McManus scoring spree fails to save Antrim

Allianz National Hurling League Division 2

Laois 0-20

Antrim 0-16

ANTRIM hurlers fell to their second successive defeat in Division 2 of the National Hurling League on Saturday when they were beaten by 0-20 to 0-16 by Laois at O’Moore Park.

As in their last outing against Clare a poor start left the Saffrons with too much ground to make up and despite a magnificent scoring performance by right-half-forward Neill McManus they came up short in the end by four points.

Some poor finishing in the early stages of the game saw Antrim fall 0-6 to 0-0 behind after eleven minutes, though when McManus opened their account in the twelfth minute they began to gain the upper hand. A terrific display by the big Cushendall man hauled Antrim right back into contention and with some great scores from frees and play, and a lovely solo effort from corner-forward Darren Hamill, they battled back to draw level on ten points apiece at the break.

Things looked promising for the visitors as the second-half resumed, but again Laois were quicker out of the traps and they soon opened up a three point gap as centre-forward Willie Hyland, like McManus, showed great accuracy from frees.

Antrim’s cause became even more difficult when centre-forward Eddie McCloskey, playing in the county colours for the first time this season, received a straight red card in what can only be described as a disgraceful decision. McCloskey won possession about fifty metres from the Laois goal but as he went to fend off a tackle by Laois midfielder Sean Bourke he appeared to connect with Burke’s helmet. At worst it deserved a yellow card, and even that was highly debatable, but to everyone’s amazement match referee Colm Lyons produced a straight red.

The decision may not have had a direct bearing on the overall outcome of the game, for in truth Laois were deserving winners, but it was a bad blow to a young man who certainly is not a dirty hurler.

Antrim did battle on, but they could never find the opening for the goal they needed to save the game, and Laois hit a late insurance point in injury time to get their promotion hopes back on track.

Overall a flat performance from Antrim who will need to show a marked improvement if they are to get the better of Carlow in next Sunday’s game at Casement Park. At the back Chris O’Connell and Cormac Donnelly, Neil McAuley and Johnny Campbell played well while up front McManus was the undoubted star, though Darren Hamill caused the Laois defence a lot of problems and Conor Carson was unlucky with a goal attempt in the first half.

Antrim – Chris O’Connell, Neil McAuley, Cormac Donnelly, Arran Graffin, Kevin McKeague, Michael Herron, Johnny Campbell (capt), Karl Stewart, Colm McFall, Neill McManus, Eddie McCloskey, Simon McCrory, Darren Hamill, Conor Carson, Liam Kearns.

Subs – Shane McNaughton for Liam Kearns; Kevin Molloy for Kevin McKeague; Thomas MCann for Simon McCrory.

Referee – Colm Lyons (Cork).