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Antrim are looking up after showing their mettle

Antrim 1-16 Kildare 1-14

On target: Antrim’s Ciaran Clarke fires in his side’s goal
On target: Antrim’s Ciaran Clarke fires in his side’s goal

By David Mohan

Antrim hung on for a two-point victory over Kildare in Cushendall in yesterday's National Hurling League 2A clash to maintain their push for promotion.

It could have been a little more comfortable for Antrim had they hit more than one goal, but a combination of poor finishing, some great goalkeeping and a missed second-half penalty kept Kildare in the hunt.

The Saffrons had an early two-point lead thanks to scores from Paddy Burke and Ciaran Clarke but Kildare drew level and turned the game into something of a dogfight. The hosts were also dealt a blow on three minutes when Paul Shiels was forced off with a hand injury.

David Reidy hit five frees with former Kilkenny player, John Mulhall getting in on the act while Conor Johnston was on form at the other end. Reidy was having a huge influence but it was his temporary replacement, Jack Sheridan, who was to have the final say of the opening half with a point to leave Kildare 0-8 to 0-7 ahead at the break.

Antrim wasted no time in getting back on terms after the interval with Eoghan Campbell pointing and a minute later, they were awarded a penalty when Neal McAuley was taken down. Up stepped Clarke, but the Ballycastle man sent his shot wide.

He would make amends on 46 minutes when firing to the net after taking a pass from McAuley to help Antrim into a 1-10 to 0-10 lead. Kildare kept battling with Limerick native Reidy continuing to raise flags and the visitors tied the game at 1-12 on 57 minutes when Brian Byrne jinked inside and hammered home.

Antrim held their composure, however, and they finished strong with Clarke (two), Conor Johnston and Daniel McKernan pointing. Kildare did reduce the arrears to two with Reidy and his brother Michael pointing, but their late assault didn't produce the goal they needed as Jack Sheridan's shot was deflected away as Antrim held on.

Antrim: C O'Connell; S Rooney, J Dillon, Ciaran Johnston; S McCrory, O McFadden, P Burke (0-1); C McKinley, P Shiels; E Campbell (0-2), C McCann (0-1), N McKenna; C Clarke (1-6, 0-3 frees), N McAuley, Conor Johnston (0-5). Subs: P McGill for P Shiels (4 mins), M Donnelly for O McFadden (25), D McKernan (0-1) for C McCann (63), N McManus for P McGill (70+5).

Kildare: P Dermody; C Forde, J Doran, N O Muineachain; S Gainey, M Moloney, M Reidy (0-2); P Divilly, D Stapleton; J Mulhall (0-1), D Reidy (0-8, 7 frees), B Byrne (1-1); C Bonus, M Delaney, P Ryan (0-1). Subs: J Sheridan (0-1) for P Ryan (49), R Bergin for D Stapleton (50).

Referee: John O'Brien (Tipperary)

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