Match Report Kerry V Antrim (Joe McDonagh Cup)
KERRY 2-21 ANTRIM 1-20
By David Mohan in Cushendall
Kerry finished their Joe McDonagh Cup campaign on a high at Cushendall to grab a four-point win over Antrim and condemn the Saffrons to a relegation playoff against the Christy Ring Cup winners.
After 20 minutes of this game, that scenario looked way off as the hosts raced into a 10 point lead, but Fintan O'Connor's men rallied superbly to take firm control of this game and deservedly claim the points.
Antrim began at a lightning pace with Donal McKinley firing over inside the first minute before Neil McManus opened his account for the day, the first of 17 points that ultimately couldn't save his team.
A Shane Conway free got Kerry off the mark, but they were to struggle in the opening 20 minutes as Antrim piled on the scores and on eight minutes, they scored the game's opening goal. Conor McCann hot the post with an initial effort, but the rebound fell to Ciaran Clarke on the right and he fired to the far corner of the net.
After 20 minutes, Antrim were cruising, leading 1-10 to 0-3 and should have had a second goal on 11 minutes when Conor Johnston somehow hit the post from point-blank range, but the introduction of Tomas O'Connor for The Kingdom altered the course of the opening period as mistakes began to creep into Antrim's play, with fouls punished by Conway from placed balls.
The Munster men ate into Antrim's lead, outscoring the hosts by 1-8 to 0-2 for the remainder of the half with their goal coming in stoppage time when Brandon Barrett popped a lovely pass to send Mickey Boyle through and he made no mistake, drilling to the net to cut Antrim's lead at the break to one, 1-12 to 1-11.
It was all-square two minutes after the break as Conway pointed a free, but two in-a-row from the hosts gave the home side the lead once again.
There was still two in it on 50 minutes when Kerry grabbed the lead they were to hold onto until the final whistle when Jack Goulding whipped the sliotar to the net after his initial shot was blocked down.
Try as the might, Antrim just couldn't take a grip on this game as Kerry's defence stood tall, won the breaks and snuffed out any danger as Antrim were to rely solely on McManus frees for the remainder.
The visitors were much more fluid going forward, working the openings and had a much greater spread of scores with Brendan O'Leary, Mickey Boyle, Tomas O'Connor and Padraig Boyle all chipping in with Conway converting the frees as they ran out deserving winners to finish their campaign on a high.
Scorers for Kerry: Shane Conway 0-12 (11 fs, 1 65), Mickey Boyle 1-2, Jack Goulding 1-1, Padraig Boyle 0-2, Daithi Griffin 0-1, Brendan O'Leary 0-1, Brandon Barrett 0-1, Tomas O'Connor 0-1
Scorers for Antrim: Neil McManus 0-17 (10 fs, 1 65), Ciaran Clarke 1-0, Conor McCann 0-1, Donal McKinley 0-1, Conor Johnston 0-1
KERRY: Martin Stackpoole; John Buckley, Bryan Murphy, James O'Connor; Sean Weir, Mikey Boyle, Daniel Collins; Brendan O’Leary, Dáithí Griffin; Padraig Boyle, Shane Nolan, Tom Murnane; Jack Goulding, Brandon Barrett, Shane Conway.
Subs: Tomas O'Connor for Shane Nolan (19 mins), Jordan Conway for Jack Goulding (59), Jason Diggins for Tom Murnane (70+4), Evan Murphy for Daithi Griffin (70+5).
ANTRIM: Ryan Elliott; Arron Graffin, John Dillon, Conor McKinley; Paddy Burke, Simon McCrory, David Kearney; Keelan Molloy, Eoghan Campbell; Donal McKinley, Neil McManus, Nigel Elliott; Conor Johnston, Conor McCann, Ciaran Clarke.
Subs: James McNaughton for Nigel Elliott (HT), Eddie McCloskey for Donal McKinley (43), Ryan McCambridge for Paddy Burke (62).
REFEREE: Patrick Murphy (Carlow).