Another hurling final for Cats

Kilkenny 2-22 Antrim 2-7

Kilkenny 2-22 Antrim 2-7

Kilkenny have their eyes on a second successive treble after their U-21 hurlers joined the minors and seniors in the 2009 All-Ireland final line-up.

The Cats struggled in the first half to get the better of a plucky Saffron side, but the sheer class of senior star Richie Hogan ensured there was never to be any danger of a shock result.

Hogan finished with a classy 14-point tally before being substituted late in the game before a crowd of barely 200 at Pairc Tailteann.

He scored all but one of the Leinster champions’ eight first-half points, converting two ‘65s and three frees.

However, it was Antrim goalkeeper Chris O’Connell who was the star of that opening period, producing three marvellous saves to keep his side in contention.

He stopped superbly from Colin Fennelly in the opening moments, before denying Hogan with an acrobatic effort, and later diving full length to keep out a James Nolan effort.

Antrim didn’t get their opening score until the 15th minute through Eddie McCloskey, but once they found their feet, they battled gamely, and some solid defending from excellent full back Cormac Donnelly and Mark McFadden frustrated the Cats.

The Saffrons stunned the hot favourites with a goal in first-half stoppage time. The Kilkenny defence failed to clear a Neil McManus free, and Darren Hamill nipped in to finish to the net from close range.

Kilkenny led by 0-8 to 1-3 at the interval, but finally gained a measure of control when Hogan sent John Mulhall through for a 39th-minute goal.

The scores started to flow freely, with Hogan a constant torment to the Saffron defence and utterly sublime in his finishing.

Corner back Paul Murphy joined in with a massive free from 85 metres, and the job was safely completed 10 minutes from the end when Liam Ryan’s long delivery was picked up by John Joe Farrell, who blasted to the net.

Antrim did pull back a late consolation goal through Eddie McCloskey, but the Cats

Kilkenny: C McGrath, P Murphy (0-2, 1f), P Nolan, C Fogarty, Lester Ryan (0-1), D Langton, M Walsh, M Kelly, Liam Ryan (0-1), C Fennelly, M Bergin (0-1), J Mulhall (1-1), R Hogan (0-14, 8f, 2 ’65), JJ Farrell (1-1), J Nolan.

Subs: N Cleere (0-1) for J Nolan (42), K Mooney for Ryan (52), J Dowling for Kelly (52), P McCarthy for Hogan (56), A Kearns for P Nolan (59)

Antrim: C O’Connell, C McKinley, C Donnelly, M McFadden, T McCloskey, A Graffin, C McKinley, PJ O’Connell, P McNaughton, N McManus (0-1), E McCloskey (1-1), P Doherty (0-2, 2f), D McClean (0-1), CJ McGourty (0-1), D Hamill (1-0).

Subs: R Donnelly (0-1) for McNaughton (39), C Rocks for McCloskey (50), M Armstrong for McGourty (50)

Referee: A Stapleton (Laois).

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