Antrim in the groove as they help McKinley off to great start with comfortable win over Kildare
Kildare 0-17 - Antrim 3-20
Dominic McKinley said he was delighted with his Antrim side's efforts as they put a turbulent period behind them and swatted aside the challenge of Kildare to get their Christy Ring Cup campaign off to a positive start with a 12-point win at Parnell Park on Saturday.
Following a dismal National Hurling League campaign when they failed to gain promotion from 2A and then the departure of PJ O'Mullan as manager, morale was low in the county. However, the Saffrons went some way to repairing the damage as they took charge early and had the game effectively won by half-time.
"I would be quite relieved because of everything that had gone on," said the Loughgiel native after.
Ciaran Clarke was the star of the show for the Saffrons, finishing with 2-10 of his side's tally and he took just 15 seconds to open his account.
Antrim were to completely dominate the opening period and had moved 0-6 to 0-3 clear before Clarke hit their first goal on 18 minutes when he whipped the ball into the net.
The Ballycastle man raised another green flag eight minutes later to help Antrim into a 2-13 to 0-5 lead at the half.
Clarke pointed a free soon after the break, but Kildare improved considerably and hit six of the next seven scores to narrow the gap back to 10.
However , Antrim were never in any real trouble and on 58 minutes John Dillon fired home to make it 3-16 to 0-13.
Excellent scores from James Connolly, Niall McKenna and Michael Dudley kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Saffrons and while Keegan continued to raise flags at the other end, Ryan McCambridge was to have the final say for Antrim who advanced in fine style.
ANTRIM: C O'Connell; S McCrory, T McCloskey, R McCambridge (0-1); O McFadden, N McAuley, C McKinley (0-1); Ciaran Johnston (0-1) , E Campbell; N McKenna (0-2), C Carson (0-2), J Dillon (1-0); J Connolly (0-2), Sean McAfee, C Clarke (2-10, 0-7 frees). Subs: E McCloskey for S McAfee (53), M Dudley (0-1) for J Dillon (58), N Elliott for N McKenna (66), F Donnelly for C Johnston (68)
KILDARE: P Dermody; R Bergin, J Doran, C Gordan; S Gainey, M Moloney, M Grace (0-1); M Fitzgerald (0-2), P Ryan; P Cocoman, G Keegan (0-11, 5 frees, 3 65s) , N O Muineachain (0-1); B Byrne (0-1), P Divily (0-1), D Flaherty.Subs: R Casey for P Ryan (HT), S Ryan for P Cocoman (70). Blood sub: S Ryan for R Casey (55, reversed 57).
Referee: Sean Cleere (Kilkenny)