Antrim’s bid for a place in the Joe McDonagh Cup final came up short in Dunloy today as the Saffrons failed to produce the heroics of last week’s win over Offaly while going down to a very good Westmeath side. The home side were flat from the start and could not reproduce the form of the previous week and it was clear from the start that Westmeath had their homework done and executed their game plan perfectly as they closed down danger man Neill McManus. They were up for the fight from the start and in a stop-start game free taker Killian Doyle gave an exhibition, ending up with 17 points to his name, eleven of them from placed balls. The free taking of McManus was also faultless with the Cushendall man accounting for the bulk of the Antrim scores with 13 points. In their previous games in the competion the Saffrons forwards scored some great goals, but this time around the never really threatened Conor Lynch in the Westmeath goal. Things went from bad to worse for Antrim in the second half as they lost both Matthew Donnelly and David Kearney to second yellow cards, but in truth there was little to suggest that either player warranted red.
had started promisingly enough and were ahead twice in the early minutes
through Neill McManus frees, but Doyle had an answer on each occasion and two
quick scores from the centre forward in the eight minute had the visitors 0-4
to 0-2 clear. Keelan Molly pointed for Antrim to close the gap to a single
point but Westmeath were soon back in charge as Doyle popped over two more from
frees. McManus kept Antrim in touch with his faultless free taking but at the
first half entered its final stages the men from the Lake County got a firm
grip on the game as they pulled clear to lead by six at half time. (0-9 to
the opening half had been short of scores from play the start of the second
half heralded a different pattern and it was tit for tat for a short while.
James McNaughton got in for an excellent score but the forwards could never
quite get going against an excellent Westmeath defence. Two from Joey Boyle and
one from Cormac Boyle in reply to two from McManus frees edged the Leinster men
further ahead and it was clear Antrim would need something special to get back
into the game. A long range point from a McManus free and one from play by
McNaughton a minute later temporarily raised spirits as it closed the gap to
six, but the momentum was soon killed again as Westmeath got two points from
slim chance got a lot slimmer when Matthew Donnelly was shown a second yellow
card after a foul on Robbie Greville. In truth it appeared harsh and when David
Kearney followed suit soon afterwards the hill they had to climb was now a
thirteen men kept battling to the end and substitute Eoin O’Neill hit an injury
time point to cut the gap back to seven but man of the match Doyle wrapped it
up for the visitors with a cracking solo score to steer his team home with
Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin, John
Dillon, Stephen Rooney; Matthew Donnelly, Paddy Burke (0-1), Joe Maskey; David
Kearney, Nicky McKeague (0-1, 0-1 “65”); Neil McManus (0-13, 0-12f,
0-1 “65”), Ryan McCambridge, Keelan Molloy (0-1); Ciaran Clarke,
Nigel Elliott (0-1), James McNaughton (0-3).
Subs: Eoghan Campbell for Duffin (28), Conor
Boyd for Joe Maskey (46), Daniel McCloskey for McCambridge (51), Eoin O’Neill
(0-1) for Elliott (58), James O’Connell for Clarke (68).
Westmeath: Conor Lynch; Darragh Egerton, Gary
Greville; Liam Varley, Aonghus Clarke, Paul Greville (0-1); Shane Clavin,
John Gilligan; Cormac Boyle (0-2), Killian Doyle (0-17, 0-9f, 0-2
“65”), Joey Boyle (0-1); Robbie Greville (0-3), Derek McNicholas
(0-1) Allan Devine (0-1).
Subs: Ciaran Doyle (0-2) for McNicholas (46),
Darragh Clinton (0-1) for Devine (68), Shane McGovern for C Boyle (69), Conor
Shaw for J Boyle (70 + 5).
Antrim have one eye on Croker but Saturday brings
familiar foes to Pearse Park
Joe McDonagh Cup – Round 4 – Saturday June 5 @ 2pm
Antrim v Westmeath @ Pearse Park, Dunloy
Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow)
By Brendan McTaggart
They say third times a charm, or third time lucky. Antrim will certainly be hoping so on
Saturday afternoon. The Saffrons host
Westmeath at Pearse Park as they face each other for the third time in 2019 and
after the Keogh Cup and National League ties, Antrim are looking for a change
January 19 and after wins over Wicklow and Kildare, Antrim
faced the Lake County in Abbotstown. At
that stage of the season it’s all about performances and the Saffrons did fair
well on the day. Five points up with two
minutes of normal time, the match ended a draw before Westmeath won the cup on
penalties. We’ll say nothing about the
The league contest was another close affair but 11 points
from James McNaughton and a Keelan Molloy goal not enough with the visitors to
Corrigan Park claiming a two point win on their way to promotion.
