Antrim ran out comfortable 0-23 to 1-12 victors over Carlow at Casement Park on Saturday afternoon. The match was finely balanced at nine points apiece at the interval, but a dominant second half performance from Antrim and timely points from Niall McManus saw the Ulster county pull away from their opponents.
The previous three encounters between the teams have been won by a small margin by Antrim. The first half seemed to continue the trend of close matches, with neither side able to take a stranglehold.
Antrim started the brighter of the two sides, racing into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead in the first ten minutes, with Carlow hitting a series of wasteful wides. Carlow, however, slowly forced their way back into the game. Great play from the Leinster county created a goal chance in the 10th minute, but O’Connell made a good save in the Antrim goal. Points from Shane Kavanagh and Craig Doyle then reduced the deficit to one point.
McAuley scored a point for Antrim, but four points on the trot gave Carlow a slender 0-7 to 0-5 advantage with 24 minutes played. The teams continued to trade points, with Neil McManus’ 32nd minute free levelling the scores again at eight points apiece. Antrim took the lead in the 33rd minute, but Rory Dunbar’s fifth point of the day left the sides level at half time.
Despite playing against the breeze and recovering from an early deficit, Carlow were the more disappointed side at half time. The Leinster county had racked up several wides and missed a genuine goal chance.
The missed opportunities proved to be crucial, as Antrim produced an impressive second half performance. Within 15 seconds of the second period, Antrim had moved into a lead they would never relinquish. Three points from McManus and one from Molloy gave Antrim a four point lead after nine minutes of the second half, while the Ulstermen also had their claim for a penalty waved away.
Carlow still posed a goal threat, however, with Craig Doyle forcing a great save out of O’Connell in the 47th minute. Doyle succeeded in beating the Antrim keeper in the 52nd minute, however, and his goal reduced the deficit to a solitary point.
It was a false dawn for Carlow, as eight points in just over ten minutes helped Antrim amass an ominous six point lead. McManus added a free in the final minute, his ninth point of the day, to seal an impressive 0-23 to 1-12 victory.