Saturday will see Antrim and Kerry meet for the third time this sesaon, and if results go the right way they could meet again in the final in Croke Park on December 13th. Here are the reports of their two meetings to date in 2020
Allianz National Hurling League Division 2 final
Antrim 2-23 Kerry 2-20
Saturday October 18
Saffrons see off Kerry to secure Division One status
Report by John Curly McIlwaine
Antrim won the Division 2 Hurling League title, and with it a place in Division 1b next season, when they beat Kerry by 2-23 to 2-20 in Sunday’s final in Tullamore. The Saffrons appeared to be cruising when they lead by five points midway through the second half, but a bad mistake by goalkeeper Ryan Elliott let a long free from his own half by Kerry sharpshooter Shane Conway drop into the net and it was game-on once more. When Conway cut the gap to single point two minutes later it was squeaky bum time for the Saffron followers watching on GAAgo, but those nerves were settled a minute later when corner forward James McNaughton scored a brilliant goal at the other end. McNaughton and his fellow corner forward Conal ‘Coby’ Cunning were to share the man of the match accolades, Cunning absolutely brilliant in the opening half and McNaughton taking up the reigns in the second.
The Saffrons led by a point at half time, and were good value for it, their goal coming from team captain Conor McCann, after great work by substitute Dohmnal Nugent on 28 minutes. They started the second half strongly and pulled five clear but couldn’t push on as a dogged Kerry side battled hard. It was tough and uncompromising at times as they held off the Kerry challenge but McNaughton’s brilliant goal settled the nerves and they sealed the win with three to spare.
Antrim started well and Conal Cunning had them ahead in the second minute, but two points inside thirty seconds from dangerman Shane Conway had the kingdom in front by the fourth. Joe Maskey brought the Saffron level but two more from Conway, in reply to one from Niall McKenna kept the Kingdon ahead, but three great points in a row from Coby Cunning (2) and Niall McKenna put them two clear….
Antrim: Ryan Elliott, Phelim Duffin, Matthew Donnelly, Stephen Rooney, Gerard Walsh, Paddy Burke, Joe Maskey, Eoghan Campbell, Keelan Molloy, Niall McKenna, Neil McManus, Michael Bradley, Conal Cunning, Conor McCann, James McNaughton
Subs –Domhnall Nugent for Neil McManus (4), Ciaran Clarke for Keelan Molloy (42), Aodhán O’Brien for Niall McKenna (55), Dan McCloskey for Michael Bradley (61), Ciaran Johnston for D Nugent (66). Blood sub: Eoin O’Neill for Ciaran Clarke (70+4, not reversed).
Scorers: Conal Cunning 0-10 (0-7f), James McNaughton 1-5 (0-2f), Conor McCann 1-1, Niall McKenna 0-3, Paddy Burke 0-1, Joe Maskey 0-1, Michael Bradley 0-1, Domhnall Nugent 0-1.
Kerry: Martin Stackpool, James O’Connor, Bryan Murphy, Tómas O’Connor, Conor O’Keefe, Jason Diggins, Fionnan Mackessy, Brendan O’Leary, Shane Nolan, Shane Conway, Michael O’Leary, Michael Leane, John Buckley, Mickey Boyle, Brandon Barrett.
Subs: Eric Leane for Conor O’Keefe (27), Colum Harty for John Buckley (52), Michael Slattery for Brendan O’Leary (59), Dan Goggin for Brandon Barrett (62).
Scorers: Shane Conway 1-14 (1-9f, 0-2 65s), Mikey Boyle 1-1, Michael Leane 0-3, Michael O’Leary 0-1, Shane Nolan 0-1.
Allianz Hurling League – Division 2a
Antrim 2-20 Kerry 2-14 – Sunday March 1
Antrim Rose to the Occasion in Tralee
Brendan McTaggart reports from Austin Stack Park, Tralee
Antrim made it four from four on Sunday afternoon in the Kingdom and all but sealed their place in the division final. A victory that was more comfortable than the final score line suggested and as convincing as the healthy Saffron support in Austin Stack Park would have hoped for.
It was another slick display by Darren Gleeson’s men who had 11 different scorers over the 70 minutes while 2-16 of their tally came from play. Neil McManus (0-5) and Niall McKenna (1-2) top scored for the Saffrons and while there were massive performances all over the field, Keelan Molloy was once again exceptional. Three points from play in a hugely impressive display, the Kingdom struggled to curtail his influence on the game.
Six points was the margin of victory by the final whistle with the home side scoring a second goal in injury time but it did little to take the gloss off what was a good afternoons work for the Saffrons.
After a nip and tuck opening quarter, Antrim hit seven unanswered points in the space of nine first half minutes to take control. Neil McManus (two), James McNaughton, Domhnall Nugent, Dan McCloskey, Keelan Molloy and Paddy Burke all raising the white flag to open a six point lead by the 30th minute.
The Saffrons charge was briefly charged halted when Kerry scored the opening goal of the game. Conor McAlister spilling the sliotar and Jordan Conway punished the error to leave Antrim ahead 0-12 to 1-6 at the short whistle.
The half time score flattered the home side and it was a blow for the Saffrons to concede the soft goal but all thoughts of Conway’s major were gone just two minutes after the restart. McManus sending the sliotar forward and Nugent claiming collecting 30 yards out. The St John’s man held off two Kerry defenders and fired beyond Martin Stackpoole in the Kingdom’s goals.
The home side showed glimpses of eating into the Antrim lead with Jordan Conway dangerous and Michael Leane scoring from distance but Antrim always looked in control. Anytime Kerry came to within three points, Antrim met the challenge and when Conor McCann scored their second goal, it all but sealed the two points. The Antrim captain came away from a ruck and when one on one with Stackpoole, there was only going to be one winner….
Antrim: Conor McAlister; Phelim Duffin, Matthew Donnelly, Stephen Rooney; Gerard Walsh, Paddy Burke, Joe Maskey; Keelan Molloy, Eoghan Campbell; Michael Bradley, Neil McManus, James McNaughton; Domhnall Nugent, Niall McKenna, Dan McCloskey
Subs: Conor McCann for J McNaughton (45); Conor Johnston for D McCloskey (58); Conal Cunning for M Bradley (64); Aodhan O’Brien for G Walsh (64); Ciaran Johnston for P Duffin (68)
Scorers: Neil McManus 0-5 (3 f’s 1 ’65); Domhnall Nugent 1-2; Niall McKenna 0-3; Conor McCann 1-00; Keelan Molloy 0-3; James McNaughton 0-2; Paddy Burke 0-1; Eoghan Campbell 0-1; Dan McCloskey 0-1; Michael Bradley 0-1; Conal Cunning 0-1
Kerry: Martin Stackpoole; Eric Leen, Bryan Murphy, James O’Connor; Sean Weir, Mickey Boyle, Jason Diggins; Fionan Mackessy, Padraig Boyle; Michael O’Leary, Michael Leane, Jordan Conway; Shane Nolan, Michael Slattery, Brandon Barrett
Subs: Conor O’Keeffe for J O’Connor (44); Dan Goggin for S Nolan (60); Colum Harty for M Slattery (69)
Scorers: Padraig Boyle 0-6 (4 f’s); Jordan Conway 1-2; Mickey Boyle 1-1; Michael Leane 0-2; Brandon Barrett 0-1; Shane Nolan 0-1; Michael Slattery 0-1
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork)