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Saffrons raise game to punish careless Carlow

A strong second-half performance was enough to see Antrim into phase three of the qualifiers.

The sides were level at the break at nine points apiece, but Antrim were much the better side in the second half despite Carlow's Paudie Kehoe firing home the game's only goal on 52 minutes.

Carlow will rue 12 wides over the 70 minutes and really should have been ahead at the break. They hit four wides in the opening minutes and trailed by 0-4 to 0-1 with Neal McAuley, Karl Stewart, Paul Shiels and Neil McManus all slotting over scores for Antrim.

Ruairi Dunbar raised the sole Carlow flag from a free but the Barrowsiders outscored the home side by seven points to one over the next 12 minutes and in between Craig Doyle sent a great goal chance wide.

Shane Kavanagh, named at full-back but playing at midfield, converted a '65', before Doyle made amends for his earlier miss to slot over.

A McAuley free put Antrim two in front again, 0-5 to 0-3, but the sides were level on 18 minutes as Dunbar and Daryl Roberts 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. However, Kevin Molloy and Stewart struck back 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 score.

The visitors dragged themselves back into the game when Daryl Roberts set up Kehoe for the game's only goal but Antrim stepped up a gear to see out the game.

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 -- before Dinny Cahill's men surged ahead and put some daylight between themselves and Kevin Ryan's side.

Scorers -- Antrim: N McManus 0-9 (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 (4f), P Kehoe 1-2, S Kavanagh 0-2 (1 '65'), C Doyle, D Roberts, M Brennan 0-1 each.

Antrim -- C O'Connell 6; C McGuinness 6, C Donnelly 7, K McGourty 7; A Graffin 8, M Herron 9, N McAuley 8; P Shiels 8, K Molloy 6; S McCrory 6, K Stewart 7, E McCloskey 7; C McCann 7, D Hamill 8, N McManus 8. Subs: B McFall 7 for S McCrory, T McCann 7 for K Molloy, C McFall 6 for D Hamill.

Carlow -- K Kehoe 7; A Corcoran 6, S Kavanagh 7, D Shaw 6; E Coady 7, J Rogers 7, R Coady 7; E Nolan 6, B Doyle 7; C Doyle 7, E Byrne 6, P Kehoe 8; D Roberts 7, M Brennan 7, R Dunbar 8. Subs: J Doyle 6 for R Dunbar, P Coady 7 for E Nolan.

Ref -- J McGrath (Westmeath).

Irish Independent