By Francis Mooney
Carlow triumphed in a goal-fest at Croke Park to lift the Christy Ring Cup and earn a place in the race for the Liam McCarthy Cup.
Amid the trophy celebrations lay the real reward for this scintillating victory over Antrim, an All-Ireland SHC preliminary round Qualifier clash with Laois.
James Doyle was the hero with a spectacular four goal salvo, including a first half hat-trick which stunned the Ulster men.
Denis Murphy made a massive contribution also, converting 11 frees to steer his side towards the winning line.
Doyle’s first strike eased Carlow into a 1-6 to 0-6 lead after a closely fought opening 20 minutes, and he added two more before the break, with Eoin Campbell scrambling home a Saffron goal.
Carlow led by 3-12 to 1-7 at the break, but they were knocked back by a Ciaran Clarke goal early in the second half.
However, they stuck to their attacking principles, and Martin Kavanagh squeezed home their third goal on 47 minutes.
Clarke grabbed his second as a dramatic final swung from end to end, but Antrim could never get close, and they were killed off by a fourth Clarke goal late on.
Derry won the Nicky Rackard Cup with a 3-23 to 2-15 defeat of Ulster rivals Armagh.
Alan Grant rifled a shot to the net in the seventh minute to get Derry off to a flying start, but Armagh responded by firing over four points, going in front through David Carvill in the 15th minute.
Gerald Bradley and Grant, with two, eased the Oak Leafers into a 1-3 to 0-4 lead by the 20th minute, and Armagh went 15 minutes without a score, until David Carvill converted a free.
But the momentum remained with Derry, and two Brian Cassidy scores sent them in with a 1-9 to 0-6 interval lead.
Gerald Bradley smashed home Derry’s second goal two minutes into the second half, and they were never in danger, despite a couple of consolation goals from Orchard full forward Ryan Gaffney.
The triumph was completed by a cleverly executed goal from Brian Cassidy, who, along with Grant, finished with 1-4, while Bradley tallied 1-3.
Some well taken scores from dual stars Chrissy McKaigue and Brendan Rogers added a splash of colour to a rewarding day for the Oak Leaf.
Meanwhile, Warwickshire, inspired by the dead ball striking of former Antrim star Liam Watson, won the Lory Meagher Cup for the second time with a 0-17 to 0-11 win over Leitrim.
Watson converted eleven frees as the Exiles swamped their opponents with a dominant second half display.
It was Leitrim who led at half-time, 0-10 to 0-8, with Padraig O’Donnell hitting five frees, and Colm Moreton, Zak Moradi and James Glancy chipping in with scores.
Watson’s accuracy had kept Warwickshire in touch up until that stage, but with Kieran Boxwell and skipper Donncha Kennedy firing their challenge, they lifted their game to a new level after the restart.
Watson scored from all ranges, including a monster 100 metre effort, while Shane Caulfield and Kennedy also chipped in with tidy scores.
Leitrim scored just once in the second half, and finished with 14 men following the second yellow card dismissal of Colm Moreton on 58 minutes.