Allianz Hurling League Division One, Group B
Antrim 2-23 Laois 1-22
ANTRIM secured fourth place in Group B of the Allianz Hurling League Division One as they fended off a Laois revival to secure a four-point win.
Late goals from Eoghan Campbell and Niall McCormack either side of a PJ Scully major for Laois finally settled the argument as the O'Moore County had gotten to within two on a couple of occasions having trailed by nine at one stage.
Both sides made changes from last week with Seaan Elliott and Aodhán O'Brien earning their first starts of the season and Elliott took his chance well with five excellent scores and O'Brien also was on target from wing-back.
Laois made a host of switches to the listed team as Lee Cleere, Ryan Mullaney, Eanna Lyons, James Keyes and Wille Dunphy all started.
This game was something of a slow burner with the excitement levels rising in something of a frantic finish, but Antrim just seemed to always find the answers on the day as they recorded their first win over Laois since 2015.
With the breeze at their backs, Antrim began well with Conal Cunning pointing a free within the opening minute and added another from play with Eoin O'Neill and Aodhán O'Brien also scoring from deep.
Laois took a little while to get into the game and shot a couple of their 11 first-half wides - 17 overall to Antrim's 14 - before Jack Kelly got them off the mark 10 minutes in.
Ross King landed a free and Ryan Mullaney added one from play for the Midlanders, but they were starting to put more shots outside the posts than between with Antrim opening a 0-7 to 0-3 lead at the water break with the pick of the scores coming from Niall McKenna who turned the ball over and scored.
The hosts pushed on in the second quarter with Paddy Burke, Seaan Elliott and a Cunning free increasing the lead with a Paddy Purcell effort Laois's sole response.
The wides were stacking up for both teams at this stage, but Antrim were that bit better with McKenna, Elliott and Eoghan Campbell pointing to move them nine clear, although Laois did end the half well with the final three points through Ciaran Collier, Jack Kelly and an Enda Rowland free to leave it 0-13 to 0-7 at the break.
Laois picked up where they left off as they hit five of the first six points after he break to get to within two after 45 minutes, but had their goalkeeper Enda Rowland to thank as he produced a stunning save from Cunning.
The hosts responded well with Cunning landing a brace and his Dunloy club-mate Elliott adding another before an exchange of points from Stephen Maher deep on the right and Ciaran Clarke left Antrim 0-18 to 0-13 ahead at the water break.
It was still very much all to play for in the final quarter with Willie Dunphy and Jack Kelly landing points either side of two from Elliott and after another exchange of scores, Aaron Dunphy and Maher split to posts to bring the gap down to three.
However, the opening goal of the game would arrive at the other end of the field on 66 minutes as McCormack put his Cushendall club-mate Campbell through and he made no mistake, firing low to the net.
Laois rallied and after PJ Scully pointed a free, he was then picked out by Paddy Purcell after a strong run to bury to the net to leave two in it again.
Antrim almost cancelled this out immediately as Conal Bohill saw a rasping shot crack the post with the sides again trading points before the hosts finally settled the argument with Cunning pointing a sideline and then McCormack lashing to the net in stoppage time as Peter McCallin hobbled off with all of the substitutions already made.
Laois had the final say with Aaron Dunphy pointing and PJ Scully seeing his 20-metre free clear the bar, but this was not enough as Antrim took the win.
ANTRIM: R Elliott; D McMullan, G Walsh, S Rooney; R McGarry, P Burke (0-1), A O'Brien (0-1); E Campbell (1-1) M Bradley; N McKenna (0-2), Conor Johnston, E O'Neill (0-2); D McCloskey, C Cunning (0-9, 3 frees, 1 65, 1 sideline), S Elliott (0-5).
Subs: P McCallin for Conor Johnston (HT), M Donnelly for G Walsh (41), C Clarke (0-2) for D McCloskey (43), Ciaran Johnston for M Bradley (55), N McCormack (1-0) for E O'Neill (55), R McCambridge for A O'Brien (65), C Bohill for N McKenna (65).
LAOIS: E Rowland; D Conway, S Downey, L Cleere; R Mullaney (0-1), C McEvoy, S Maher (0-2); J Kelly (0-5), P Purcell (0-3); E Lyons, J Keyes, C Collier (0-1); W Dunphy (0-2), R King (0-3, 2 frees), C Dwyer.
Subs: J Lennon for E Lyons (HT), C Phelan for J Lennon (52), D Hartnett for D Conway (55), A Dunphy (0-2) for C Collier (59), PJ Scully (1-3, 0-3 frees) for W Dunphy (59), J Ryan for J Keyes (68), M Whelan for LCleere (68).
REFEREE: John Keenan (Wicklow)