'It will be a different Antrim in two weeks', warns Kerry boss Molumphy after Kingdom claim McDonagh Cup final spot

Repeat of 2020 final as Carlow do Kingdom a favour by beating Offaly
'It will be a different Antrim in two weeks', warns Kerry boss Molumphy after Kingdom claim McDonagh Cup final spot

Pádraig Boyle: Contributed fifteen points for Kerry

Joe McDonagh Cup: Antrim 2-21 Kerry 0-29

IT will be an Antrim-Kerry Joe McDonagh Cup final as the Kingdom joined the already qualified Saffrons thanks to their win in what proved to be a dress rehearsal at Corrigan Park on Saturday.

Padraig Boyle top-scored with 15 points in a flawless display, while Eoin Ross chipped in with four and Paudie O'Connor played a captain's part to help fend off a late Antrim rally that almost saw them take something from this game that would have broken Kerry's hearts.

But as it was, the Kingdom managed to find the answers when their backs were to the wall to hold on and stamp their ticket for the decider.

"We banned talk of what was going on elsewhere as our focus was on today and getting the result," said Kerry manager Stephen Molumphy. "Even if the results didn't go our way, we wanted to finish on a high.

"Antrim tried out some new guys there. It will be a different team we face in two weeks' time and even here today we are keen not to celebrate anything as we don't want to be giving Antrim any ammunition."

The visitors got off to a great start with the first four points - three from Boyle - before a much-changed Antrim side began to settle with James McNaughton, Neil McManus and Michael Bradley leading the way.

The sides were level at 0-7 and again at 0-8 when Kerry pushed on into the break where they led 0-14 to 0-11, although they were aggrieved a Shane Conway was chalked off after play was brought back for a free.

Despite playing into the wind in the second period, the Kingdom began to pull clear with Eoin Ross setting them on their way, while Boyle added to his tally as Kerry pushed the gap out to seven, but Antrim began to battle back with substitute Keelan Molloy, McNaughton and Bradley on target.

Kerry continued to stay ahead as Boyle, Ross and Gavin Dooley re-established their seven-point lead, but then this game took a huge swing towards Antrim in stoppage time as Conal Bohill blasted to the net and after a reply from Jordan Conway, Neil McManus goaled to leave one in it.

Boyle's 15th point of the day settled Kerry, but a point from McKernan left it a very nervy finish, yet as they did all afternoon, Kerry found an answer with Paudie O'Connor sealing their victory and place in the final.

"It's disappointing to lose it, Kerry won by two in the end, but that's hurling," Antrim manager Darren Gleeson reflected. "I thought Carlow would give Offaly their fill of it down there. Carlow were a really tough team for us up here and we had to hurl unbelievably well in the last five minutes to get out with a win against them.

"It just shows you how good this compeittion is and I believe down in Ballycran it was a real dogfight between Meath and Down to stay up, so it's good for Ulster hurling that Down stayed up.

"Anyone can beat anyone, so the final is nicely poised and we'll see what happens on the day."

A pair of James McNaughton frees brought Antrim to within two, but a Boyle free on the stroke of half-time left the visitors 0-14 to 0-11 to the good, although they were aggrieved play wasn't allowed to continue for that late free as Shane Conway buried to the net although play had been brought back.

Despite playing into the wind in the second period, the Kingdom began to pull clear with Eoin Ross setting them on their way, Colum Harty getting on the sheet, Jordan Conway popping over off the bench and Ross adding to his tally.

A pair of James McNaughton points was all Antrim had to show for the third quarter as Kerry pushed the gap out to seven, but the introduction of Keelan Molloy and Daniel McKernan sparked Antri to life as they narrowed the gap to three, but Kerry managed to stay ahead with Fionan MacKessy hitting back-to-back scores.

As news filtered through that Carlow were ahead in Tullamore, Kerry looked in a good place as Boyle, Ross and Gavin Dooley pushed them into a seven-point lead, but then this game took a huge swing towards Antrim in stoppage time as Keelan Molloy fed Conal Bohill to blast home.

Jordan Conway responded with a point for Kerry, but then Neil Mcmanus found the net with a low shot in traffic that left just one between the teams.

Boyle's 15th point of the day settled Kerry, but a point from McKernan left it a very nervy finish, yet as they did all afternoon Kerry found an answer with Paudie O'Connor sealing their victory and place in the final with the last act of the game.

Scorers for Antrim: J McNaughton (0-9, 1 free), N McManus (1-2), C Bohill (1-1), M Bradley (0-4), E O'Neil, C McCann, A Bradley, K Molloy, D McKernan (0-1 each).

Scorers for Kerry: P Boyle (0-15, 12 frees), E Ross (0-4), F Mackessy (0-4), J Conway (0-2), C Walsh, P O'Connor, C Harty, G Dooley (0-1 each)

ANTRIM: R Elliott; D Kearney, N O'Connor, P Duffin; R McGarry, M Donnelly, C Bohill; S Walsh, M Bradley; E O'Neill, R McCambridge, J McNaughton; N McManus, C McCann, A Bradley.

Subs: K Molloy for R McCambridge (49), D McKernan for Walsh (49), G Walsh for Duffin (61), J Maskey for C McCann (61), S Rooney for Kearney (70).

KERRY: L Dee; P O'Connor, E Leen, C O'Keeffe; S Weir, M Boyle, F Mackessy; M Leane, P Boyle; C Walsh, S Conway, E Ross; G Dooley, N Mulcahy, C Harty.

Subs: J Conway for Niall Mulcahy (26), M O'Connor for C Harty (56), B Lonergan for S Conway (68), F O'Sullivan for G Dooley (70), M Heffernan for Walsh (70+5) 

Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)

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