If you factor in the match against Westmeath in last years
Joe McDonagh Cup, Antrim are due a win and probably, no definitely, due a rub
of the green against last years beaten McDonagh Cup finalists. Trailing by eight points at the short
whistle, Antrim put in a heroic second half performance and but for the bounce
of the ball they could have taken the win.
The bounce of the ball and some peculiar refereeing decisions that left
the Saffron management questioning ‘what does do we have to do to get a break.’
Westmeath are a team that Antrim have struggled against in
recent times but it’s always a titanic struggle. Nothing comes easy against the Lake County
and it’s the easiest prediction in the world to say Saturday will be no
Looking back at the performance against Offaly, the defence
were immense and attack as potent as I have ever seen but the quality of ball
delivered into the forwards helped the attacking unit thrive. Nicky McKeague with pin point passes, drilled
and precise. Neil McManus dropping
deeper and supplying ball with vision that comes from experience. The drive of Mattie Donnelly and Paddy Burke,
it goes unnoticed to most but the supply could not have been better. A controlled, composed performance that was
needed when Antrim needed it most.
The stakes once again can’t be higher for Neal Peden and his team on Saturday but how far they’ve come in 2019 is nothing short of incredible. For the Keogh Cup, the Antrim selectors didn’t have much of a panel to select from. Withdrawals, non-committals and no shows, to say the Saffrons were down to the bare bones would be an understatement. New blood was unearthed, raw talent thrown in at the deep end and they’ve flourished. Phelim Duffin, a gem in the corner. Tenacious, dogged, a complete annoyance and nightmare for any forward. The perfect traits for a man marker and he’s taken to the county game like a duck to water. Keelan Molloy flirted with the county game last year and showed glimpses against Westmeath in Cusack Park and against Kildare in the Athletic Grounds of what was to come. This year he’s been irresistible and his two goals last weekend superb. James McNaughton has become an automatic starter after his performances in the league. He didn’t fire on all cylinders in the opening matches of the McDonagh Cup but after coming on as a sub against Offaly, he gave us a reminder of his undoubted talents. Four points from play and a display that dizzied the Faithful County’s defence.
So what of Saturday’s opponents?
Well, Westmeath make the journey to north Antrim having come off the back of their first loss in 2019. A shock defeat it has to be said, to Kerry in Mullingar. The Kingdom with two points to spare after the 70 minutes and a score line of 2-16 to 1-21. If there was ever a really bad time to play the Lake County, Antrim have fallen upon it. They’ll be hurting after that loss and will be eager to get back to winning ways. Add to that the fact that had the perfect opportunity to study Antrim after last week’s game was streamed live on GAA Now. They have a lot of the same faces from matches gone past still revelling in the maroon shirt, Robbie and Gary Greville with Aonghus Clarke and Allan Devine while I wouldn’t expect Killian Doyle to not miss much from frees. An opening day win with 13 points to spare over Offaly would be a fairer reflection on how good this Westmeath team are and what they’re capable off although it should be noted that the Faithful County put in a much-improved performance against Antrim last weekend.
When it comes to Antrim against Westmeath, the Saffrons have
done everything but get over the line. We
need Saturday to be different. It has
to be different. Essentially, it’s
the semi-final of the Joe McDonagh Cup for the Saffrons. The semi-final of a national competition and
70 minutes from a final in Croke Park.
After last weekend’s hugely impressive performance against Offaly,
Antrim’s confidence could not be higher.
It was that good a performance but as has been mentioned in the
aftermath, nothing was won on the day other than two points.
That performance is deserving of a ferocious support to help
get them over the line in what promises to be another huge battle. The commitment, drive, desire and passion
they showed and a willingness to fight for everything spoke volumes for what
they show in the Saffron shirt.
