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Antrim easily retain their Joe McDonagh Cup status as boss backs case for Kildare's promotion

Antrim 3-23 Kildare 1-17

By Thomas McGurk

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. That was the message from both camps after Antrim comfortably retained their Joe McDonagh Cup status with a 12-point win over Kildare in the Athletic Grounds on Saturday.

Lilywhites boss Joe Quaid passionately argued the case that his men should be granted a place in the tier two competition next year after winning the Christy Ring Cup and his Antrim counterpart Dominic 'Woody' McKinley agrees.

"First and foremost, Kildare should have been promoted," said McKinley.

"A team that wins a Christy Ring and doesn't get promoted? You wouldn't get it anywhere else.

"We knew the rules before we started, but let's keep it at six teams.

"Bring Kildare up and let them get a go at it as well. It has been successful so leave well alone."

Antrim could well have found themselves in the Joe McDonagh Cup final had things going their way in the tight battles against Laois and Westmeath and they were forced to recover from a nightmare start in the searing heat in Armagh early on Saturday afternoon.

Jack Sheridan showed a clean pair of heels to Antrim skipper Conor McKinley to set up Paul Divilly for an early goal for Kildare as they led by four points after just three minutes of action.

Antrim were wasteful during the opening quarter with Nigel Elliott missing one great goal chance and seeing another brilliantly saved by Kildare goalkeeper Paddy McKenna.

As has often been the case this season and in many others, Neil McManus took the game by the scruff of the neck as Antrim gained control of proceedings.

After a water break to take on refreshments, McManus charged through the heart of Kildare's defence and hit a thunderous goal to move Antrim four ahead.

Conor McCann and McManus hit further goals before the break while Kildare full-forward Martin Fitzgerald had his effort ruled out for a 'square ball' infringement as the Saffrons led 3-9 to 1-9 at half-time.

With just a week between the Christy Ring Cup final against London and Saturday's play-off, Kildare never looked like mounting a comeback in the second half.

Dunloy's Keelan Molloy continued his fine run of form with six points from play in an impressive performance while substitute James McNaughton took a wonderful catch behind his back from Paddy Burke's pass before rifling over from under the stand late on as Antrim's roller-coaster season ended on a positive note.

Antrim scorers: N McManus (2-10, 0-7fs), K Molloy (0-6), C McCann (1-1), N Elliott (0-2), E O'Neill, R McCambridge, J Dillon, J McNaughton (0-1 each).

Kildare scorers: P Divilly (1-6, 0-3fs), J Burke 0-6 (0-4fs, 0-1 65), B Deay (0-2), E O'Neill, K Whelan, C Bonus (0-1 each).

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