Leinster GAA Senior Hurling Championship – Round 3
Antrim 3-20 Kilkenny 5-31
Sunday 7 May
Brendan McTaggart reports from Corrigan Park, Belfast
Antrim suffered a 17 point defeat to Kilkenny on Sunday afternoon at a sun kissed Corrigan Park. The Cats purred through the gears from an early stage and had Antrim on the back foot with early goals Martin Keoghan and TJ Reid. Between them, the two Kilkenny stars would score all five of the Cats goals, Keoghan with a first half hat-trick while Reid finished top scorer with 2-10 for his 70 minutes work.
The damage was done in the first half with Derek Lyng’s side ahead by 18 points at the short whistle but Antrim did show much better in the second half. Conal Cunning top scored for the Saffrons with eight points, seven from placed ball while the Antrim majors came from Keelan Molloy, Conor Johnston and Neil McManus.
After a sluggish start where TJ Reid and Keoghan both found the back of Ryan Elliott’s net inside four minutes, Antrim rallied and Keelan Molloy’s major brought Antrim to within three points of the visitors inside the opening 10 minutes but that was as good as it got.
Kilkenny were simply irresistible in the opening 35 minutes where they won next to everything in the middle of the pitch. Antrim struggled to win either puck out and Kilkenny reaped rewards. The movement in their forward six had the Antrim defence pulled asunder with Billy Ryan in particular causing major problems.
In a 15 minute period, Ryan Elliott denied Kilkenny outscored Antrim 0-11 to 0-3 to open an 11 point lead with five minutes of the first half remaining but just like the opening five minutes, the Saffrons were dealt a double blow in the time that remained in the first half. Keoghan’s second was simplicity but spellbinding. Murphy’s puck out to Ryan who was in acres of space and drew the attention of the Antrim defence. He passed to Keoghan and despite Elliott narrowing the angle, Keoghan fired the sliotar to the back of the net. His third major followed with the next attack, the visitors cutting out a short puck-out and Keoghan took advantage to penalise fully.
4-16 to 1-7 made sorry reading on the scoreboard for the big Antrim support in Corrigan at half time. The lack of competitiveness in the middle third was frustrating with Kilkenny’s ability to win primary and secondary possession was suffocating the Antrim challenge. Darren Gleeson seemed to keep the home side in the changing rooms for what felt like an age at half time, you get the feeling there was some soul searching going on but Antrim did come out with a renewed vigour for the restart. Playing more direct ball in top of McManus on the edge of the square, Antrim scored their second goal just two minutes after the restart. Ryan McGarry’s long delivery caught well by Conor Johnston and he had the half yard he needed to get his shot away.
A brace of scores from David Blanchfield and Tom Phelan was the Kilkenny response before Antrim hit back again. A Conal Cunning free preceded a Neil McManus goal in the 42nd minute. Another long ball, this time from Conal Bohill was superbly caught by McManus and after a tussle with Huw Lawlor, he got his shot away to give Eoin Murphy no chance.
A trio of scores from Keelan Molloy, McManus and Gerard Walsh made it 1-4 without reply for the Saffrons as Antrim reduced the Kilkenny lead to 10 points after 11 minutes of the second half.
Kilkenny came to grips with the change in the Antrim tact and kept them scoreless for 10 minutes while scoring seven points unanswered.
The visitors showed their strength in depth with Padraig Walsh, Cillian Buckley, Walter Walsh and Richie Hogan all coming off the bench in the closing stages and their challenge showed no signs of diluting.
Their fifth major came with two minutes of normal time remaining, TJ Reid initially fluffing his lines but pulled on the sliotar while many would have picked the ball into their hand. It caught Elliott off-guard and the ball ended up in the back of the net.
Antrim finished the game well with James McNaughton (two), Niall McKenna, Cunning and Paul Boyle all finding their range to take Antrim’s tally to 3-20 but the Cat’s were on a different level on the day.
Antrim’s next game gets no easier when they travel to Salthill in two week’s time to face a Henry Shefflin inspired Galway. The extra week break will do no harm as they assess their wounded from the opening three matches. Neil McManus had to come off injured and would be a huge loss going into those last two games while Eoghan Campbell, Seaan and Nigel Elliott were also missing from Sundays starting 15.
Mullingar and a ‘cup final’ meeting with Westmeath looms but next up is the small matter of Galway at Salthill in two weeks time.
Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Niall O’Connor, Ryan McGarry, Paddy Burke; Gerard Walsh, Michael Bradley, Conal Bohill; James McNaughton, Paul Boyle; Keelan Molloy, Conal Cunning, Niall McKenna; Conor Johnston, Neil McManus, Rian McMullan
Subs: Stephen Rooney for M Bradley (35); Domhnall Nugent for N McManus (53); Eoin O’Neill for R McMullan (53); Caolan McKernan for G Walsh (58); Seamie McAuley for K Molloy (64)
Scorers: C Cunning 0-8 (6fs 1’65); K Molloy 1-2; N McKenna 0-4; N McManus 1-1; C Johnston 1-00; J McNaughton 0-2; P Boyle 0-2; G Walsh 0-1
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy; Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; David Blanchfield, Richie Reid, Darragh Corcoran; Adrian Mullen, Alan Murphy; Tom Phelan, John Donnelly, Billy Ryan; Martin Keoghan, TJ Reid, Eoin Cody
Subs: Padraig Walsh for T Walsh (43); Cillian Buckley for A Murphy (49); Walter Walsh for T Phelan (54); Richie Hogan for A Mullen (61)
Scorers: TJ Reid 2-10 (6fs 2’65s); M Keoghan 3-2; B Ryan 0-4; E Cody 0-3; A Mullen 0-2; A Murphy 0-2; W Walsh 0-2; E Murphy 0-1 (1f); T Walsh 0-1; D Blanchfield 0-1; R Reid 0-1; T Phelan 0-1; C Buckley 0-1
Referee: Shane Hynes (Galway)