eight points.

Podge Delaney, Ross King and PJ Scully were all on the scoreboard as they took a 0-11 to 0-4 lead at the water break.

It was more of the same on the resumption as although Conal Cunning, Neil McManus and James McNaughton found the target for Antrim, Laois kept scoring.

Willie Dunphy, Jack Kelly and Ciaran Collier joined the scoreboard and then Paddy Purcell scored an absolute bullet of a goal to give Laois a 1-17 to 0-10 lead at half time.

PJ Scully began the second half with an excellent sideline cut and although McNaughton replied for Antrim, a Fiachra C-Fennell score left Laois 11 ahead after 40 minutes.

But the next ten minutes saw the game completely turn on its head and Antrim came roaring back.

Antrim sub Eoghan O’Neill scored their first goal and shortly after a Sean Downey foul on Conor Johnston resulted in a penalty for Antrim and a sin bin for Downey.

Enda Rowland saved the penalty from Neil McManus but Laois were now down to 14 for ten minutes – and that became 13 men a few minutes later when Ross King was sent off for a second yellow card.

Eoghan O’Neill then got his second goal when he got to a loose ball before Enda Rowland and the gap was two at the second water break – Laois 1-21 Antrim 2-16.

The water break actually seemed to kill Antrim’s momentum and with Downey now restored and Laois back to 14, they composed themselves once again.

Jack Kelly fired over two more points while PJ Scully and Willie Dunphy also scored before Laois’s second goal came to Paddy Purcell after he pounced on a poor Antrim clearance to score.

All of a sudden, Laois were now eight points up again and we had ten minutes to play. Enda Rowland was also crucial in this stage as he made two point blank saves to keep Antrim out.

Antrim kept going though and cut the gap to five with 65 minutes on the clock via Neil McManus and Keelan Molloy among the scorers.

Antrim went in search of goals but a Cha Dwyer point from way out the field made it a six point lead as we headed for injury time.

And there would be no more scores as Laois held on.

SCORERS – Laois: PJ Scully 0-9 (eight frees, two sideline cuts), Paddy Purcell 2-2, Podge Delaney 0-3, Ross King 0-2, Willie Dunphy 0-3, Jack Kelly 0-4, Ciaran Collier 0-1, Ciaran McEvoy 0-1, Fiachra C-Fennell 0-1, Cha Dwyer 0-1 Antrim: Ciaran Clarke 0-8 (seven frees, one 65), Eoghan O’Neill 2-0, Keelan Molloy 0-3, Neil McManus 0-4, Conal Cunning 0-2, James McNaughton 0-2 (one free), Conor Johnston 0-1, Sean Elliott 0-1

LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Donnchadh Hartnett, Sen Downey, Lee Cleere; Podge Delaney, Ciaran McEvoy, Ryan Mullaney; Jack Kelly, Fiachra C-Fennell; Ciaran Collier, Cha Dwyer, Jack Kelly; Willie Dunphy, Ross King, PJ Scully. Subs: James Ryan for Mullaney (50), Eanna Lyons for Collier (57), James Keyes for Purcell (65), Aaron Dunphy for W Dunphy (72), Ciaran Comerford for Dwyer (75)

ANTRIM: Ryan Elliott; Eamon McMullan, Gerard Walsh, Stephen Rooney; Eoghan Campbell, Paddy Burke, Aodhan O’Brien; Keelan Molloy, Ciarán Johnson; Neil McManus, Michael Bradley, James McNaughton; Conor Johnston, Conal Cunning, Ciaran Clarke. Subs: Eoghan O’Neill for

Referee: Sean Cleere (Kilkenny)

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. From Laois, Steven studied Journalism in DCU and has 14 years experience in the media, almost 10 of those in an editorial role. Husband of Emily, father of William and Lillian, he's happiest when he's telling stories or kicking a point.