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Antrim win would mean the joy of Wexford

BY John Campbell

Paul Shiels has been shouldering the lion's share of the scoring burden for Antrim in their bid to reach the concluding stages of the Leinster Hurling Championship.

And the shooting star will again have a front-stage role on Sunday when the Saffrons take on Laois in the last of the round robin series – a match that is of crucial importance to them.

Victory would earn Antrim a quarter-final meeting with Wexford, the team that only managed to beat them by a point in their recent league meeting.

On the other hand, if Kevin Ryan's team were to finish second in the round robin table then they would meet Galway – a rather more intimidating prospect.

But manager Ryan is not looking beyond Sunday, preferring to dwell on the challenge that Laois will offer rather than worry about possible future opponents.

"While we are very happy to have beaten Westmeath, Carlow and London we certainly have no cause for complacency," points out Ryan.

"There are areas of our game that we have been working on and we would be keen to see an improvement."

While Antrim boast a reasonable record against Laois, Ryan is aware that the midland outfit can prove sticky opponents.

"They are very resilient, they play fast, direct hurling and they can take their scores," comments Ryan.

Antrim's work-rate and cohesion has been impressive to date but Ryan is anxious that they should now maintain their concentration for the entire game.

Skipper Neil McManus can continue to show splendid leadership, Neal McAuley underpins the defence along with Aaron Graffin and both PJ O'Connell and Ciaran Clarke carry a big threat in attack.

McManus said: "Kevin has shown courage by going for youth and sticking with it. All the players are very keen to show Antrim in the best possible light and this game against Laois is the perfect opportunity to do this."

Belfast Telegraph

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