Tommy Walsh of Kilkenny in action against Neil McManus of Antrim during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group B match between Kilkenny and Antrim at UMPC Nowlan Park in Kilkenny.
Tommy Walsh of Kilkenny in action against Neil McManus of Antrim during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group B match between Kilkenny and Antrim at UMPC Nowlan Park in Kilkenny.

Allianz HL D1: Kilkenny overcome gutsy Antrim

Allianz Hurling League, Division One, Group B


From David Mohan at UPMC Nowlan Park

A STRONG third quarter spell for Kilkenny when they hit 1-5 without reply ultimately proved crucial as they claimed the points over Antrim at a windy UPMC Nowlan Park this afternoon.

On a day that proved difficult for attackers, the hosts just managed to eke out enough scores in the second period despite driving 18 shots wide over the course of the game to Antrim's 11, but they were forced to hang on a little at the end as the Saffrons - despite finishing with 14 players - reduced the gap back to two and only for the quick reflexes of goalkeeper Darren Brennan, could have found themselves behind in stoppage time.

Antrim were quick to establish themselves as Keelan Molloy - a late change for Daniel McKernan - fired over within the opening minute and then came the Antrim goal on four minutes as Niall McKenna went long and Seaan Elliott got out in front of Conor Delaney to gather, spin towards goal and finish low to the net.

Kilkenny got off the mark with James Bergin clipping over on five minutes and while he and Ciaran Clarke traded frees, the conditions began to play havoc with the Kilkenny shooting. The wides tally had reached 10 by half-time to Antrim's seven as the strong crossfield wind dragged shots off course.

Still, the visitors were keeping their noses in front with Neil McManus floating over a lovely score and after Martin Keoghan responded, a Clarke free and trademark Eoghan Campbell point when bursting out from the back left five between the sides on 26 minutes.

Kilkenny were enjoying plenty of possession and looked stronger in the rucks, but were not making an impression on the scoreboard but finally seemed to get into a flow with Paddy Deegan and Tom Phelan pointing before Bergin found his range from a free.

In stoppage time, Phelan made a superb catch over the head of Paddy Burke off a poc-out and galloped towards goal. His shot at goal was blocked but Keoghan was on hand to whip the loose ball to the net to put the hosts ahead for the first time, but a Clarke free left the teams locked at 1-6 at the break.

John Donnelly took over the free-taking duties for Kilkenny in the second half with Bergin replaced by Walter Walsh and he nudged his side ahead before Padraig Walsh and Huw Lawlor fired over.

Then came the second Kilkenny goal on 46 minuets when Billy Ryan tidily gathered and zipped a pass into Mikey Carey who in turn found Keoghan to fire home his second of the day.

With points from Donnelly and Padraig Walsh following to push the gap out to seven and Antrim unable to get anything going in attack, it seemed this game was over, but not so as a Daniel McKernan point on 53 minutes appeared to spark the visitors back to life.

Sean Elliott added another from a tight angle and then on 58 minutes, Conor Johnston got onto a break, closed in on goal and his shot got the better of Brennan to hit the net and leave just three in it.

Points from Keoghan and Walter Walsh steadied Kilkenny, but after McManus nailed a free for Antrim, one in reply from Donnelly was followed by a yellow card to Antrim corner back Niall O'Connor for alleged holding away off the ball - his second of the game - and the visitors were down to 14 with five to play.

There was still time for late drama as Johnston played a delightful ball into McManus who rattled the net with two to go and in stoppage time, a dropping 65 was met by the stick of Nugent with Brennan reacting to keep it out. From the breakaway, Donnelly made an intercept to steer over a point that finally settled this game and banked the points for Kilkenny.

Scorers for Kilkenny: M Keoghan 2-2, J Donnelly 0-4 (3 frees), J Bergin 0-3 (2 frees), P Walsh 0-2, P Deegan 0-1, H Lawlor 0-1, T Phelan 0-1, Walsh 0-1

Scorers for Antrim: N McManus 1-2 (0-1 free), S Elliott 1-1, C Johnston 1-0, C Clarke 0-3 (all frees), K Molloy 0-1, E Campbell 0-1, D McKernan 0-1

KILKENNY: Darren Brennan; Mikey Butler, Conor Delaney, Tommy Walsh; James Maher, Huw Lawlor, David Blanchfield; Mikey Carey, Paddy Deegan; John Donnelly, Padraig Walsh, Tom Phelan; Billy Ryan, Martin Keoghan, James Bergin. Subs: Ciaran Wallace for Conor Delaney (23), Conor Heary for James Maher (HT), Walter Walsh for James Bergin (HT), Chris Bolger for Billy Ryan (54)

ANTRIM: Ryan Elliott; Niall O'Connor, Gerard Walsh, Stephen Rooney; Paddy Burke, Eoghan Campbell, Joe Maskey; James McNaughton, Keelan Molloy; Niall McKenna, Ciaran Clarke, Conal Cunning; Seaan Elliott, Neil McManus, Conor Johnston. Subs: Daniel McKernan for James McNaughton (50), Eoin O'Neill for Ciaran Clarke (50), Scott Walsh for Paddy Burke (57), Ryan McCambridge for Keelan Molloy (67), Domhnall Nugent for Niall McKenna (67).

REFEREE: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)