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Kerry's incredible fightback falls short as Antrim take Joe McDonagh Cup

The Kingdom suffered their third straight final defeat in an incredible game that featured 55 scores.

Antrim's James McNaughton celebrates scoring a goal.
Antrim's James McNaughton celebrates scoring a goal.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Antrim 5-22

Kerry 4-24

WITH THE SIX minutes of second-half stoppage-time elapsed, Podge Boyle pleaded with the referee for one more play. 

Kerry had fought back brilliantly to within a point of Antrim, having trailed by 10 points at half-time and 11 in the 46th minute. Boyle’s goal at the death gave them hope, but Sean Stack sounded the full-time whistle. 

It consigned the Kingdom to their third successive Joe McDonagh Cup final defeat in heartbreaking circumstances and their second to Antrim in three years.

They may well feel aggrieved at a few second-half decisions, such as the dubious free that was awarded to Daniel McKernan late on, or the black card and penalty against Paudie O’Connor in the 54th minute. 

Ultimately, Antrim scored their five goals at key stages in the game. Darren Gleeson will be frustrated at how they allowed Kerry back into a game that looked dead at buried at various stages. 

The substitutes introduced by Stephen Molumphy made a huge impact. Jordan Conway arrived onto the field on 25 minutes gave a heroic display and helped bring his team back into the contest.

He finished with 2-2, while Mikey and Podge Boyle (scorer of 2-11) were driving forces for Kerry further back. 

It was an incredible show of attacking play from both sides. They shared nine goals and 55 scores in total on a blustery afternoon in Croke Park. 

jordan-conway Kerry's Jordan Conway enjoyed a fine game off the bench. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Man-of-the-match Conal Cunning was top scorer for the Gleeson’s side with 1-11, while James McNaughton and Ciaran Clarke were also highly influential in attack.

Antrim’s prize for winning is an All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final against Cork. Kerry face Wexford.

It means Antrim are promoted to the Leinster SHC next season and there’s no need for Colm Bonnar to call Tipperary back to training for a Munster relegation/promotion play-off with Kerry.

Antrim’s intention to go for goals from the start was obvious. With Mikey Boyle sitting as an extra defender in front of the Kerry full-back line, Antrim attacked the flanks to good effect.

Their use of the ball was excellent, as was the movement on the inside line. Ciaran Clarke and James McNaughton struck for early goals that fired the Saffrons 2-3 to 0-2 ahead inside 12 minutes. 

Antrim reeled off five of the next six scores to surge 11 points clear by the midpoint of the half. The quality of their front six was obvious. They pressed Kerry up high and won several turnovers which gave them space to run into. 

Cunning and Clarke added further points as Antrim led by 2-11 to 0-5 after 25 minutes. 

Then Kerry enjoyed a purple patch which suggested a comeback might be in store. Fionan MacKessy won a penalty after a strong run and Podge Boyle stuck it into the net.

Boyle had been moved into full-forward by that stage and he almost struck a second from play moments later, but his shot fizzed wide. Still, three quick-fire scores from Boyle left Kerry within seven. 

Seaan Elliott raised Antrim’s third green flag to quell the Kerry resistance, leaving Antrim 10 clear at the interval. 

Kerry chipped away at Antrim’s lead, two of them through substitute Jordan Conway, until Cunning registered Antrim’s fourth goal in the 41st minute.

neil-mcmanus-celebrates Neil McManus celebrates a score. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Kerry refused to die. Shane Conway opened his account and then forced a stunning save from Ryan Elliott. Collins and Boyle pulled back efforts and then Jordan Conway struck a goal to bring the Kingdom within five. 

All of a sudden, we had a game again. 

The ball into Jordan Conway continued to do damage. He collected a lovely delivery over David Kearney and shot for only, only for the corner-back to produce a timely hook. Conway pounced on the rebound, however, and left Ryan Elliott with no chance.

When Boyle rifled over a free from midfield, there was just two between the teams.

Antrim finally awoke from their slumber. Neil McManus won a penalty after breaking through on goal and receiving a chop from Paudie O’Connor that saw the Kerry midfielder black carded. 

Clarke drilled home the penalty, leaving Antrim 5-18 to 3-19 ahead on the hour mark. Boyle missed a couple of scoreable frees, but Kerry rallied again. Maurice O’Connor, Michael Leane and Boyle shot scores to make it a one score game as six minutes of stoppage-time were signalled.

Antrim had a goal disallowed for a square ball and Kerry continued to relentless chase the game. The sides went tit for tat and with Antrim four ahead, Podge Boyle drilled in a 76th minute goal for Kerry.

Then time ran out on their courageous rightback. Antrim prevailed by a point and lifted the cup. 

Scorers for Antrim: Conal Cunning 1-12 (0-9f), Ciaran Clarke 2-2 (1-0 pen), James McNaughton 1-1, Seaan Elliott 1-0, Keelan Molloy and Neil McManus 0-2 each, Niall McKenna, Daniel McKernan and Eoin O’Neill 0-1 each.

Scorers for Kerry: Padraig Boyle 2-11 (1-0 pen, 0-7f, 1 ’65), Jordan Conway 2-2, Daniel Collins 0-3, Michael Leane and Shane Conway 0-2 each, Fionan Mackessy, Gavin Dooley, Maurice O’Connor and Paudie O’Connor 0-1 each.

Antrim

1. Ryan Elliot (Cu Chullain)

2. David Kearney (Oisin), 3. Gerard Walsh (O’Donovan Rossa), 4. Paddy Burke (Ruairi Og)

7. Conal Bohill (Naomh Eoin), 6. Eoghan Campbell (Ruairi Og), 5. Joe Markey (Naomh Eanna)

8. Michael Bradley (Noamh Eoin), 9. Keelan Molloy (Cu Chullain)

10. James McNaughton (Na Seamroga), 12. Ciaran Clarke (Mac Uilin)  14. Conor McCann (Kickhams GAC Cregan)

11. Neil McManus (Ruairi Og), 15. Seaan Elliot (Cu Chullain), 13. Conal Cunning (Cu Chullain) 

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Subs

19. Ryan McCambridge (Ruairi Og) for Campbell (22-24)

22. Daniel McKernan (Padraig Sairseil) for Bohill (49)

26. Domhnaill Nugent (Naomh Eoin) for McCann (53)

23. Niall McKenna (Padraig Sariseil) for McNaughton(62)

24. Conor Johnston (Naomh Eoin) for Clarke (64)

25. Eoin O’Neill (Cu Chullain) for McManus (69)

Kerry 

1. Louis Dee (Mungairit)

5. Sean Weird (Crotta O’Neill’s), 4. Eric Leen (St Brendan’s), 2. Conor O’Keeffe (Lixnaw)

7. Mikey Boyle (Ballyduff)

3. Eoin Ross (Ballyduff), 6. Fionan MacKessy (St Brendan’s), 8. Michael Leane (Ballyheigue)

12. Paudie O’Connor (Kilmoyley), 10. Colin Walsh (Ballyheigue)

9. Podge Boyle (Ballyduff), 11. Colm Harty (Causeway), 13. Gavin Dooley (Causeway)

15. Shane Conway (Lixnaw), 14. Daniel Collins (Kilmoyley) 

Subs

20. Jordan Conway (Crotta O’Neill’s) for Harty (25)

19. Maurice O’Connor (Kilmoyley) for Dooley (45)

21. Niall Mulcahy (Mungairit) for Walsh (49)

23. Brian Longergan (Tralee Parnells) for Collins (64)

Referee: Sean Stack (Dublin).

About the author:

Kevin O'Brien  / Reports from Croke Park

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