Christy Ring Cup: Ciarán Clarke hits 2-10 as Antrim lay down early marker

Antrim produced a powerful first-half performance when defeating Kildare 3-20 to 0-17 in their Christy Ring Cup opening fixture at Parnell Park on Saturday.

The catalyst for their win lay in a superb attacking performance from Ciarán Clarke with the Ballycastle star landing 2-10.

Clarke opened the scoring inside ten seconds with a point and although Kildare levelled matters three minutes later through a Gerry Keegan free, the Lilies were chasing shadows for much of the opening-half.

Antrim regained their lead through points from Clarke, Conor Carson and James Connolly before Clarke netted from close range midway through the half after Paul Dermody had saved well from John Dillon.

With Kildare offering very little in attack, Antrim continued to press and were rewarded as Clarke raced through from the left flank before firing beyond Dermody seven minutes before the break.

Leading by 2-13 to 0-5 at the interval, a brace Of Clarke frees increased Antrim’s lead but their pace dipped on the restart as a spirited Kildare got the upper hand around the middle third. They had points by the impressive Keegan, Niall Ó Muineacháin and Brian Byrne as they trimmed their deficit to nine points with 15 minutes remaining.

However, a defensive lapse soon after was capitalised on by Clarke, who released Dillon for a flicked finish beyond the out-rushing Dermody. Antrim eased home thanks to late points from sub Michael Dudley and defender Ryan McCambridge.

Antrim’s win was the solitary bright point for Ulster’s representatives with both Derry and Down suffering reverses to Roscommon and London respectively.

It proved a fruitful day for last year’s Nicky Rackard Cup winners Roscommon as they defeated Derry by 2-20 to 0-15 in Athleague. The hosts led throughout in an entertaining fixture, with just three points separating his sides at the break (0-11 to 0-8).There were three points between the sides with seven minutes remaining but the hosts seized the initiative with two late goals to secure an impressive victory.

London got their campaign off to a winning start as they enjoyed a 2-17 to 2-12 win over Down in Ballycran. The hosts trailed 1-11 to 1-2 at half-time but despite an improved showing in the second-half, they failed to complete a comeback despite goals from Chris Egan as London held on.

In Trim, Meath defeated Wicklow by 3-18 to 2-12. Gavin McGowan netted twice for the hosts, and a Neil Heffernan goal added further daylight between the sides. Padraig Dolan offered hope for Wicklow but despite some greater pressure upon the resumption, Meath goalkeeper Shane McGann made some vital interventions to quell any thoughts of a comeback.


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