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Frank Fitzsimmons is happy to hit the ground running

Carlow 0-10 Antrim 1-12

By Tomas McGurk

Published 01/02/2016

Pick it out: Kevin Niblock grabbed Antrim’s goal
Pick it out: Kevin Niblock grabbed Antrim’s goal

Antrim got their 2016 National Football League Division Four season up and running with a deserved 1-12 to 0-10 win over Carlow at Dr Cullen Park.

After failing to defeat the Barrowsiders in each of their last two ill-fated league campaigns, the Saffrons made amends with yesterday's five-point win.

Two years ago, then Antrim boss Liam Bradley saw his side snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after throwing away a six-point lead, while the sides drew at St Paul's last campaign.

However, apart from a nervy 10-minute spell towards the end, Antrim always looked the more likely winners as Kevin Niblock's first-half goal helped the Saffrons claim both points.

While it wasn't a flawless performance from Antrim, joint-manager Frank Fitzsimmons insisted that the result was paramount.

"We knew coming down here that it was going to be tough," said Fitzsimmons. "We played some good football but there are stages of the second-half that we aren't happy with.

"But getting two points is the main thing."

A downside to yesterday's win was a dead-leg injury to Niblock which makes the St Gall's ace a huge doubt for Sunday's clash with Wexford at Corrigan Park.

Both sides also finished with 14 men after Antrim's Niall McKeever and Carlow's Brendan Murphy were given second yellows in the dying minutes after clashing off the ball.

Playing against a strong breeze, Antrim made the brighter start with points from Matthew Fitzpatrick and Michael McCann.

Carlow took a while to settle but they found their scores easier to come by and one from Derek Hayden gave them the lead after a brace of placed efforts from Paul Broderick had levelled the game.

A quick counter-attack restored Antrim's lead on 26 minutes however, as John Carron's pass found Niblock in space.

The Saffrons skipper won possession before rounding Carlow goalkeeper Craig Kearney and slotting the ball into the net.

Worse was to follow for the home side as key marksman Broderick was forced to come off just before half-time.

Leading 1-4 to 0-5 at the break, Antrim hit five unanswered points between the 37th and 47th minutes to put the game beyond doubt with McCann (two), Niblock, James Laverty and Conor Murray all scoring from play.

Niblock was forced off midway through the second-half after taking a huge hit and Carlow got themselves back in contention with fine points from John Murphy, Brendan Murphy and two Darragh Foley frees.

Carlow's JJ Smith thought he had tied the game but his goal was correctly disallowed for a square ball infringement.

Points from Murray and Paddy McAleer sealed the win with Antrim's 1-12 tally all from play.

CARLOW: C Kearney; BJ Molloy, D St Ledger, K Nolan; G Kelly, D Hayden (0-1), B Kavanagh; Brendan Murphy (0-1), D Foley (0-3, 0-3fs); A Kelly (0-1), J Murphy (0-1), E Finnegan; D O'Brien, P Broderick (0-2, 0-2fs), C Blake. Subs: S Gannon for Broderick (34mins), JJ Smith (0-1) for Finnegan (HT), H Gahan for O'Brien (40mins) Brian Murphy for Blake (66mins).

ANTRIM: C Kerr; K O'Boyle, C Burke, S McVeigh; J Lavery (0-1), J Crozer, P McAleer (0-1); J Carron, N McKeever; M Fitzpatrick (0-1), M McCann (0-5),, M Sweeney; K Niblock (1-1), C Murray (0-3), T McCann. Subs: R Murray for Sweeney (34mins), M Armstrong for Carron (HT), B Neeson for Niblock (54mins), S Burke for Armstrong (70mins).

Referee: Patrick McGuire (Longford)

Belfast Telegraph

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