By Cóilín Duffy
Kerry Senior Hurlers have made the leap to Division 1B for 2016, but the make up of Division 2B isn’t known just yet, after Tyrone and Donegal played out an entertaining draw in Owenbeg.
A last-gasp point from substitute John Egan ensured Kerry condemned Antrim to Division 2A for 2015, and earned Division 1B status, following a 2-16 to 1-18 win at Parnell Park this afternoon.
Eight points in arrears at half-time, Kerry outscored their opponents by 2-13 to 1-7 in the second half, as Eamonn Kelly’s charges looked hungrier, and dug deep to see the back-to-back 2A champions a return to second tier hurling for the first time since 2011 (then Division 2).
Paul Shiels (0-8) impressed from frees for Antrim, while Neil McManus (0-1), Neal McAuley (0-1) and Ciaran Clarke (0-3) claimed scores from play as Antrim took a 0-10 to 0-3 interval lead.
Kerry hit nine first-half wides, but bounced back well in the second half, despite Antrim moving 0-13 to 0-6 ahead after 40 minutes.
A 43rd minute Colm Harty (2-0) goal kick-started a Kingdom fight-back, and with points from Michael O’Leary (0-4) and Shane Nolan (0-8) Kerry cut the gap to two points in the 46th minute.
Antrim netted through PJ O’Connell, but Harty’s second goal cut the gap to two points, before Nolan scores from play and a free levelled the tie at 2-12 to 1-15 with just over 10 minutes remaining.
Antrim rallied with points from O’Connell, Michael Dudley and Clarke, but Kerry finished strongly with three unanswered points including Egan’s late winner.
At Owenbeg, Tyrone almost pulled off a bit of history, but they must meet Donegal again, after a 4-13 apiece draw after extra-time in the Division 2B/3A Promotion/Relegation Playoff.
Winners of the old Division 4 (effectively Division 5) in 2011, Tyrone won Division 3B last year, before taking the Division 3A title this season, and came close to pulling off another step up the ladder, before a late Damien Casey (2-8) point forced a replay.
Donegal looked good in normal time, and led by 3-5 to 0-8 after 46 minutes, after a Ronan McDermott hat-trick had helped them to a 3-4 to 0-6 interval lead.
Tyrone worked hard on the restart, with a 49th minute Casey goal kick-starting their comeback.
Casey was sublime throughout for the Red Hands and following a Sean Óg Grogan pass, he got through for a second goal to tie the game at 2-9 to 3-6, with 10 minutes remaining.
A brace of Lee Henderson (0-8) points handed Donegal a two-point lead, but Grogan was on hand for Tyrone’s third goal, after an initial shot from Casey.
Enda McDermott levelled the tie, but Tyrone looked like perhaps snatching the winner after a Justin Kelly point.
Donegal had to dig deep as Henderson showed great composure to slot over a free to force extra-time.
Tyrone looked sharpest in the opening stages of extra-time, with a dipping Conor Grogan free finishing in the back of the net, while a brace of Casey points brought his tally to 2-7 and saw Tyrone take a 4-12 to 3-10 lead.
Donegal fought back, with a brace of Henderson points ensuring a 4-12 to 3-12 interval score-line.
McDermott bagged his fourth goal five minutes after the restart to level the tie, and although Bernard Lafferty put Donegal ahead, there was time for Casey to force a replay.