Pride. This team have come a long
way in the space of six months and they deserve every man, woman and child to
make their way to Dunloy for 2pm. If you
have plans, cancel them. If your
neighbour has plans, get them cancelled as well. If you’ve any Saffron blood coursing through
your veins, make your way to the Cuchullain Village and get your support behind
They need us.
Ask not what your county and do for you but what you can do
for your county.
Enlist at Pearse Park and put your faith behind the Saffron
McTaggart reports from O’Moore Park, Portlaoise
Antrim’s misery against Laois showed no signs of
ending on Saturday afternoon as the O’Moore County saw off the Saffron
challenge. Eight points separated the
sides at the end of the 70 minutes but it was the home side’s ability to take
their goal chances that effectively changed the game.
First half goals from Paddy Purcell and Willie Dunphy
set them on their way with Dunphy’s 26th minute goal the major blow
for the Saffrons. Trailing by six
points, Antrim were awarded a penalty but Neil McManus’ effort was superbly
saved by Enda Rowland in the Laois goals.
Barely 60 seconds later the Laois lead was extended to double
figures. A seven point swing that gave
the home side a substantial lead and had Antrim on the backfoot for the
remainder of the game.
Rowland’s penalty save was right out of the top drawer
and unfortunately for the Saffrons, it wasn’t an isolated incident. He denied Antrim on a further five occasions
while the Saffrons were also denied by the crossbar and post. Antrim’s goal came in the 61st
minute, McManus converting a 20 metre free despite six Laois men on the line
but it was all in vain.
Laois were slicker from the first whistle with their
running off the shoulder hugely impressive.
Their teamwork and work ethic gave the Saffrons little time to settle
and while Antrim fared better after the restart, they were always up against it
to turn the match around.
Last day out 13 men in a Saffron shirt wrote their
name on the list of scorers, on Saturday they had an equally impressive
eight. McManus top scoring with 1-3
(1-1, free and 0-1 ’65) while Keelan Molloy and Ryan McCambridge recorded 0-4
from play each. The Ruairi Og man saw
red for a second yellow late in the game to take some of the shine off what was
another strong performance but the home side were worthy of their margin of
victory on the balance of play.
Antrim were guilty of too many errors while Laois
seemed to punish any indiscretion made by a player in a Saffron shirt,
especially in the first half. They
improved after the restart but Laois were always a step ahead.
Like the game against Kerry, Antrim made a slow
start. The home side were first to every
ball and proactive in their approach rather than reactive. They imposed their game on Antrim from the
first whistle but some wayward shooting meant they held just a one point lead
before Paddy Burke equalised for Antrim in the fifth minute.
The applause had barely died around O’Moore Park when
the home side scored their first goal.
Goalkeeper Rowland launched a huge poc out with the sliotar landing on
the Antrim 21 yard line. The Saffrons
defence failed to clear with Purcell taking full advantage, giving Ryan Elliott
no chance in the Antrim goals.
Antrim responded well and but for the brilliance of
Joe Phelan, they could have had a goal moments later. The Laois corner back heroically denying
Conor McCann when the Antrim captain had his sights set on goal.
A brace of points from Mark Kavanagh (free) and Cha
Dwyer were answered to by white flags from McManus and McCambridge but Laois
were well on top. Kavanagh (two frees),
Jack Kelly, Purcell and the lively Ross King landed white flags with James
McNaughton (free) and Eoin O’Neill finding the only response for Antrim to
leave the home side six points clear after 20 minutes. In fairness Antrim were looking more
dangerous in attack and could have scored their first goal of the game in this
period, Rowland denying McNaughton after the Loughgiel man showed great
presence to fire low to evade the three defenders on his heels.
The inside forward duo of Ciaran Clarke and Eoin
O’Neill were becoming more prominent and it was the Ballycastle man who
provided the moment of brilliance for another Antrim goal chance. Spotting McManus on the run, Clarke provided
an inch perfect cross field ball for the Ruairi Og man to run onto. Through on goal, McManus was felled by
Matthew Whelan and Antrim had a penalty to claw their way back into the
game. McManus struck the penalty to the
bottom right hand corner with venom but Rowland was equal to his shot and at
full stretch managed to keep the sliotar out.
