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Clarke the star man for Antrim who hit back to draw with Carlow

Carlow 0-21 - Antrim 2-15

By Charles Keegan

Level eight times over the course of the game, a draw was always on the cards from this hard fought NHL Division 2A tie at Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow yesterday.

From an Antrim viewpoint this was very much the Ciaran Clarke show. The Antrim No 13 gave an exhibition of scoring, hitting a massive total of 1-12, 1-11 from frees.

Carlow had the better of the opening half, picking off some superb points from play. But they were vulnerable in defence and this was demonstrated forcibly on 14 minutes when the visitors struck for an opportunistic goal.

Carlow keeper Brian Tracey looked to have matters under control but, harassed by Clarke, he had his attempted clearance blocked down and the loose ball was forced to the net by Antrim full forward Neal McAuley.

On 25 minutes Antrim produced a wonderful movement from their own goalkeeper Chris O'Connell which finished with a superb point from play by left half forward Niall McKenna, to give his side a 1-6 to 0-8 lead.

But the home side finished the first half strongly and led 0-13 to 1-7 at half time - a lead that could have been greater but for seven wides. By comparison, Antrim were far more economical in their shooting, hitting a meagre three wides.

The second half saw a continuation of the cut and thrust of the opening period. It remained very much score for score until Antrim were awarded 52nd minute free some 30 metres from the home goal and slightly to the left. Up stepped Ciarán Clarke to drill the ball to the, bringing the sides level at 2-11 to 0-17.

Carlow lost left half back Richard Coady to a straight red card on 63 minutes and right full back Dion Wall on a second yellow card in the final minutes when he hauled down Clarke who promptly put the sides level for the final time.

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