So much peril – Antrim survive another year in Leinster in a six-goal thriller – condemning Carlow to the McDonagh Cup

DARREN GLEESON was delighted his Antrim side retained their Leinster SHC status at the expense of Carlow yesterday.

Two goals apiece from Conal Cunning and James McNaughton proved to be the difference for the Saffrons at Corrigan Park.

Antrim boss Darren Gleeson


Antrim boss Darren GleesonCredit: Sportsfile

But it was a tense afternoon in Belfast with so much riding on the outcome as the threat of relegation to the Joe McDonagh Cup loomed.

But that fate befell the Barrowsiders.

They were the better side early on but Chris Nolan’s red card before the second half started cost them dearly.

And Antrim chief Gleeson said: “We put in some really good spells of hurling.

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“Carlow put in some massive spells as well and had us in all sorts of trouble early on.

“We were wasteful but had a breeze in the second half.

“We were a point up having played against it.

“That stood to us and gave us a small bit of confidence coming out.

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“But I always felt there was a gear we could go up and we were often stuck between gears.

“There’s so much peril there in that game for everybody and you could see that on the field.

“We are the two teams that have peril hanging over them all season and if we don’t get our business done early in the year, it’s down to that one-game shootout where anything can happen.

“The altercation there at half-time was probably the turning point.”

Carlow enjoyed the better of it early on but the Antrim goal threat was apparent and Cunning was played in to bury after eight minutes to tie it up.

The Barrowsiders hit back with one of their own as the pace of Nolan saw him get clear and finish from an angle.

Nolan, Kavanagh, James Doyle and Conor Kehoe were all finding their range as they made the most of the wind.

Antrim responded well with McNaughton thumping home after 20 minutes and four later, Cunning buried a penalty that also led to a black card for Paul Doyle.

Carlow replied with three of the next four points as all six starting forwards registered.

But Antrim finished the half well with Keelan Molloy clipping them into a 3-9 to 1-14 lead.

A coming together at the short whistle would ultimately lead to a red card for Nolan at the start of the second half.

Antrim took charge again with long-range scores but Carlow grabbed a lifeline in the 55th minute as Martin Kavanagh squeezed a shot over the line to level.

The hosts hit back through Conor Boyd and then a goal of their own as two minutes later, Seaan Elliott teed up McNaughton to crack in.
Carlow kept in touch through Kavanagh but Antrim found an answer to retain their status.

Gleeson, whose men also beat Wexford, added: “Two wins in the Leinster Championship isn’t to be sniffed at.

“A win and a draw last year, it’s very hard to get, so we are delighted. We were aiming for three to progress in the Championship but it wasn’t to be. We’ll just regroup now.”

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