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Antrim are undone by Doyle's first half treble in final

Antrim 4-15 Carlow 5-23

By Tomas McGurk

James Doyle's first half hat-trick proved Antrim's undoing as Carlow lifted the Christy Ring Cup following a 5-23 to 4-15 win in Croke Park on Saturday. Colm Bonnar's men lost out to Antrim after extra-time in the opening round of the competition and also suffered a narrow defeat to the Saffrons in the Division 2A final back in April.

Carlow made the brighter start and were 0-3 to 0-1 ahead after eight minutes with Chrissy O'Connell called into action early to deny Martin Kavanagh from close range. Antrim's eagerness led to them conceding a number of scoreable frees in the opening stages which Denis Murphy converted with ease.

Antrim's tactic of playing Neil McManus at full-forward yielded a point after 11 minutes but the Cushendall ace was smothered out by a packed Carlow defence.

The Saffrons were reliant on their free-taker Ciaran Clarke to keep them in touch and the see-saw nature of the opening 20 minutes was highlighted by the fact that the sides were level three times.

However, Carlow kicked into gear for the final 15 minutes of the half as James Doyle bagged his first major with a fine finish after being teed up by full-forward Eddie Byrne.

A second goal was conceded by the Ulster side when Kavanagh got the better of Antrim captain Simon McCrory before handpassing the sliotar across to the unmarked Doyle who finished with another thunderbolt past O'Connell.

In the next passage of play, Antrim hit back with a goal of their own with Eoghan Campbell bundling home after a goalmouth scramble.

Carlow kept their foot on the accelerator, though, as midfielder Diarmuid Byrne fired over his third point of the evening while Murphy added his fifth free.

Carlow's dominance of the game was evident when they struck for a third major. Doyle, this time with Aaron Graffin for company, showed blistering pace to cut through and beat O'Connell to complete his hat-trick.

Murphy and Clarke exchanged frees before the end of the half as the Barrowsiders took a commanding 3-12 to 1-7 lead into the break. Antrim needed to make a quick start to the second half but it was Carlow who were quickest of out the traps with John Michael Nolan landing two points.

The Saffrons nicked a goal when Clarke was played through by Paddy Burke and he flicked the ball into the net under pressure from two Carlow defenders.

Yet, Carlow had too much space all over the pitch and Kavanagh showed a clean pair of heels to McCrory to bag Carlow's fourth goal.

McManus replied instantly with a goal from a free and Antrim briefly threatened a comeback when Clarke made it 4-11 to 4-18 with 15 minutes to go.

Doyle, though, had other ideas and he bagged his fourth goal of the contest while Murphy ended with 0-11 from frees.

Antrim: C O'Connell; S McCrory, J Dillon, S Rooney; Ciaran Johnston, P Burke, A Graffin; C McKinley 0-1; P Shiels 0-1; N McAuley, C McCann, E Campbell 1-0; Conor Johnston, N McManus 1-1 (1-0f), C Clarke 2-9 (0-7fs). Subs: N McKenna for McAuley (26mins), D McKernan for McCann (HT), P McGill 0-1 for Shiels (48mins), M Donnelly for Dillon (50mins), C Cunning for Conor Johnston (68mins).

Carlow: J Carroll; A Corcoran, P Doyle, G Bennett; R Coady, D English, R Kelly 0-1; J Kavanagh, D Byrne 0-3; J Nolan 0-3, M Kavanagh 1-2 (0-1f), J Doyle 4-1; D Murphy 0-11 (0-11fs), E Byrne, P Coady 0-1. Subs: C Nolan 0-1 for P Coady (46mins), S Murphy for D Byrne (58mins), J Murphy for D Murphy (69 mins), S Whelan for J Doyle (72mins)

Referee: M Murtagh (Westmeath)

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