Antrim 0-22 Kerry 1-17: Saffrons back in big time with Joe McDonagh triumph
Antrim will compete in the six-team Leinster Hurling Championship in 2021, after claiming the Joe McDonagh Cup title with a 0-22 to 1-17 victory over Kerry at Croke Park. The Saffrons cap an unbeaten campaign across league and championship, in an impressive first year under Darren Gleeson.
By Brian Barry at Croke Park
Last Updated: 13/12/20 7:24pm
Links between Antrim and Tipperary hurling have been long-established, but few Premier natives have had such an emphatic and immediate impact as Darren Gleeson.
The former All-Ireland winning goalkeeper has capped a remarkable first year as manager of the Saffrons, leading them to promotion in both league and now championship, while remaining unbeaten throughout.
The Portroe native took the reins ahead of the 2020 season, having worked with the side as a coach last year. And he has guided the county back to where many believe Antrim belong: hurling's top tier.
The Ulster outfit enjoyed a fast start. Ciarán Clarke scored a brace of points both from play and placed balls, while Conor McCann and James McNaughton also pointed to build a 0-6 to 0-2 lead at the water-break.
But the Saffrons' bright start was undone when a Matthew Donnelly error gifted Mickey Boyle with a golden opportunity. The Ballyduff man couldn't believe his luck as he collected the sliotar unmarked six yards from goal, and he buried it into the net.
Seconds later, Shane Conway converted a free to level it.
From there, the game opened up, with Michael Bradley and Daniel Collins trading points as it moved towards the break.
Antrim felt they were denied a goal in the 32nd minute, when Niall McKenna's shot was cleared off the line by John B O'Halloran. There were cries from the Antrim players that the sliotar had crossed the line before the Kingdom's shot-stopper had interjected, but replays indicated O'Halloran had fractionally done enough.
And it was Kerry who led 1-7 to 0-9 at the break, thanks to Michael O'Leary's injury-time point.
Antrim reappeared rejuvenated after the break.
Gleeson's charges hit six points without reply, with Neil McManus marking his return from injury with a point having been introduced as a substitute.
Kerry didn't register their first score of the half until the 51st minute, and by that stage the game had been turned on its head. When the water-break was called, Antrim led 0-16 to 1-8, and it looked like theirs to lose.
Points from Shane Conway and Colm Harty pulled it back to a one-score game, as Kerry bid to stay in touch. But Antrim held them at bay with three consecutive points, as the game entered its final 10 minutes.
Kerry fought back strongly late on, but they were unable to reverse the damage done in the third quarter, as Antrim held out for a deserved two-point victory.
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Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin, Matthew Donnelly, Stephen Rooney; Gerard Walsh, Paddy Burke, Joe Maskey; Eoghan Campbell, Keelan Molloy; Niall McKenna (0-2), James McNaughton (0-1), Michael Bradley (0-1); Dan McCloskey, Conor McCann (0-1), Ciaran Clarke (0-11, 8f).
Subs: Conal Cunning (0-2) for Dan McCloskey (half-time), Neil McManus (0-4, 1f, 2 65') for Keelan Molloy (45th minute), Donal Nugent for Conor McCann (45th minute), Conor Johnston for Michael Bradley (64th minute), Aodhán O'Brien for Niall McKenna (70th minute).
Kerry: John B O'Halloran; Bryan Murphy, Tomás O'Connor, Eric Leen; Jason Diggins, Fionán MacKessy, Michael Leane; Brandon Barrett, Paudie O'Connor (0-1); Michael O'Leary (0-2), Shane Nolan (0-9, 8f), Shane Conway; Daniel Collins (0-2), Mickey Boyle (1-0), Maurice O'Connor.
Subs: Barry O'Mahony for Maurice O'Connor (42nd minute), Pádraig Boyle (0-1) for Paudie O'Connor (49th minute), Colm Harty (0-1) for Mickey Boyle (55th minute), Brendan O'Leary (0-1) for Brandon Barrett (61st minute).