Hurling League: Antrim finish with 13 men as they lose opener against Kerry

Eoin O'Neill hit Antrim's goals at Corrigan Park
Eoin O'Neill's two goals gave Antrim hope but Kerry regrouped to win the Division Two A Hurling League opener

Antrim finished with 13 men as Kerry held off a Saffrons fightback to earn a 1-21 to 2-16 victory in the Division Two A Hurling League opener.

After Nicky McKeague's early red card, Kerry moved into a 1-9 to 0-2 advantage before Eoin O'Neill's goal cut the margin to 1-12 to 1-6 by half-time.

O'Neill's second goal shortly after half-time left Antrim only one behind.

But with Shane Conway finishing with 0-12, Kerry held on as Antrim's Keelan Molloy was sent off on 64 minutes.

As had been the case in the Kehoe Cup, James McNaughton was Antrim's main scoring threat as his 12th and final point came in injury-time as he attempted to go for goal from a 25-metre free only for his mishit shot to bounce over the bar.

The Saffrons were always chasing the Corrigan Park game after their disastrous start.

New manager Niall Peden spoke during the week about how training was "game scenario based" but it's unlikely that he was planning for a 10-point deficit with little more than a quarter of the game gone.

Botched puckout gifts Kerry early goal

A botched short puckout gifted Jack Goulding Kerry's goal after only three minutes and by the 14th minute, the Kingdom led 1-7 to 0-1.

McNaughton's second point got Antrim scoring again only for Conway to respond with two more Kerry scores.

However, O'Neill's goal boosted Antrim morale as Kerry's lead was cut to six by the interval.

A remarkable Antrim comeback looked on the cards as the Saffrons hit a quick 1-2 after the break - with O'Neill's second goal leaving the minimum between the teams.

But Kerry regrouped to move three ahead and the home side were unable to get closer than two in arrears during the remainder of the contest as free-taker Conway continued to punish Saffron indiscretions.

The Kingdom's other Conway, Jordan also contributed 0-5 to their scoring haul.

Antrim's Keelan Molloy was sent off on 64 minutes
Keelan Molloy was sent off for an apparent off-the-ball challenge

Molloy red card doesn't help Saffrons

Antrim's hopes of an unlikely comeback weren't helped by their second straight red card in the 64th minute as Molloy received his marching orders for an apparent off-the-ball challenge.

With his Cushendall contingent unavailable because of their upcoming All-Ireland Club Hurling semi-final, Peden paraded a young Saffrons line-up and the team's fightback - while ultimately coming up short - will give the new manager encouragement for the remainder of the competition.

The Saffrons will be back in action next weekend against Meath in Navan while Kerry will host Westmeath in Tralee.

ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE FIXTURES/RESULTS

Saturday

Division One A
Tipperary2-16Clare1-11
Division One B
Dublin3-15Carlow0-18
Division Two A
Antrim2-16Kerry1-21
Division Two B
Warwickshire0-11Wicklow2-20
Down0-14Derry1-16

Sunday

Division One A
Kilkenny2-18Cork0-17
Wexford2-11Limerick1-17
Division One B
Galway1-27Laois2-15
Waterford2-28Offaly0-07
Division Two A
Westmeath2-17London0-15
Mayo0-17Meath0-17
Division Two B
Donegal1-13Kildare2-16
Division Three A
Louth1-12Roscommon3-18
Monaghan0-05Armagh4-11
Division Three B
Cavan2-09Leitrim1-11
Sligo2-14Fermanagh1-16

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