Northern aces quell Kingdom uprising
ANTRIM 3-18 KERRY 3-12 Allianz HL Div 2 Final THEY had a few dodgy second-half moments and let Kerry back to within a goal of them in the dying minutes, but there was still no stopping Antrim from securing the Division 2 title and promotion at Croke Park yesterday.
In the end, they had six points to spare over the Kingdom after Paddy Richmond sealed victory with a goal in injury-time.
Richmond looked to be in the square when he pounced on John Healy's initial save from teenager Darren Quinn, but Kerry manager Maurice Leahy did not question the legitimacy of Antrim's insurance score afterwards, instead graciously admitting the better team had won.
Maybe so. But by hurling skillfully and refusing to wilt, the Kingdom's hurlers more than gave a good account of themselves on what was their first ever appearance on live television.
Coming six days before facing Waterford in the Munster senior hurling championship, they will take heart from their display, particularly during the early stages of the second half when they scored 1-4 to just a single point in reply.
Against an Antrim side that gave Tipperary such a torrid time in last summer's All-Ireland quarter-final, that was no mean feat.
And with a live TV audience, it should, as selector Eddie Murphy pointed out, considerably help spread the hurling gospel to the youth of urban, football strongholds like Tralee and Listowel.
Antrim, who beat Kerry by a point in last month's league meeting, quickly set about making amends for last year when they lost the Division 2 final.
A piledriver of a goal by Colm McGuickian helped them into a seven-point lead before Michael Slattery opened Kerry's scoring after 10 minutes.
Liam Richmond's smart hand-pass set Gregory O'Kane up for their second goal 15 minutes later and by half-time Antrim were 10 points clear (2-11 to 1-4), bolstered by Brian McFall's faultless free-taking.
Kerry ended up replacing both of their midfielders as they struggled to get to grips with Antrim's brilliant fielding, especially from Jim Connolly.
Despite having shot 11 wides to their opponent's seven in the first half, Kerry bravely refused to yield.
The switch of Slattery to the wing yielded a quick goal as they clawed their way back to within four points in the third quarter.
Antrim's experience then kicked in as they rattled off six points to two in reply. Manager Dinny Cahill could even afford to throw in teenagers Michael Herron and Darren Quinn as he experimented ahead of their championship opener against London next weekend.
That policy almost backfired as the Kerrymen rallied a second time, led by their rangey centre-forward Shane Brick, who played at full-forward for UCC in the Fitzgibbon Cup this year.
His early free-taking was off target, but he got two excellent goals, the second of which came during Kerry's late charge. His younger brother Billy, Slattery, and super-sub John Mike Dooley also played leading roles in the revival, but the Northerners held on comfortably.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Colm McGuickian (Antrim).
SCORERS - Antrim: B McFall 0-7 (5f), C McGuickian 1-3, P Richmond 1-2, G O'Kane 1-1, L Richmond 0-2, C Herron, S Delargy and P Close 0-1 each. Kerry: S Brick 2-4 (4f), M Slattery 1-3, B Brick 0-3, P O'Connell 0-2 (1f).
ANTRIM - Damien Quinn; M Kettle, K Kelly, J Campbell; M McCambridge, K McKeegan, C Herron; C Cunning, J Connolly; A Mort, C McGuickian (capt), L Richmond; P Richmond, G O'Kane, B McFall. Subs: P Close for Mort (45), S Delargy for L Richmond (50), M Herron for McKeegan (56), Darren Quinn for O'Kane (63).
KERRY - J Healy; H Twomey, M Lucid, I Brick; WJ Leen, J McCarthy (capt), K O'Sullivan; B O'Sullivan, L Boyle; B Brick, S Brick, P O'Connell; M Slattery, M Murnane, M Conway. Subs: A Cronin for B O'Sullivan (26), J M Dooley for Murnane (30), C Harris for Boyle (41).
REF - B Kelly (Westmeath).