Kerry 0-29 Antrim 2-21
KERRY claimed the win they needed over Antrim in Belfast and got the favour they needed from Carlow against Offaly to make it through to their third-straight Joe McDonagh Cup final.
Podge Boyle top-scored with 15 points in a flawless display, while Eoin Ross chipped in with four and Paudie O'Connor played a captain's part to help fend off a late Antrim rally that almost saw them take something from this game that would have broken Kerry's hearts.
But as it was, the Kingdom managed to find the answers when their backs were to the wall to hold on and stamp their ticket for the decider.
The visitors got off to a great start with the first four points - three from Boyle - before a much-changed Antrim side began to settle with James McNaughton, Neil McManus and Michael Bradley leading the way.
The sides were level at 0-7 and again at 0-8 when Kerry pushed on into the break where they led 0-14 to 0-11, although they were aggrieved a Shane Conway score was chalked off after play was brought back for a free.
Despite playing into the wind in the second period, the Kingdom began to pull clear with Eoin Ross setting them on their way, while Boyle added to his tally as Kerry pushed the gap out to seven, but Antrim began to battle back with substitute Keelan Molloy, McNaughton and Bradley on target.
Kerry continued to stay ahead as Boyle, Ross and Gavin Dooley re-established their seven-point lead, but then this game took a huge swing towards Antrim in stoppage time as Conal Bohill blasted to the net and after a reply from Jordan Conway, Neil McManus goaled to leave one in it.
Boyle's 15th point of the day settled Kerry, but a point from McKernan left it a very nervy finish, yet as they did all afternoon, Kerry found an answer with Paudie O'Connor sealing their victory and place in the final.
Scorers for Antrim: J McNaughton 0-9 (1 free), N McManus 1-2, C Bohill 1-1, M Bradley 0-4, E O'Neil 0-1, C McCann 0-1, A Bradley 0-1, K Molloy 0-1, D McKernan 0-1
Scorers for Kerry: P Boyle 0-15 (12 frees), E Ross 0-4, F MacKessy 0-4, J Conway 0-2, C Walsh 0-1, P O'Connor 0-1, C Harty 0-1, G Dooley 0-1
ANTRIM: R Elliott; D Kearney, N O'Connor, P Duffin; R McGarry, M Donnelly, C Bohill; S Walsh, M Bradley; E O'Neill, R McCambridge, J McNaughton; N McManus, C McCann, A Bradley.
Subs: K Molloy for R McCambridge (49), D McKernan (0-01) for S Walsh (49), G Walsh for P Duffin (61), J Maskey for C McCann (61), S Rooney for D Kearney (70)
KERRY: L Dee; P O'Connor, E Leen, C O'Keefe; S Weir, M Boyle, F MacKessy; M Leane, P Boyle; C Walsh, S Conway, E Ross; G Dooley, N Mulcahy, C Harty.
Subs: J Conway for N Mulcahy (26), M O'Connor for C Harty (56), B Lonergan for S Conway (68), F O'Sullivan for G Dooley (70), M Heffernan for C Walsh (70+5)
REFEREE: J Keenan (Wicklow)
A lethargic and underwhelming Offaly have crashed out of the Joe McDonagh Cup. Needing a win or a draw at home to Carlow to make the final, Michael Fennelly’s men couldn’t get the job done and were deservedly beaten by a Carlow outfit who finished off their championship campaign in style.
They would have still made the final despite the defeat had it not been for Kerry taking out Antrim up in Corrigan Park, but Fennelly and his charges can’t have any complaints following their limp display.
Chris Nolan was the star of the show for Carlow with seven points and they were fully worth their five-point buffer at the end. The opening exchanges were tight but three points from Nolan helped them into a 0-6 to 0-3 lead after 14 minutes.
Offaly got back on track and with the free taking of Eoghan Cahill to the fore; the home side led 0-10 to 0-8 at the break.
Carlow got the game back level on 41 minutes with Conor Kehoe on target but Cahill was on hand to edge Offaly two points clear with 25 minutes to go.
Level at 0-14 each with 18 minutes to go, Carlow kicked for home with Martin Kavanagh sending over two frees to put them ahead. They held on to that lead as the Offaly challenge wilted with Kavanagh, Kevin McDonald and Conor Kehoe all finding the range for the Carlow men to stretch the lead to five in the closing stages.
Scorers for Carlow: C Nolan 0-7, M Kavanagh 0-6 (5f), K McDonald 0-4 C Kehoe 0-3, R Coady and D Byrne (f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Offaly: E Cahill 0-13 (11f), S Corcoran (f), K Sampson, D Nally (sideline) and P Clancy 0-1 each.
CARLOW: B Tracey; J McCullagh, P Doyle, M Doyle; F Fitzpatrick, D Byrne, J Kavanagh; R Coady, K McDonald; S Murphy, P Coady, C Nolan; C Kehoe, JM Nolan, M Kavanagh. Subs – J Nolan for P Coady (66m), F O'Toole for R Coady (74m).
OFFALY: S Corcoran; J Screeney, C Burke, D King; L Fox, B Conneely, P Cantwell; E Kelly, J Sampson; K Sampson, E Cahill, D Nally; P Clancy, J Murphy, L Langton. Subs – B Duignan for Langton (43m), A Cleary for Kelly (44m), L O'Connor for Murphy (56m), S Dooley for K Sampson (67m), J Keenaghan for Nally (72m),
Referee: Sean Cleere (Kilkenny)