The home side countered with Jack Lennon firing over to open a seven
point lead before scoring the second goal of the game with the next attack. Purcell collecting a high ball before
providing Willie Dunphy with a pop pass on the run. Dunphy was through on goal and made no
mistake, once again giving Elliott no chance.
From potentially reducing the Laois lead to three, in the space of 60
seconds Antrim were trailing by 10 points and faced with an uphill task.
McCambridge (two), Keelan Molloy and Ciaran Clarke
found the target for Antrim in the time that remained only for Laois to reply
with Aaron Dunphy, Matthew Whelan, Jack Kelly and Kavanagh giving the home side
a 10 point lead at the short whistle.
time: Laois 2-13 Antrim 0-9
Playing with the help of a strong wind in the second
half, Antrim needed a fast start. It
didn’t come. Laois dropped deep and
starved the Antrim forwards of space while being more accurate infront of the
target. Eight minutes into the second
half, the home side had stretched their lead to 13 points with Aaron Dunphy,
‘keeper Enda Rowland (free), Kavanagh and Cha Dwyer finding the target with
McNaughton the solitary Saffron scorer in the same time.
Antrim showed more attacking cohesion and created
another goal chance, Molloy dancing his way through with three Laois defenders
on his heels. He pulled on the sliotar
having lost control but Rowland once again denied the Saffrons. McManus (’65) and a brace from Molloy got
Antrim firing once again and while another huge free from Rowland temporarily
halted the Saffron charge, Antrim looked like they could make headway into the
Points from O’Neill and McCambridge reduced the
deficit to nine points and it could have been better for the Saffrons but
Clarke’s innovative strike found the wrong side of the post. The home side responded with a brace of
points from Kavanagh (free) and Cha Dwyer before Antrim finally found the back
of the Laois net in the 61st minute.
McManus with a rasping 21 yard free that finally beat Rowland, despite
the Laois ‘keeper getting a touch.
Substitute Stephen Bergin and McManus (free) swapped
scores but time was running out for the Saffrons and their hopes were all but
ended when McCambridge’s game was cut short.
The Cushendall man seeing red for a second yellow card with four minutes
remaining. Antrim continued to push for
goals but the Laois defence yielded very little. Kavanagh landed his seventh white flag of the
game with substitute David Kearney responding for the Saffrons.
Antrim carved another goal chance with Eoghan
Campbell’s snapshot finding the wrong side of the post after Paddy Burke’s
delivery but it wasn’t Antrim’s day in front of the target. McManus tried for more heroics from placed
ball but his drive hit the bottom of the right hand post and while the sliotar
fell loose, Clarke could only scoop his effort over the bar. Molloy and the impressive Cha Dwyer rounded
off the scoring in injury time to leave Laois eight point winners.
A harsh reminder of hurling at this level can be
cruel. Laois deserved their win but the
game was defined in small moments throughout the hour. An incredible penalty save, heroic Laois
defending and goal keeping while Laois had the quality to punish with a style
of play that was entertaining to watch.
Onwards to Offaly in two weeks time.
Elliott; Stephen Rooney, John Dillon, Phelim Duffin; Paddy Burke (0-1), Conor
Boyd, Matthew Donnelly; Neil McManus (1-3, 1-1f’s, 1 ’65), Nicky McKeague;
James McNaughton (0-2, 2f’s), Ryan McCambridge (0-4), Keelan Molloy (0-4);
Ciaran Clarke (0-2), Conor McCann, Eoin O’Neill (0-2)
Kearney (0-1) for M Donnelly (HT); Nigel Elliott for N McKeague (HT); Martin
Burke for J Dillon (45); Eoghan Campbell for J McNaughton (45); Daniel
McCloskey for C McCann (64)
Rowland (0-3, 3f’s); Donncha Hartnett, Matthew Whelan (0-1), Joe Phelan;
Padraig Delaney, Ryan Mullaney, Lee Cleere; John Lennon (0-1), Jack Kelly (0-2);
Charles Dwyer (0-4), Willie Dunphy (1-00), Paddy Purcell (1-1); Mark Kavanagh
(0-7, 4 f’s, 2 ‘65’s), Eanna Lyons, Ross King (0-1)
Dunphy (0-2) for E Lyons (27); Conor Phelan (0-1) for J Lennon (45); Stephen
Bergin (0-1) for P Delaney (49); Eoin Gaughan for R King (58); Eric Killeen for
L Cleere (62)
Antrim vs Laois @ O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, 3pm throw in.
