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Peden thrilled as Saffrons' game plan pays off

Antrim 3-19 Kerry 0-14

Eoin O'Neill
Eoin O'Neill

By David Mohan

Antrim opened their Joe McDonagh Cup campaign with a comprehensive 14-point win over Kerry at Dunloy on Saturday.

The previous two meetings between the counties went the way of the Kingdom, but Neal Peden's Saffrons were not to be denied as a strong second-half showing saw them romp to victory.

No less than 13 different men in saffron registered on the scoreboard, while Kerry were limited to just four points from play over the piece.

"The most pleasing thing was our lads stuck to the task," said Peden. "We set out what we wanted to do and to a man they did it. Kerry have beaten us the last couple of times, but people will see what we did. We're a force. We've always said that, but it's about winning. This is a results-driven game and we got it.

"We are a young, energetic team and you saw that when we got into space, we were faster. We were solid at the back, coped with the high ball and had been working on our delivery."

Aided by the wind, Kerry opened the brighter with Michael O'Leary pointing after just 15 seconds. Two Shane Conway frees followed, but Antrim were soon into their stride with Eoin O'Neill, Ryan McCambridge and Keelan Molloy to the fore.

On 33 minutes, they hit the front for the first time when Nicky McKeague's line-ball found the hand of McNaughton, who sent Ciaran Clarke in on the left and the Ballycastle man found the net to ensure Antrim's front six had all registered in a 1-6 to 0-7 lead.

A pair of Conway frees levelled matters, but Antrim grabbed a 1-7 to 0-9 half-time advantage when O'Neill split the posts from a tight angle.

The visitors were back on terms two minutes after the restart when Tomás O'Connor burst out from defence to score what proved to be Kerry's only score from play.

Antrim took charge and a fortuitous goal from McKeague on 40 minutes made it 2-9 to 0-11.

The scores began to flow for Antrim with Neil McManus converting a pair of frees. A Conway free was Kerry's sole reply.

Clarke and Molloy added scores for the hosts before Kerry were reduced to 14 on 57 minutes when John Buckley was shown a straight red card for an off-the-ball challenge on Matthew Donnelly. McManus added another free and then on 63 minutes Antrim substitute Nigel Elliott raced in on the right to blast home his side's third goal.

Conway added a couple of frees for Kerry, but the hosts finished strongly with substitutes David Kearney, Joe Maskey and Kevin Rice raising flags along with McManus and Molloy.

ANTRIM: R Elliott; S Rooney, J Dillon, P Duffin; P Burke (0-1), C Boyd, M Donnelly; N McManus (0-4 frees), N McKeague (1-0); J McNaughton (0-2 frees), R McCambridge (0-1), K Molloy (0-3); C Clarke (1-1), C McCann (0-2), E O'Neill (0-2). Subs: N Elliott (1-0) for J McNaughton (48), D Kearney (0-1) for N McKeague (61), J Maskey (0-1) for E O'Neill (61), D McCloskey for C Clarke (67), K Rice (0-1) for C McCann (69).

KERRY: M Stackpoole; J Buckley, J O'Connor, E Murphy; S Weir, B Murphy, T O'Connor (0-1); C Harty (0-1), J Goulding; S Conway (0-10, all fees), M O'Leary (0-2), J Conway; D Goggin, M Boyle, P Boyle. Subs: M Slattery for P Boyle (50), P Kelly for C Harty (59), D Carroll for J Conway (61), G Dooley for J Goulding (65).

Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway).

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