Carlow 5-23 - Antrim 4-15: Carlow boss Colm Bonnar admitted his players forgot about the title at stake, and the place in the All-Ireland qualifiers, and simply focused on finally beating Antrim.
Three times this season Carlow had tried and failed to beat the Ulster outfit and the smart money looked to be on another Saffrons success on Saturday.
But 5,618 watched Carlow hurl up a storm at Croke Park to claim the Christy Ring Cup and a June 24/25 All-Ireland qualifier clash with Laois.
James Doyle was terrific for the Leinster outfit with 4-1 and captain Martin Kavanagh also netted.
“We weren’t even interested in thinking about the reward of playing Laois because our focus was totally on Antrim,” said Bonnar. “We hadn’t beaten them all year. We had hurled well in games before but weren’t able to turn them over. It’s even better of course that it was a final but the most important thing was that these lads were able to stand up and to match Antrim.”
Carlow were terrific throughout and blew favourites Antrim away with the ferocity of their attack.
Doyle scored a first-half hat-trick in the space of just 11 minutes. Antrim couldn’t shackle the St Mullins man though and Denis Murphy punished them for poor defending with 11 points from frees.
The sides were level four times up to 0-6 apiece but Carlow opened up with some terrific hurling after that and outscored Carlow by 3-7 to 1-1 at one stage. Carlow led 3-12 to 1-7 at the break and could even afford to leak three second-half goals and still with comfortably.
Ciaran Clarke finished with 2-9 for Antrim and Neil McManus drilled a 21-yard free to the net but they never got closer than seven points. And Eoghan Campbell saw red late on.
Scorers for Carlow:
J Doyle (4-1); D Murphy (0-11, 11 frees); M Kavanagh (1-1), D Byrne, JM Nolan (0-3 each); R Kelly, P Coady, J Murphy (1 free), C Nolan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Antrim:
C Clarke (2-9, 7 frees, 1 ‘65); N McManus (1-2, 1-1 frees); E Campbell (1-0); C McKinley, P Shiels, D McKernan, P McGill (0-1 each).
J Carroll; A Corcoran, P Doyle, G Bennett; R Coady, D English, R Kelly; J Kavanagh, D Byrne; JM Nolan, P Coady, E Byrne; D Murphy, J Doyle, M Kavanagh (c).
K McDonald for J Kavanagh (43), C Nolan for P Coady (46), S Murphy for Byrne (58), J Murphy for D Murphy (69), S Whelan for Doyle (72).
C O’Connell; S McCrory (c), J Dillon, S Rooney; C Johnson, P Burke, A Graffin; C McKinley, P Shiels; N McAuley, C McCann, E Campbell; C Johnston, N McManus, C Clarke.
N McKenna for McAuley (26), D McKernan for McCann (h/t), P McGill for Shiels (48), M Donnelly for Dillon (51), C Cunning for Johnston (68).
M Murtagh (Westmeath).
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