Ref: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)
By Brendan McTaggart
Antrim hurlers return to championship action on Saturday and
a trip to familiar surroundings. O’Moore
Park, Portlaoise lies ahead for a 3pm throw in as Eddie Brennan’s Laois welcome
the Saffrons to the midlands.
Having secured a comprehensive and eye-catching win against
Kerry in Dunloy last weekend, Neal Peden and his management team have guided
the Saffrons to the perfect start. A win
against a side who have caused many a nightmare for Antrim in the past and an
overall performance that warmed Antrim hearts on a cold Saturday evening in the
north Antrim village.
St John’s clubman and Saffrons manager Peden was delighted
with how his side put in a fully committed performance to the final whistle:
“They stuck to the task. We set out with
a plan and to a man they stuck to the task.
We knew it would be a 20 player effort and the five players that came on
and upped the pace.
“We have a panel now that we really believe in.
“We had to beat Kerry.
They beat us the last couple of times and when people see what we did to
Kerry today they’ll realise we’re a force.
“It’s a results business and we got the result today and
that’s the most pleasing thing for us.”
All six of Antrim’s starting forwards had recorded scores
before half time against Kerry. It’s not
uncommon to happen in hurling but for a team who have been reliant on one or
two players for scores in the past, this was a hugely pleasing statistic. Throw in the fact 13 players added their
names to the list of Antrim scorers and you start to see the potential Peden
had spoken about before the Kerry game.
Off course one swallow doesn’t make a summer but it’s nice to hear the
swallow sing and Peden was also pleased with his attacking options: “The lads
that came off the bench scored as well.
That is something we’ve been working on.
We have key players like Neil (McManus) who we know will do a certain
role but today the younger ones got the scores today as well. You can’t ask for more than that on the day
but the way we drove on really pleased us.
We weren’t satisfied with being three up, we kept at them and at
“Today it wasn’t just about the win. We went out and played a certain type of
hurling that made sure we got the win.”
With two away matches in the coming weeks, Laois this
weekend and Offaly in a fortnight, Peden acknowledged last Saturday’s match
could have been seen as a must win game if Antrim were to have success in this
years Joe McDonagh Cup: “There was a lot riding on it today, there’s a lot
riding everyday but today was a big day for us after the league and the younger
lads coming in.
“We’ve got a bit of momentum now. We’ll get out this week and push on. Get to Laois and push on. It’s not about hope anymore, we feel we’ve
got a team where we can compete. This is
our competition to compete in and we can.
“The manner of the win was good for our confidence as
well. It wasn’t a one or two point win,
we drove on and we have that belief now that we can do that. It’s about driving on and not looking back,
For all the attacking prowess Antrim showed against the
Kingdom, they yielded just four points from open play. Were it not for the brilliance of Shane
Conway from frees it would have been a greater margin of victory. Ryan Elliott in the Antrim goals was never
tested and while Kerry came with negative tactics, the Antrim defence after a
shaky start were never troubled as Peden continued: “We’re an energy team. We’re a young energetic team and we knew if
we pressed those big strong men and they are a big strong team, they want to
get you into clasp with their physicality.
They do it in football and they’ve been doing it in hurling for
years. But today when we got the ball
into space we were much more agile and faster team.
“We coped in the back.
We were strong and solid which was pleasing. We dealt with the high ball and that’s
something we’ve been working so hard on.
That breaking ball, getting under it and getting the ball away quickly.
“We talked about early delivery and we got that today. Things went to plan but we’ve always said
that if things go to plan and the guys turn up and their attitude is right,
we’re a good force.”
There’s no doubting it was a good win and a better
performance. Antrim will need more of
the same, if not an improved performance on Saturday against a Laois side
buoyed by their victory on match day one of the McDonagh Cup.
A four point victory against the pundits’ favourites, Offaly
has also given the O’Moore County momentum.
