Watson sparks Antrim revival
Antrim 2-18 Carlow 3-12
Antrim's hurlers will take their place in Phase 3 of the All-Ireland SHC qualifiers after a pulsating win over Carlow at Casement Park last night. The Saffrons trailed for most of the game but three late points sealed victory for the Ulstermen.
Two second-half goals, from Liam Watson and PJ O'Connell, sparked an Antrim comeback after Carlow had looked set to record their second championship win of the year.
Carlow had the better of an entertaining first half. After a shaky start, their defence got to grips with the Antrim forward line: Karl McKeegan had given the home side the lead in the opening seconds.
After five minutes, though, the Leinster side were in the lead when Craig Doyle got the first of his two goals. His first effort was blocked by the Antrim defence but the Erin's Own man fired the rebound past goalkeeper Chris O'Connell.
Karl Stewart and Shane McNaughton added Antrim scores but Doyle's second goal on 14 minutes had Kevin Ryan's side in the driving seat. This time Doyle rounded the goalkeeper and fired home through a crowded goalmouth.
Antrim had the ball in the Carlow net minutes later when Neil McManus touched home McNaughton's sideline, but the score was ruled out for a square-ball infringement. Antrim continued to struggle with Carlow's intensity and Mark Brennan, Doyle and Hugh P O'Byrne all pointed to put their side eight points up, 2-5 to 0-3, after 24 minutes.
Antrim finally gave their supporters something to cheer shortly after, when Watson slotted over their first score for 13 minutes, the first of four points for the home side. McManus bagged the other three to leave Antrim trailing by 2-6 to 0-7 at the break.
A Kehoe goal after the restart cancelled out early points from McManus and McNaughton but Watson's penalty on 44 minutes brought Antrim to within three points.
The sides were level on 57 minutes at 2-12 to 3-9 after O'Connell's goal, and Carlow looked to have one foot in the next round when they edged two points ahead through Kehoe and Richard Coady. But Stewart put Antrim ahead on 70 minutes and points from McKeegan and Eddie McCloskey sealed the Saffron victory.
Scorers -- Antrim: N McManus 0-5 (0-1f), L Watson 1-1, K McKeegan 0-4, PJ O'Connell 1-0, K Stewart, S McNaughton 0-3 each, E McCloskey, S McCrory 0-1 each. Carlow: C Doyle 2-3, P Kehoe 1-6 (0-4f), M Brennan, HP O'Byrne, R Coady (0-1f) 0-1 each.
Antrim: C O'Connell; K McGourty, C Donnelly, S Delargy; P Shiels, J Campbell, C Herron; S McNaughton, K Stewart; C McFall, N McManus, T McCann; PJ O'Connell, L Watson, K McKeegan. Subs: S McCrory for C McFall, B McFall for T McCann, E McCloskey for PJ O'Connell.
Carlow: F Foley; A Corcoran, S Kavanagh, D Shaw; E Coady, E Nolan, R Coady; J Hickey, D Byrne; C Doyle, M Brennan, HP O'Byrne; A Gaule, D Murphy, P Kehoe. Subs: J Rogers for J Hickey, R Foley for D Murphy, E Byrne for E Coady, A McDonald for D Byrne.
Referee: A Stapleton (Laois).