Tuesday 21 November 2017

McManus steers Saffrons safely past battling Carlow

Antrim 0-23 Carlow 1-12

Antrim's hurlers safely secured a place in phase 3 of the qualifiers with a comfortable victory over Carlow at Casement Park yesterday. The sides met at the same stage last year when Antrim needed three late points to squeeze victory but this time round the result was fairly clear-cut as the game ambled into its final 10 minutes.

By that stage the Saffrons had weathered a mini Carlow revival midway through the second half when Paudie Kehoe stuck for the game's only goal on 52 minutes -- the visitors would add just two more points before the final whistle.

But Antrim didn't have it all their own way. A lacklustre first half ended all square at nine points apiece. Carlow pushed from the throw-in but had amassed four wides by the 10th minute. The more economical Antrim side had moved 0-4 to 0-1 ahead by that juncture with Neal McAuley, Karl Stewart, Paul Shiels and Neil McManus all slotting over.

Ruairi Dunbar raised the sole Carlow flag from a free but the Barrowsiders outscored the hosts by seven points to one over the next 12 minutes and in between Craig Doyle sent a great goal chance wide of Chris O'Connell's post.

Shane Kavanagh, named at full-back but playing at midfield, converted a '65', before Doyle made amends for his earlier miss after being picked out by Kehoe.

A McAuley free put Antrim two in front again, 0-5 to 0-3, but the sides were level on 18 minutes when Dunbar and Daryl Roberts both raised flags. Mark Brennan was next on the Carlow scoresheet when gifted an opportunity from a poor puck-out by O'Connell and an excellent Dunbar point from play then had Carlow two to the good.

Carlow looked the hungrier side but Antrim finally put together some quality passages of play. Darren Hamill set up Kevin Molloy for a fine score, with Stewart finding room this time to slot over from range to put Antrim ahead by 0-9 to 0-8. In first-half injury-time Dunbar converted a free to tie the scores at the break.

The third quarter belonged to Antrim with the excellent McManus accurate from frees. Kavanagh's second '65' of the game provided a bit of respite but impressive Antrim full-forward Hamill immediately cancelled out the Carlow talisman's score.

The visitors dragged themselves back into the game when Roberts set up Kehoe for the game's only goal but Antrim stepped up a gear to see out the game in the closing stages, with two Kehoe frees the sum total of Carlow's efforts.

Conor McCann became the next Antrim name on the scoresheet and he was joined within a minute by his brother Tomas, who scored with his first touch after replacing Molloy on 61 minutes.

Eddie McCloskey joined the growing list of Antrim forwards to score with Hamill adding a superb point seconds later as the home side put some daylight between themselves and Kevin Ryan's side.

Carlow will rue 12 wides over the 70 minutes, against Antrim's eight, but it is the Ulster side who deservedly await the results of next week's phase 2 games.

Scorers -- Antrim: N McManus 0-9 (0-7f), D Hamill 0-3, N McAuley, E McCloskey, K Stewart, P Shiels 0-2 each, K Molloy, C McCann, T McCann 0-1 each. Carlow: R Dunbar 0-5, (0-4f), P Kehoe, 1-2, S Kavanagh 0-2 '65', C Doyle, D Roberts, M Brennan 0-1 each.

Antrim: C O'Connell; C McGuinness, C Donnelly, K McGourty; A Graffin, M Herron, N McAuley; P Shiels, K Molloy; S McCrory, K Stewart, E McCloskey; C McCann, D Hamill, N McManus. Subs: B McFall for S McCrory, T McCann for K Molloy, C McFall for D Hamill.

Carlow: K Kehoe; A Corcoran, S Kavanagh, D Shaw; E Coady, J Rogers, R Coady; E Nolan, B Doyle; C Doyle, E Byrne, P Kehoe; D Roberts, M Brennan, R Dunbar. Subs: J Doyle for R Dunbar, P Coady for E Nolan.

Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).

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