A huge win for the Laois men and considering they also recorded 17 wides
over the 70 minutes, it shows they were more than worthy of their victory. Goals from Cha Dwyer, Eanna Lyons and Paddy
Purcell laid foundations with Mark Kavanagh on free duty. The returning Ross King and the ghost of
championships past for the Saffrons adding four points for his side also.
In the recent past there is never more than a poc of the
ball between Antrim and Laois with the Midlanders defeating the Saffrons on
three occasions in 2018. Five points
separated us when we were last in Portlaoise under the floodlights while a
single white flag was all that came between Antrim and Laois in the Division 1b
relegation play-off and last year’s McDonagh Cup – both matches in Dunloy and
both matches that they should have won.
That’s in the past now and as Peden alluded towards after
the Kerry game, it’s time to look forward to the future. Antrim will have a clean bill of health and a
team that’s gelling nicely with the additions from last season. Maybe there was benefit to the Portugal
training camp that the players had worked hard to fund in recent years after
all? Food for thought.
Momentum is gathering, a win on Saturday and the dream can
begin again. If only it was as simple as
that. Laois are Antrim’s bogey team in
recent times and any win in the midlands is always hard earned. It will take something special to leave
Portlaoise with the winning start still intact but this side are capable.
Brendan McTaggart reports from Pearse Park, Dunloy
Antrim dedicate win to late great Seany Burns who died this week
To say it was expected may be pushing the margins fantasy, for even the most ardent and blinkered Saffron fan. But to say it was deserved, no one could argue. Antrim got their Joe McDonagh Cup campaign off to the best start possible on a sunny but cold Pearse Park as they despatched the challenge of Kerry with 14 points to spare.
A comfortable margin of victory and every inch as
comfortable as it sounds. Despite
leading by just a single score at the interval, Antrim pushed on in the second
half and out fought, out manoeuvred and out hurled a side who have caused them
problems beyond belief in the past.
Kerry came to Dunloy as favourites but they were left
chasing Saffron shadows for the majority of the match. In our preview, Antrim manager Neal Peden
told of his belief in the Antrim forward unit.
Some may have thought it as some psychology but Peden couldn’t have been
more correct if he tried. Out of their
tally of 3-19, just six points came from placed ball while Antrim had 13
different names on the scoresheet.
Unlucky for some. Kerry yes but most certainly not Antrim. The Saffrons may have taken some time to hit
their straps, in a scrappy first half where Kerry played with the substantial
wind, the visitors to Pearse Park played very negatively. Packing their own defence and leaving Jack
Goulding as a lone target man. At one
stage in the opening 35 minutes there wasn’t a Kerry man within 45 yards of
Goulding. The Munster men looked to play
short passes around their own half back line and midfield, trying to manoeuvre
the Antrim defence but the Saffrons were a step ahead. Ryan Elliott’s goal never looked threatened
and but for the brilliance of Shane Conway from placed ball, it could have been
an even more comfortable win for Antrim.
The Antrim forwards will take the plaudits but there’s no
doubt the platform for the victory came from their defence. Stephen Rooney impeccable, Conor Boyd
imperious while his McQuillan’s clubmate Mattie Donnelly was a major contender
for man of the match. A strong
performance throughout but Donnelly excelled in the second half and rarely put a
Antrim had to wait until the eighth minute before
registering their first score of the match, Eoin O’Neill finishing a well
worked move from wide on the left. The
visitors had already raced into a three point lead by that stage with Conway’s
frees (two) and Michael O’Leary putting them into a good position after the
The sides went tit for tat with James McNaughton (two
frees), Ryan McCambridge, Keelan Molloy and Conor McCann getting their names on
the scoresheet with Conway (two frees), Colum Harty and O’Leary keeping the
Kingdom ahead before Antrim scored the opening goal of the game. Nicky McKeague delivering a sideline ball
into the direction of McNaughton. The
Loughgiel man collected among the crowd and passed to Ciaran Clarke. The Ballycastle man raced clear and managed
to fire the sliotar to the back of the net to give Antrim the lead for the
first time in the match in the 32nd minute.
