McManus stars as Antrim earn promotion with dramatic victory
Antrim 2-12 Carlow 0-15
Antrim secured their return to Division 1B after a thrilling three-point win over Carlow in Páirc Esler on Saturday.
Two first-half goals proved crucial for the Saffrons with Eoghan Campbell finding the net after nine minutes before Neil McManus converted a penalty to help the Ulster champions to a 2-5 to 0-7 lead at half-time.
Carlow made it a one-point game when John Michael Nolan pointed seven minutes from time.
Following a McManus free, Antrim sub Ciaran Clarke scored a wonder point upon his introduction while McManus landed a monster free from over 70 metres out.
However, a late 21-metre free gave Martin Kavanagh the chance to force extra-time but his shot was well saved by Antrim goalkeeper Chrissy O'Connell.
Antrim manager Dominic 'Woody' McKinley expressed his delight with the character shown by his side.
"It was a tough encounter but we knew it was going to be. Any time we play them, it is nip and tuck and conditions weren't ideal," said McKinley.
"We started well but we should have had a lot more scores on the board. Carlow had spells and we had spells. Overall, we are delighted.
"If you had asked me 10 or 15 years ago would I be cheering and jumping about, no disrespect to Carlow but I'd have said no."
SCORERS - Antrim: N McManus 1-4 (1-0 pen, 3fs), D Murphy 0-4 (4fs), E Campbell 1-0, C Clarke, C Johnston, N McKenna, P Burke 0-1 each. Carlow: P Coady 0-7 (6fs, 1 '65), M Kavanagh 0-3 (1 '65), J Nolan, E Byrne, S Murphy, J Murphy, K McDonald 0-1.
ANTRIM - C O'Connell 7; S Rooney 7; J Dillon 8, C McKinley 6; S McCrory 7, M Donnelly 8, P Burke 7; E Campbell 6, P Shiels 6; N McManus 9, C McCann 5, C Johnston 6; N McKenna 8, N McAuley 6, D Murphy 7. Subs: O McFadden 5 for McAuley (48), C Clarke 6 for Murphy (57), J McNaughton 5 for Campbell (68).
CARLOW - J Carroll 5; A Corcoran 6, P Doyle 5, G Bennett 6; D Byrne 6, D English 5, R Coady 7; J Kavanagh 7, S Whelan 6; J Nolan 6, M Kavanagh 7, E Byrne 6; C Nolan 5, P Coady 8, S Murphy 6. Subs: J Doyle 6 for S Whelan (h-t), K McDonald 7 for C Nolan (42), R Kelly 6 for D English (51), D Murphy 6 for S Murphy (57), J Murphy 7 for J Kavanagh (61).
REF - M Murtagh (Westmeath)