Antrim were forced to dig deep to force a replay at Casement Park as a last ditch Paddy Cunningham free earned them a hard-fought draw Kildare on Saturday afternoon.
That score brought Cunningham’s personal tally for the afternoon to ten points as he almost single-handedly kept the Saffrons’ Championship dream alive.
Kildare should really have comfortably won at the first time of asking but they shot 21 wides to Antrim’s nine .
And the visitors were kept in the game by Cunningham’s persistent punishment of Lilywhite indiscretions, Tony Scullion’s drive from the half-back line and also Kevin McGourty’s keen eye for a score. Antrim trailed by just a point at the half-time break having not kicked a single wide, whereas Kildare had 13.
Some fine points by Gary White, James Kavanagh and Ronan Sweeney helped Kildare establish a two-point lead entering the closing stages of normal time but after Cunningham halved the deficit, McGourty kicked his third from play from 45m to bring us to extra time.
The hosts resumed promisingly as both Johnny Doyle and Eoghan O’Flaherty raised white flags but again Cunningham kept his team in touch.
And it was the left-hander who came to his side’s rescue three minutes from time. The replay is likely to be played at Casement Park this weekend.
KILDARE: S McCormack; P Kelly, H McGrillen, A Mac Lochlainn; M O’Flaherty, E Bolton 0-1, B Flanagan; D Flynn, D Earley; H Lynch, E Callaghan, J Kavanagh 0-1; P O’Neill 0-2, J Doyle 0-7(6fs), R Sweeney 0-2. Subs: G White 0-1 for Lynch 25; E O’Flaherty 0-1 for Flanagan 50; T O’Connor for O’Neill 70; K Donnelly for Earley 71; K Cribbin for M O’Flaherty 71; O’Neill for Donnelly 81; M O’Flaherty for Callaghan 85; Earley for E O’Flaherty 87
ANTRIM: S McGreevy; A Healy, C Brady, J Crozier; J Loughrey, T Scullion, K O’Boyle 0-1; B Herron, M McCann; A Gallagher, T McCann 0-1, K McGourty 0-3; K Niblock, P Cunningham 0-10(9fs), K Brady. Subs: CJ McGourty for Brady 40; S Finch for T McCann 54; S Kelly for Healy 64; P Doherty for Niblock 66; T McCann for Herron 85
Referee: M Deegan (Laois).