Young keeps Laois up
All-Ireland SHC Relegation final/Laois 1-23 Antrim 1-15: In a preview of this Liam McCarthy Cup relegation final at Páirc Tailteann, Navan, on Saturday, it was suggested that James Young's relevance to Laois hurling couldn't be overstated.
Young certainly came up trumps and 11 points from his midfield position played a huge part in ensuring Laois remain among the big guns in next year's championship.
It was the second time in three weeks for Laois to defeat Antrim and, while eight of Young's scores were from frees, he hit some terrific points including a magnificent effort from over 80 metres.
Antrim have slipped down the hurling ratings at a hectic rate and they looked lethargic at times in this play-off. They only led in the early stages during which the sides were level on four occasions.
Then after 13 minutes Philip Russell netted following a long delivery from Darren Rooney and Laois were generally in control after that. Russell and John Rowney contributed some vital scores to take the pressure off Young.
At the other end goalkeeper Brian Campion, better known as an outfield defender, proved a suitable answer to a net-minding crisis with a couple of important stops. One which got past him was a shot by Patrick Richmond on 22 minutes. That score came after an attempt from a free by Brian McFall was blocked.
With Jim Connolly striking over a brilliant score, Antrim got the deficit down to two points but then four Young shots between the posts, three of them from play, left Laois leading by 1-14 to 1-9 at the break.
Antrim threatened to make a match of it in the last quarter but Liam Tynan shot over three times as Laois again clicked up a gear.
Paudie Butler's side gave a respectable enough account of themselves in the new style championship but an Ulster title success is little consolation to Antrim as they drop down to the Christy Ring Cup.
LAOIS: B Campion; John Walsh, P Cuddy, C Healy; M McEvoy, D Rooney, S Dwyer; James Walsh, J Young (0-11, eight frees); J Rowney (0-3), L Tynan (0-4), T Fitzgerald; P Russell (1-3), M Rooney, D Culleton. Subs: C Clear for James Walsh (40 mins), C Coonan (0-2) for M Rooney (53 mins), E Meagher for Russell (69 mins), C Brophy for Culleton (70 mins).
ANTRIM: D Quinn; M Kettle, G Bell, B Herron; M McCambridge, K McKeegan (0-1), C Herron; C Cunning (0-1), J Connolly (0-3); B McFall (0-5, four frees), C Hamill (0-2), M Scullion; J McIntosh, P Richmond (1-2), B Quinn. Subs: M Herron (0-1) for McIntosh (half-time), L Watson for Hamill (46 mins), J Scullion for Quinn (47 mins), J Campbell for M Scullion (60 mins).
Referee: M Wadding (Waterford).