Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Hurling: Mac has the magic touch for Saffrons

Laois 3-12 - Antrim 1-21

Sticking point: Laois' Brian Stapleton and Neil McManus of Antrim battle for possession on Saturday
Sticking point: Laois' Brian Stapleton and Neil McManus of Antrim battle for possession on Saturday

Antrim's 14 men produced a magnificent second half display to outscore Laois and qualify for the next round of the Leinster senior hurling championship at O'Moore Park Portlaoise on Saturday evening.



Led by the outstanding Neil McManus, the Antrim boys made light of the numerical imbalance and outscored Laois by 16 scores to six playing with 14 men for the final 33 minutes of the game after the dismissal of wing back Neil McAuley.

McManus was superb as he landed a massive haul of 10 points as well as directing matters all over the field and time and again setting up opportunities for his colleagues.

Manager Dinny Cahill said: "This team has done an awful lot of work since the first week in January.

"We might not have had a good league but the work that was done showed there today and they proved that they can play at the top level.

"Young players like Chris McGuinness and Conor McCann (four points from play) were getting their first taste of championship action and both were outstanding but they have been trained to step up to this level and they all did so."

Antrim trailed by three points when McAuley was straight red carded five minutes after the break but that harsh decision only served to ignite the players on the pitch and they took the game to Laois and hit 1-16 in the second half.

While Laois had hit five of the first seven scores a goal from Simon McCrory was a significant strike for the visitors and while Laois went on to hit two first half goals it meant that Antrim against the strong wind were just five points in arrears at the break 2-7 to 1-5.

Such was Antrim's dominance in the second half it was hard to believe that they were playing with a man short and they could have even won by a bigger margin. Even when Laois levelled the match with a goal against the run of play with 10 minutes remaining Antrim dug deep, responded brilliantly and hit five of the last seven scores for a three point victory.

Laois: P Mullaney; J A Delaney, B Smith, B Stapleton, J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan (0-2), B Galvin, J Walsh (0-1), S Bourke (0-1), B Dunne, N Costelloe, W Hyland (1-4), O Holohan (1-1), N Foyle (1-1), J Brophy. Subs: C Dunne for Fitzpatrick h-t, W Dunphy (0-2) for Dunne (38), S Dollard for Costelloe (61).

Antrim: C O'Connell; C McGuinness, A Graffin, K Molloy, N McAuley (0-1), M Herron, C Herron (0-1), P Shiels, B McFall, S McCrory (1-0), K Stewart (0-4), J Black, C McCann (0-4), N McManus (0-10), K McKeegan. Subs: M Armstrong (0-1) for Black (43), D Hamill for McKeegan (57), K McGourty for B McFall (67).

Referee: A Kelly (Galway).

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