Antrim are relegated after play-off defeat to Kerry
Antrim 1-18 Kerry 2-16
Soul searching and tough decisions are now the order of the day for Antrim hurling as they face life in 2A of the National League following Saturday's one point defeat to Kerry in a promotion/relegation game at Parnell Park.
John Egan's injury-time point secured a shock, yet fully-warranted victory for the Kingdom and sealed their place in 1B for 2016.
There were no excuses from Antrim manager Kevin Ryan after, simply an admission that his side were not at the races on a day they needed to be most.
"Passion, desire - a lot of them had and a lot of them hadn't," said the Saffrons boss.
"It's just really hard to take."
There was no doubting who were the worthy winners on this occasion. While Antrim - aided by a stiff breeze in the opening half - led 0-11 to 0-3 at the break, there was an element of good fortune in this eight point advantage.
Kerry led 0-2 to 0-1 early on with the towering Michael O'Leary on target, but they failed to add to their tally for 30 minutes as they hit nine wides and passed up three glorious goal chances.
Paul Shiels, Neil McManus and Ciaran Clarke were on form for Antrim and carried the fight to the Munster men.
However, when Colm Harty raced through and goaled for Kerry on 43 minutes, this sparked a mini revival that saw the gap cut to two, but Antrim hit back when PJ O'Connell found the net.
Leading by six with 15 minutes remaining, again it seemed Antrim were safe but Kerry's greater desire on the day shone through as they forced Michael Bradley into a mistake close to his own goal and Shane Nolan poked the sliothar towards goal for Harty to finish to the net.
Kerry had all the momentum now and with Nolan and O'Leary on fire, they edged ahead.
Antrim did rally with points from PJ O'Connell, Michael Dudley and Ciaran Clarke giving them a two point lead with four to go, but Kerry were looking much more likely and wing-back Daniel Collins tied the game following a Nolan free before Egan struck for the winner.
For Antrim, the pain of defeat was plain for all to see. "It's obviously seriously damaging (for Antrim hurling) to go down to a division below," said Ryan.
KERRY: S Murphy; D Fitzell, P Costelloe, B Murphy; S Weir, D Dineen, D Collins (0-1); J Griffin (0-1), P Kelly (0-1); M O'Leary (0-4), S Nolan (0-8, 5 frees), C Harty (2-0); M Boyle, P Boyle, K Carmody. Subs: J Egan (0-1) for K Carmody (57), J Flaherty for P Boyle (63)
ANTRIM: C O'Connell; O McFadden, N McAuley (0-1), A Graffin; C McKinley, N McManus (0-1), E McAlonan; E Campbell, M Bradley; D McKernan, C Carson, P Shiels (0-8, 7 frees); C Clarke (0-3, 1 free), M Donnelly (0-1), PJ O'Connell (1-2). Subs: Conor Johnston (0-1) for E McAlonan (HT), M Dudley (0-1) for C Carson (42), D Hamill for M Bradley (59)
Referee: Sean Cleere (Kilkenny).