All-Ireland Football qualifier: Laois 1-16 2-15 Antrim

Owen Gallagher celebrates with Paddy McBride after Antrim's sensational win
Antrim were big underdogs going into Saturday's Football qualifier at Portlaoise

Antrim fought back from nine points down to clinch a remarkable win over Laois in the All-Ireland SFC qualifier.

Paul Kingston's goal helped Laois lead 1-7 to 0-1 after 22 minutes and they remained 1-9 to 0-5 ahead at the break.

Chris Kerr's penalty save to deny Ross Munnelly kept Antrim's hopes alive before the superb Ryan Murray's goal cut the margin to a point.

Laois moved four ahead again but Antrim fought back and Dermot McAleese's 68th-minute goal put the Saffrons ahead.

That was the first time Antrim led in the game and Paddy McBride's point in the first minute of injury-time sealed the Saffrons victory.

The win was all the more momentous given the upheaval in the team before the throw-in as manager Frank Fitzsimons dropped the McGourty brothers CJ and Kieran and Conor Burke after they lined out for St Gall's in a club hurling game on Friday night.

After his team's triumph, Fitzsimons insisted that the St Gall's trio remain part of his squad's plans but that he could not pick them after they had played on Friday night.

"The next day we go out, they will probably be on. You wouldn't know. They are part of the plans," said Fitzsimons.

However, it's difficult to see how Fitzsimons will be able to find starting places for the trio given the way Antrim finished Saturday's match.

Antrim's Owen Gallagher attempts to get away from John O'Loughlin
Owen Gallagher's switch to full-forward helped turn the match in Antrim's favour

Fitzsimons's decision to move Owen Gallagher into full-forward at half-time helped change the course of match with substitute Jack Dowling also making a huge impression at midfield following his introduction.

Gallagher's target-man role gave vital support to the outstanding Ryan Murray in the Antrim attack.

Justin Crozier also produced a superb performance in the Antrim full-back line as he managed to curb Donie Kingston to a sufficient extent - particularly during the second half - while goalkeeper Kerr's penalty stop was one of only three vital goal-saving interventions during the contest.

Division-Two Laois looked set to rout the Division-Four Saffrons when Paul Kingston strode through the Antrim defence unchallenged to finish to the net to extend the home team's lead to 1-7 to 0-1 by the 22nd minute.

Murray had an immediate goal chance at the other end but saw his point-blank shot tipped over by Graham Brody and Laois still looked in firm control at 1-9 to 0-5 ahead at the break.

Munnelly had the chance to put the game to bed four minutes into the second half but his well-struck penalty was brilliantly saved by Kerr, a minute after the Antrim keeper had successfully pointed a free at the other end.

Boosted by the escape, Antrim responded with an unanswered 1-4 with Murray's cool low finish suddenly leaving only one point between the teams.

Laois appeared back in control as four more Donie Kingston points extended their advantage to 1-16 to 1-12 with eight minutes left.

The game could have been out of sight by that stage as Kerr had made another brilliant save to tip a goal-bound Evan O'Connell shot over the bar.

With Laois looking nervously for the finishing line, points from Benny Hasson and the brave Michael Pollock cut the margin to only two with three minutes of normal time left.

A Pollock wide looked to have ended Antrim's chances but incredibly the Laois defence then opened up for substitute McAleese to fire past Broady to put the Saffrons ahead for the first time in the game.

Laois did work the ball into Antrim's territory as they desperately chased an equaliser but the Saffrons defence held their discipline and a turnover resulted in McBride firing over the clinching score.

All-Ireland Football Qualifiers results

London 0-11 2-22 Cavan

Laois 1-16 2-15 Antrim

Waterford 1-07 1-20 Offaly

Longford 2-15 1-08 Carlow

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