Antrim to stay in Division 1B

Antrim 0-15 Carlow 0-11

Antrim to stay in Division 1B

Antrim 0-15 Carlow 0-11

Antrim retained their Allianz Hurling League Division 1B status with a 0-15 to 0-11 win over Carlow in Navan.

Neil McManus top scored for the Ulster side with nine points, all from placed balls.

The Saffrons trailed 0-8 to 0-4 at the break and failed to score from play until Shane McNaughton pointed on 56 minutes.

This galvanised Kevin Ryan's men and they hit the final eight points to ensure Division 1B hurling for another year.

Playing with the wind at their backs in the first half, Carlow were much the better side and moved two points in front thanks to early efforts from John Michael Nolan and Shane Kavanagh (free).

McManus finally opened the Antrim account with a free on 17 minutes, but this was cancelled out immediately from the puck-out when Sean Murphy split the posts.

Antrim's tactic of trying to pick out full-forward Conor Carson was having little success while McManus, Shane McNaughton and Eddie McCloskey were finding it impossible to make any space.

McManus tied up the game with two quick frees but for the remainder of the half, Carlow were well on top. In a ten minute burst, they moved five clear with scores from Richard Coady (0-2), Shane Kavanagh (0-2) and Nolan.

McManus had the final say of the half with a free to leave Carlow 0-8 to 0-4 ahead at the change of ends.

While Antrim had the strong wind behind them in the second period, they failed to capitalise initially as McManus failed to raise a flag with three placed balls.

It took 11 minutes for the first score of the half when Shane Kavanagh pointed a free, but two in response from McManus gave Ryan's charges hope.

Shane Kavanagh cancelled these out with two of his own to move his side 0-11 to 0-6 ahead as it appeared that the Barrowsiders were on course for a play-off win.

However, they would not score for the rest of the game as Antrim – faced with the prospect of relegation – turned up the heat and began to really assert themselves.

Shane McNaughton's point on the turn sparked fresh life into Antrim who were now beginning to dominate around the middle third, with half-time substitute Barry McFall making a real impact.

McManus then pointed another free to reduce the gap to three as Antrim suddenly found real belief in themselves. Darren Hamill and McNaughton pointed to make it a one-point game with five minutes remaining and confirm the tide had turned.

Eddie McCloskey levelled seconds later from a tight angle and the Loughgiel man put his side ahead with a tidy finish after being played in by the impressive Paul Shiels.

Barry McFall doubled the Antrim lead as Carlow's challenge was wilting with each passing second, while McManus closed the show with a free and a '65' after Shay Casey's piledriver was turned around the post by Carlow goalkeeper Nicky Roberts.

The result means that Antrim receive a real boost ahead of their Leinster Championship opener against Westmeath on May 5 as they stay in Division 1B, but for John Meyler's Carlow outfit, they must now contemplate the dreaded drop to Division 2A for 2014.

ANTRIM: R McGarry; C McKinley, A Graffin, M McFadden; J McGreevy, N McAuley, P Shiels; M Donnelly, T McCloskey; S Beattie, N McManus (0-9, 0-8f, 0-1 '65'), E McCloskey (0-2); S McAfee, C Carson, S McNaughton (0-2).

Subs used: B McFall (0-1) for Donnelly, D Hamill (0-1) for McAfee (both half-time), S Casey for Beattie (59 mins), KB McShane for McGreevy, K McKernan for Hamill (both 70).

CARLOW: N Roberts; D English, E Nolan, D Shaw; A Corcoran, R Coady (0-2, 0-1f), J O'Hara; J Kavanagh, E Coady; C Doyle, S Kavanagh (0-6, 0-6f), S Murphy (0-1); A Gaule, M Brennan, JM Nolan (0-2).

Sub used: M Kavanagh for Doyle (62 mins).

Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary).

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