Carlow hurlers reserved their best display of the championship for yesterday's final Round Robin tie as they beat visitors Antrim by 10 points to retain their MacCarthy Cup status for 2016 and consign Antrim to the Christy Ring Cup next year.
In a game full of incident, watched by an attendance of about 1,000, both sides ended with 13 men.
There was an 11-minute hold-up on the hour when Antrim's Ryan McCambridge lay prostrate on the pitch after a collision with Carlow wing-back Edward Coady.
An ambulance was brought onto the field and, suffering from concussion, he was removed to hospital in Kilkenny.
Antrim made the better start, but their finishing was poor. They did assume a 1-2 to 0-1 lead in the 10th minute, when poor home defending allowed Conor Johnston in for a neatly-taken goal. Carlow were in further trouble in the 21st minute when their top forward Marty Kavanagh was straight red-carded for a striking offence.
Remarkably, Carlow then took control to lead 0-8 to 1-3, Antrim going 22 minutes without a score.
Antrim continued to spurn chances early in the second half and Carlow made them pay for their failures.
They hit a purple scoring patch, which saw them storm 0-14 to 1-6 ahead by the 50th minute. The pace of Carlow's right-half forward Sean Murphy was burning the Antrim defence.
And the Ballinkillen clubman broke through to set up Paul Coady for a goal on 51 minutes. Carlow were also benefiting from the move of Eddie Byrne from centre- to full-forward, where he created serious problems for the Antrim defence.
Antrim's problems mounted with the issuing of a second yellow card to influential midfielder Ciaran Johnston, and they later lost wing-back Simon McCrory to a straight red card.
Murphy completed Antrim's misery with a last-minute Carlow goal.
An enthused Carlow manager Pat English said they were delighted to retain their status: "After the opening 10 minutes, we started using the ball and our game started coming together. We had to win and we did win."
A deflated Kevin Ryan added: "We are devastated. We created a lot of chances, but did not take them.
"When Carlow got their goal, they got a strong grip and were not letting it go."
Scorers - Carlow: P Coady 1-7, (5f), Seán Murphy 1-1, J M Nolan 0-3, E Byrne, J Kavanagh, M Kavanagh (fs) 0-2 each, M Brennan 0-1. Antrim: C Johnston 1-4 (3f), C Clarke 0-3 (2f), P Shiels (65), O McFadden, C McCann, M Bradley 0-1 each.
Carlow - K Kehoe 6; S Kavanagh 7, J Rogers 7, A Corcoran 8; R Coady 7, D English 7, E Coady 7; D Byrne 5, J Kavanagh 8; Seán Murphy 9, E Byrne 8, J M Nolan 8; Seamus Murphy 5, M Kavanagh 6, P Coady 8. Subs: M Brennan 6 for Seamus Muirphy (36); G Coady for Nolan (58).
Antrim - C O'Connell 6; O McFadden 7, J Dillon 7, R McCambridge 7; S McCrory 6, T McCann 6, C McKinley 6; C Johnston 8, N McAuley 5; P Shiels 5, C Carson 8, D McKernan 5; C Clarke 7, C McCann 6, C Johnston 8. Subs: M Bradley 6 for Shiels (h-t); M Donnelly 6 for McAuley (h-t); E Campbell 5 for McKernan (51); C Ross for McCambridge (inj, 59).
Ref - C McAllister (Cork)