Both sides had been guilty of missing chances in the time
before Clarke’s major. Kerry reaching
double figures (10) with their wide count while Antrim didn’t fare much better,
returning eight in the same time frame but Clarke’s major gave the home side a
lift for the remainder of the half. A
brace of Conway frees were answered to by O’Neill’s second white flag of the
half, a superb score from wide on the right and with the angle against him, the
Dunloy man had the last say of the half as Antrim took a one point lead into
Antrim 1-7 Kerry 0-9
The Saffrons would have been content with their efforts in
that first period. They weren’t exactly
firing on all cylinders but they deserved to hold some sort of lead at the
short whistle. They took some time to
come to terms with the negative tactics of Kerry and against the wind but they
cut loose in the second half.
Tomas O’Connor and Conway (free) fired over either side of
Conor McCann’s second point of the afternoon.
Antrim began to turn the screw however and the Kingdom were wilting
under the Saffron pressure. Paddy Burke
left his half back berth to fire over before the home side hit their second
major of the half. Conor Boyd breaking
free from the defence before passing to McKeague. The Dunloy man launched the sliotar high into
the heart of the Kerry defence but it took an awkward bounce in front of Martin
Stackpoole. In the Kerry goal and bounced over his shoulder and high into the
A brace of points from McManus frees continued the Saffron
charge and while Conway landed his eighth free of the match, it was a brief
respite for the visitors as Antrim piled on the scores. Clarke and Molloy firing over to open a seven
point gap with 15 minutes remaining.
The frustration of the Kingdom was plain to see and their
fate was effectively sealed in the 57th minute when John Buckley saw
red for a dangerous foul on Donnelly. Antrim
took advantage of the open spaces as Kerry opened up in an attempt to get back
into the game. McManus landed his second
monster free before substitute Nigel Elliott scored their third goal of the
contest. The Dunloy man collected the
ball 50 yards from goal and rode a couple of heavy challenges using his pace
and power to get him clear before finding the bottom corner with seven minutes
Substitute David Kearney added his name to the scoresheet
before a brace of frees from Conway brought Kerry to with 10 points of Antrim
with four minutes of normal time remaining.
Antrim kept their grip on the game and finished with points from the
impressive Molloy, McManus’ fourth free of the match and white flags for
substitutes Joe Maskey and Kevin Rice.
Icing and cherry added to the Saffron cake at the end of a second half
where everything they touched turned to gold.
The perfect start and the dream starts once again. A trip to Laois lies ahead for Neal Peden’s
charges but the hope and dreams can start once again. After the game the Saffrons manager dedicated
the win to his friend and mentor Seany Burns who passed away during the week, a
fitting tribute for a Saffron legend.
For now, all roads to Portlaoise in seven days’ time.
Elliott; Stephen Rooney, John Dillon, Phelim Duffin; Paddy Burke, Conor Boyd,
Matthew Dillon; Neil McManus, Nicky McKeague; James McNaughton, Ryan
McCambridge, Keelan Molloy; Ciaran Clarke, Conor McCann, Eoin O’Neill.
Elliott for J McNaughton (48); David Kearney for N McKeague (61); Joe Maskey
for E O’Neill (61); Dan McCloskey for C Clarke (67); Kevin Rice for C McCann
McManus 0-4 (4 f’s); Ciaran Clarke 1-1; Nicky McKeague 1-00; Nigel Elliott
1-00; Keelan Molloy 0-3; James McNaughton 0-2 (2 f’s); Conor McCann 0-2; Eoin
O’Neill 0-2; Ryan McCambridge 0-1; Paddy Burke 0-1; David Kearney 0-1; Joe
Maskey 0-1; Kevin Rice 0-1.
Stackpoole; John Buckley, James O’Connor, Evan Murphy; Sean Weir, Bryan Murphy,
Tomas O’Connor; Colum Harty, Jack Goulding; Shane Conway, Michael O’Leary,
Jordan Conway; Dan Goggin, Michael Boyle, Padraig Boyle.
Slattery for O Boyle (50); Patrick Kelly for C Harty (59); Daniel Carroll for J
Conway (63); Gavin Dooley for J Goulding (65)
Conway 0-10 (10 f’s); Michael O’Leary 0-2; Colum Harty 0-1; Tomas O’Connor 0-1.