Antrim ended Kerry's unbeaten run in this Allianz Hurling League Division 2A tie at Austin Stack Park, Tralee, to secure their place in this month's decider. But Kerry's hopes were dashed before thrown in with Shane Conway one of three players ruled out due to mumps.
Antrim boss Darren Gleeson admitted to having sympathy for the home side: “Shane is a serious player and we might have operated differently if he was on the field. But it was a very disruptive week for the Kerry lads It was also tough on Kerry when it was their last match while their two main rivals have a match left”
The opening half was a relatively close affair. After 20 minutes, the sides were tied on 0-6 apiece, with Niall McKenna (2), James McLaughlin, Keelan Molloy, Neil McManus and Paddy Burke on the mark for Antrim while Padraig Boyle (2 frees), Brandon Barrett, Michael Leane, Jordan Conway, and Shane Nolan were the Kerry scorers. But then Antrim fired over six unanswered points to take a firm grip on proceedings but a goalkeeping error gave Kerry a lifeline as Jordan Conway's goal cut the margin to three at the interval (0-12 to 1-6).
Antrim netted shortly after the restart and Donal Nugent's strike pushed them six clear again. Kerry battled hard and reduced the gap to three (1-15 to 1-12) by the 52nd minute with Mikey Boyle scoring an inspirational point from his own half. But Antrim moved up the gear with points from McManus (free) and Eoghan Campbell before captain Conor McCann struck had their second goal and the lead was now eight points.
Mikey Boyle did force Conor McAllister to tip the ball on the crossbar and then scored a late Kerry goal, but it was purely cosmetic as the better side prevailed.
Scorers for Kerry: P Boyle 0-6 (0-4f), J Conway (1-2), M Boyle (1-1), M Leane (0-2), B Barrett, S Nolan and M Slattery (0-1 each).
Scorers for Antrim: N McManus (0-5, 3f, 1, 65), D Nugent (1-2), C McCann (1-0), K Molloy and N McKenna (0-3), J McNaughton (0-2), C Cunning, M Bradley, P Burke, E Campbell and D McCloskey (0-1 each).
KERRY: M Stackpoole; E Leen, B Murphy, J O’Connor; S Weir, M Boyle, J Diggins; M Leane, F Mackessy; M O’Leary, S Nolan, B Barrett; P Boyle, M Slattery, J Conway.
Subs: C O’Keeffe for J O’Connor (43), D Goggin for S Nolan (58), C Harty for M Slattery (68).
ANTRIM: C McAllister; P Duffin, M Donnelly, S Rooney; G Walsh, P Burke, J Maskey; E Campbell, K Molloy; M Bradley, N McManus, J McNaughton; D Nugent, N McKenna, D McCloskey
Subs: C McCann for J McLoughlin (44), C Jordan for D McCloskey (57), A O’Brien for G Walsh (63), C Cunning for M Bradley (63), C Johnson for P Duffin (66).
Referee: C McAllister (Cork).