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NHL Division Two: Antrim inspired by class of McManus

By John Smyth

Down 1-14 Antrim 5-8: Three goals from Neil McManus gave Antrim the edge in a highly competitive battle at McKenna Park, Ballycran.

This victory puts Antrim within striking distance of a final place — a win in their last game away to Limerick would send them into the final.

In a strongly contested game, three players were somewhat unlucky to be red carded, with Antrim's Eddie McCloskey now ruled out of next week's clash. Down finished with 13 after Eoin Clarke and Fintan Conway saw red.

Antrim opened strongly with a point from McManus after four minutes and then he set up Karl Stewart for a goal.

Paul Braniff opened the Down account with a pointed free, but Antrim's reply was two goals from McManus as they led 3-4 to 0-5 at half-time.

Down played their best hurling in the third quarter, scoring four points, but again, Antrim struck back with two goals and a point in a two-minute spell with Stewart and McManus (from a penalty) finding the Down net.

Antrim: C, O'Connell, A Graffin, K McGourty, K Molloy, N McAuley, M Herron, J McCouaig, S McCrory (0-2), S McNaughton, P Shields, K Stewart (2-1), E McCloskey, C McGuinness, N McManus (3-5), B McFall. Subs: K McKeegan for C McGuinness (h-t); J Black 6 for S McNaughton (45); C McFall 6 for P Shields (45).

Down: K Keating, M Hughes, F Conway, S Ennis, C O'Prey (0-2), C Woods, M Ennis, A Savage, E Clarke, G Johnson (0-2), S Clarke (0-2), B Ennis, A O'Prey, P Braniff (1-6), J Coyle (0-1). Subs: C Mageean for B Ennis (48); S Nicholson (0-1) for A O'Prey (48); D Hughes for S Clarke (66).

Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).

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