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Antrim still have work to do: Ryan

By John Campbell

Carlow 1-17 Antrim 2-18: Whisper it softly but Antrim are in with a chance of making real headway in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship.

They followed up their opening win over Westmeath by overcoming Carlow at Dr Cullen Park yesterday and will face London next weekend at Ballycastle knowing that victory will inch them further towards the concluding stages of the competition.

But manager Kevin Ryan accepts that a step-up in performance is needed if his side is to survive the round robin series.

"It's encouraging to have gotten back-to-back championship wins but we still have work to do. The team is still a work in progress," insists Ryan.

Once again, Antrim relied heavily on the free-taking of Paul Shiels, the combined experience of Neil McManus, Aaron Graffin and Neal McAuley and the lethal scoring touch of the excellent PJ O'Connell, who snapped up 2-3.

After the Kavanaghs, Marty and Jack, had given Carlow a boost with an early brace of points, Antrim suddenly seized the initiative with an eighth minute goal from O'Connell that pushed them into a 1-1 to 0-2 lead.

But any notion that the Ulster champions might build on this advantage were soon dispelled as Carlow remained on their shoulder for the rest of the first-half.

With Richie Coady, Paul Coady and Andrew Gaule joining the Kavanaghs in picking off points, the midland outfit underlined their determination to make a real impact in the championship.

They defended stoutly, denying Antrim space and time for the most part but the visitors' still managed to garner a series of points that kept them in front by 1-11 to 0-12 at half-time.

A second goal from O'Connell after the break allowed Antrim to breathe a little more easily but Carlow fought tenaciously with Marty Kavanagh and Denis Murphy particular threats throughout.

But with Paul Shiels racking up 11 points in all, eight from frees; their defence working overtime to counter the threat that Carlow posed and a resilient spirit palpable, Antrim held on to make it three competitive wins on the trot.

They had beaten Offaly in a relegation shoot-out to maintain their place in Division 2B of the league and now here they are targeting a third win in the Leinster championship – changed times indeed.

Antrim: C O'Connell; O McFadden, C McKinley, C Johnson; E Campbell, N McAuley, N McManus; A Graffin, S McCrory; C Carson; P Shiels 0-11 (8f), C McCann 0-3; C Clarke 0-1 (f), D Hamill, P J O'Connell 2-3. Subs: M Bradley for McAuley, B McFall for McCrory, D McKernan for McCann, S McAfee for Carson.

Carlow: B Tracey; A Corcoran, P Doyle, G Kelly; H P O'Byrne, D English, R Coady 0-1; J Kavanagh 0-2, C Wall; S Kavanagh 0-2, E Byrne; J Doyle 0-1, M Kavanagh 1-2 (1-0 pen), P Coady 0-2, D Murphy 0-5 (4f). Subs: A Gaule 0-2 for Byrne, D Byrne for O'Byrne, R Smithers for P Coady.

Referee: Eamon Hasson (Derry).

* LAOIS came good towards the end to overcome Westmeath in Cusack Park in Mullingar, eventually winning 1-15 to 1-09 in their first Leinster Championship round robin tie.

Laois hit 17 wides over the course of the 70 minutes as the underdogs stayed in touch while a fortunate Derek McNicholas goal just before half time gave Westmeath a 1-05 to 0-05 interval lead.

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