Deadly McManus cuts down Lilies
The sharp-shooting double-act of Liam Watson and Neil McManus combined to give Antrim an ultimately comfortable victory over Division 2 newcomers Kildare in Newbridge yesterday.
The Ulstermen didn't have it all their own way, though, and struggled to impose themselves on their gritty hosts until the final quarter.
They trailed at the interval by a point, 1-5 to 0-7, having been rocked by a lucky eighth-minute goal from Martin Fitzgerald.
The 19-year-old won possession around 30 metres out from the Antrim posts and his speculative shot, intended for a point, dipped and flew into the net off the fingers of the unfortunate Saffrons goalkeeper Ryan McGarry.
His Kildare counterpart Paul Dermody was seen to brilliant effect soon after with two magnificent saves from McManus, and with Tony Murphy slotting two fine points, Andy Comerford's men had something to fight for in the second half.
Dinny Cahill kept Antrim in the dressing-room for a lengthy period at half-time and whatever was said certainly seemed to have an impact as the Saffron men stormed out of the traps with four points in 80 seconds.
Shane McNaughton was outstanding at midfield for Antrim, hitting three wonderful points, and he began the flourish with a fine score on the run.
Fitzgerald stopped the rot with a neat finish and when Richie Hoban lashed a penalty to the roof of the net in the 43rd minute, a shock result looked a possibility once again.
Crucially, though, McManus struck the net at the other end of the field within a minute of Hoban's strike and from there to the end, there was only one team in it.
McManus and full-forward Watson shared Antrim's last six points between them and combined for an aggregate tally of 1-14. This would have been even greater were it not for some poor wides from frees by both men.
Salt was rubbed into the Lilies' wounds when wing-back Eanna O'Neill received his second yellow card, leaving them down to 14 men for the last five minutes.
Scorers -- Antrim: N McManus 1-7 (0-6fs), L Watson 0-7 (0-3fs), S McNaughton 0-3, E McCloskey, PJ O'Connell 0-1 each. Kildare: M Fitzgerald 1-2, R Hoban 1-0 (1-0 pen), L Harney 0-3(0-3f), T Murphy 0-2.
Antrim -- R McGarry; S Shannon, N McGarry, B McFall; A Graffan, K McKeegan, C Herron; S McNaughton, S McCrory; T McCann, N McManus, C McFall; E McCloskey, L Watson, PJ O'Connell. Subs: M Scullion for Shannon (h/t); C McAllister for McCloskey (49).
Kildare -- P Dermody; P Curtin, D Ryan, P Keegan; P Reidy, R Hoban, E O'Neill; M Divilly, N Ó Muineacháin; T Murphy, D Kennedy, D Harney; L Harney, M Moloney, M Fitzgerald. Subs: C Buggy for Divilly (h/t); J Houlihan for Harney (33); D Carter for L Harney (37); P Buggy for Moloney (50).
ReF -- S Whelan (Wexford).