Three first half goals proved decisive as Antrim got the better of Kildare in the Kehoe Cup semi-final in Abbotstown this afternoon.
As well as the three goals Antrim also raced 2-1 to 0-0 ahead after five minutes and it was always going to be an uphill task for David Herity’s men from there.
Kildare on the whole competed well after that though with Naas’s Brian Byrne starring in hitting eleven points while his clubmate James Burke also had an impact off the bench.
Kildare did get back to within six points at one stage of the second half but Antrim showed their class as they sped clear again hitting 1-5 without reply as they rubberstamped the result.
Martin Fitzgerald was in his first game as captain for Kildare but it wasn’t an easy outing for the Ardclough man as his direct marker in James McNaughton scored 3-9 in a an impressive performance.
It only took a few seconds for Antrim to open the scoring as Nigel Elliott split the posts and it got better for the Saffrons as Fitzgerald lost possession deep in his own half and the victors took full advantage with McNaughton firing home on the back of a Ciaran Clarke pass.
Goal number two then arrived moments later with James O’Connell finishing past Mark Doyle in the Kildare goal.
Kildare eventually got on the scoresheet in the 6th minute with a Ryan Casey point that was quickly followed up by efforts from Brian Byrne and Bernard Deay.
Antrim did maintain the advantage though as McNaughton, Keelan Molloy and Nicky McKeague scored to leave Antrim with a 2-4 to 0-3 lead.
Just when Kildare thought they were growing into the game, Antrim then hit 1-3 on the bounce as Ciaran Clarke and Nigel Elliott knocked over points before McNaughton caught Mark Doyle out and beat him at his near post for a third goal.
The teams then exchanged scores with Byrne and Caolan Smith on target for Kildare before Antrim responded via McNaughton, Clarke and Keelan Molloy.
Kildare did round off the scoring for the half with Byrne and Smith again on target as Antrim took a 3-10 to 0-8 lead into the interval.
Kildare started off the second half the way they finished the first with a Brian Byrne free and they were then out of luck when a Bernard Deay ball inside was forced home by Caolan Smith but it was immediately ruled out due to a square ball.
The teams then went toe for toe as Kildare efforts from Byrne and James Burke were equalled by McNaughton and McKeague.
That left Antrim with a 3-14 to 0-13 lead but it was from here that Kildare really began to get going and they knocked over five of the next six scores.
Brian Byrne was having a mighty game and he scored a trio of points while Burke and Paul Divilly also found the target with the only Antrim response coming from McNaughton.
Antrim soon refound themselves though and they settled the contest in the 64th minute as McNaughton broke onto a ball and he finished to the net with aplomb to seal his hat-trick.
The goal occurred during a devastating period where they scored 1-5 without reply as McKeague and Donal McGinley also got their eye in.
Kildare did end the game well with Burke scoring an excellent point on the back of good build up from Byrne while Bernard Deay also kicked in a goal as a bit of respectability was put on the scoreline as Antrim ran out ten point winners.
Kildare’s attention will now turn to the League which begins in two weeks when they take on Donegal in Letterkenny.
Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Stephen Rooney, John Dillon, Pheilim Duffin, Ronan Molloy, Simon McRory, Matthew Donnelly, Conor McCann, Conor McHugh, Nigel Elliott 0-2, James McNaughton 3-9 (0-3fs, 0-1 65), Nicky McKeague 0-3, James O’Connell 1-0, Keelan Molloy 0-3, Ciaran Clarke 0-1.
Subs used: Kevin Rice for Clarke h-t, Donal McGinley 0-2 for O’Connell 40 mins, Conor Boyd for McHugh 51 mins, Connor Patterson for Duffin 62 mins, John McGoldrick for McCann 70 mins.
Kildare: Mark Doyle, Cathal Derivan, John Doran, James Dolan, Sean Christiansen, Martin Fitzgerald, Diarmuid Cahill, Paul Divilly 0-1, Aran Kelly, Barry Cormack, Brian Byrne 0-11 (0-7fs), Bernard Deay 1-1, Conor Dowling, Caolan Smith 0-2, Ryan Casey 0-1.
Subs used: James Burke 0-3 for Kelly 23 mins, Kevin Whelan for Cormack 35 mins, Ross Kelly for Dowling 35 mins, Aran Kelly for Casey 55 mins, Paul Feerick for Cahill 55 mins.
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