Hurling League Division 1B: Antrim beaten in relegation play-off

Conor Johnson in action against Laois in last year's Leinster Championship
Conor Johnson is named in the Antrim team for Saturday's Division 1B Hurling League relegation play-off against Laois

Antrim hurlers will have to beat the Division 2A winners to retain their Division 1B status after Laois hit two late goals to beat the Saffrons in Saturday's play-off at Portlaoise.

Zane Keenan and Ross King hit the late goals after Antrim had fought back from six down to level with on 65 minutes.

Laois led 0-13 to 1-6 at half-time with Ciaran Clarke netting Antrim's goal.

Despite Ryan McCambridge's straight red card, Antrim drew level after five straight points.

However Laois kicked on firing 2-2 without reply, as Antrim now face a promotion/relegation battle with either Westmeath or Kerry in a fortnight.

Antrim moved into 0-02 to 0-01 lead with Conor Carson and Paul Shiels on target but three Cha Dwyer points helped Laois fight back to move 0-7 to 0-3 ahead after 15 minutes.

However a mix-up between Enda Rowland and Conor Dunne in the Laois defence, Clarke snuck the ball to the net to cut the gap to the minimum at the end of the first quarter.

However, Zane Keenan's free-taking accuracy helped Laois move into a 0-13 to 1-06 by half-time.

Laois pushed six points clear by the 40th minute with scores from Scully and Campion from play, but could have been further ahead.

In between these scores, Tommy Fitzgerald set up King for a goal shot, but the Rathdowney/Errill clubman had his effort blocked by keeper Chrissy O'Connell.

Antrim could have dipped their heads after McCambridge's straight red card, after referee David Hughes consulted with his linesman Paud O'Dwyer before dismissing the Cushendall man.

However, Kevin Ryan's charges responded well with Odhran McFadden, Clarke and Shiels helping to cut the gap to the minimum, as the final quarter approached.

Keenan landed his sixth pointed free but points from Clarke and substitute Daniel McKernan helped Antrim level by the 65th minute.

However, the O'Moore County dug deep with two cracking goals from Keenan and King inside a minute to put Laois on the road to victory.

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