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Little love lost as Antrim beat Carlow in a game of blood and nettles

Antrim 2-16 Carlow 0-19

By David Mohan

After 15 minutes injury-time, four red cards - three for Carlow in the second half and one for Antrim in the first - and as intense a Championship battle you are likely to see all summer, Antrim made it two wins from two against familiar foes, Carlow at a sunny Corrigan Park on Saturday.

Love has been left in a dustbin when it comes to these teams, and had it not been for Carlow's indiscipline in the second half, they could have maybe made a charge at victory.

They chose different.

"It was a hellraiser wasn't it?" asked Antrim joint-boss, Dominic McKinley after.

"Once you play a team so many times, same as club matches - everyone knows each other that well, the stakes are high.

"It's constant, constant, constant for me and the players as well.

"That match was up and down.

"We'll not be pleased with elements, but again, the character of the team couldn't be questioned."

Smarting from last year's heavy defeat to the Barrowsiders in the Christy Ring Cup final, it was no surprise Antrim, aided by a stiff breeze in the opening period, came out firing and after Neil McManus hit an early score, Nigel Elliott cut in from the right to hit the games opening goal three minutes in.

Antrim were well up for this game and they had raced into a 1-6 to 0-2 lead after 18 minutes with McManus, Joe Maskey and Eoghan Campbell all finding their range.

Carlow gradually grew into the game with Denis Murphy keeping the board ticking over and on 28 minutes, James Doyle was taken out when through by Eoghan Campbell who was red-carded in the process.

The visitors began to exert their influence and a Murphy free trimmed the gap to four early in the second period, but on 38 minutes, Carlow were down to 14 - Jack Kavanagh red-carded for an off-the-ball incident involving Simon McCrory that took over five minutes for the referee to sort out.

Initially, this made little impact as Carlow continued to eat into the Antrim lead with Doyle and Murphy piling on the scores to trail by just two on 53 minutes.

Antrim needed a reply and they got it with Elliott fielding a puck-out, racing in on the right and squaring for McManus to bat home and make it 2-11 to 0-12.

Carlow responded through a Murphy free, but then lost Diarmuid Byrne to a red card on 56 minutes for a wild, high swipe at McCrory.

Antrim hit two of the next three points before Carlow were then down to 12 with Richard Coady given his marching orders for a strike on McManus off-the-ball that saw the Cushendall man having to be withdrawn.

A pair of Antrim points from Eddie McCloskey and Conor Johnston appeared to have settled the argument as they led by seven.

But the board for added time, showing 11 minutes appeared to galvanise Carlow who hit five in-a-row to leave it a tense finish.

Antrim, however, managed to rise themselves for one last push and a Johnston free in the 15th minute of added time sealed their win after an action-packed game.

"We'd be disappointed with the offloading of the ball in the second half, especially with the two extra men," added McKinley.

"Look, I think we'll see them (Carlow) down the line, but I hope it won't be as nervy."

ANTRIM: R Elliott; S Rooney, J Dillon, C McKinley; J Maskey (0-1), P Burke, R McCambridge; E Campbell (0-1), S McCrory; N Elliott (1-2), C Johnston (0-2, 1 free), N McManus (1-8, 0-7 frees); D McKinley, M Armstrong (0-1), C McCann. Subs: J McNaughton for D McKinley (47), E McCloskey (0-1) for C McCann (59), D Kearney for J Maskey (61), C Carson for N McManus (67), N McAuley for R McCambridge (70+8).

CARLOW: B Tracey; A Corcoran, P Doyle, M Doyle; R Coady, D English, D Byrne; J Kavanagh, K McDonald; JM Nolan (0-2, 1 sideline), P Coady, E Byrne; J Doyle (0-2), D Murphy (0-11, 8 frees), R Smithers.

Subs: C Nolan (0-2) for R Smithers (46), D Wall for M Doyle (62), J Murphy for E Byrne (67), C Foley (0-2) for P Coady (70+3).

Referee: John O'Brien (Laois).

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