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Adrian Mullen wants to win the ball in Kilkenny’s win against Antrim at Nowlan Park. Photo by Brendan Moran / Sports File

Dermot Crowe

After their morally positive win over Clare in the opening round, the newly promoted Antrim headed to Nowlan Park full of optimism, but Kilkenny soon began to lose confidence and the game get under control early on without ever destroying it.

The home team won, but with a certain discomfort, losing nine points and conceding three goals.

Brian Cody rested TJ Reid and cut him Rest of the team from one of the most important support ropes. A total of six changes compared to the team that defeated Dublin in the first round at Parnell Park last weekend. Antrim went with an unchanged side.

Ten minutes before the litter opened into the sky, it was raining on a cold, gray afternoon that belonged more to winter than summer. Although the field was in mint condition, the greasy ball and surface presented players with additional challenges.

At the first water break, Kilkenny had a 6-0-2 lead, but had to thank goalkeeper Darren Brennan for making a first-class save in the 15th minute after a low shot from Antrim striker Conal Cunning . Antrim scored the first goal of the game in the first minute, one point from Conor McCann, but then Kilkenny took charge.

They staggered the next six points, moving the ball at a speed and speed that Antrim could not match. The home side tightened their grip with a 24-minute goal from Eoin Cody, who regained its edge after a series of mistakes at Parnell Park last weekend. Liam Bergin, who scored three points in the first half, switched to Richie Reid, who stormed through from the middle of the field, and his dismissal found Cody, who shot the ball home.

Antrim found it difficult to make any real impression on a Kilkenny defense, expertly used by Padraig Walsh, who completely dominated Neil McManus, before the Antrim player rose to striker late in the first half. David Blanchfield and Tommy Walsh were also prominent, but Kilkenny lost Conor Browne to Sinrim midfielder Keelin Molloy just before half-time.

Molloy was heading for the Kilkenny goal at high speed when Sean Stack scored a penalty under the new try rule to prevent cynical fouling and keep Kilkenny down to 14 men.

But Antrim failed when Ciaran Clarke’s penalty to Brennan’s right was well saved by the Kilkenny goalkeeper. Full-backed Cody and Antrim Gerard Walsh exchanged points, leaving Kilkenny 1-11-06 ahead at halftime. The rain cleared and the sky cleared.

Expert GAA analysis by Joe Brolly, John Mullane, Pat Spillane, Vincent Hogan and Tomás O Sé. Issued during the GAA championships.

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Kilkenny had a nine point lead shortly after the restart and Antrim was only able to cut off that lead by two points before Browne returned from the scapegoat. But the guests scored a remarkable 3-2 with no response after 43 and 44 minutes from Cunning and Clarke to catch up with the goals. Undaunted, Kilkenny hit the next eight points in an 11-minute spell.

Antrim wasn’t finished yet. McManus scored a late goal to narrow Kilkenny lead to three points, but six of the last eight points went to Kilkenny. Alan Murphy finished the day 0-13.

Goalscorers – Kilkenny A Murphy 0-13 (9 f); E Cody 1-1; J Bergin 0-4; A Mullen 0-3; C Browne, M Keoghan each 0-2; J Donnelly, P Deegan, R Reid 0-1 each. Antrim – C Clarke 1-3 (3f); J McNaughton 0-6 (2f); C List 1-1; N McManus 1-0; C McCann 0-2; M Bradley, G Walsh, N McKenna 0-1 each.

Kilkenny: D. Brennan; T. Walsh, H. Lawlor, P. Deegan; D. Blanchfield, P. Walsh, C. Browne; R. Reid, C. Buckley; L. Blanchfield, E. Cody, M. Keoghan; J Bergin, A Mullen, A Murphy.

Subs: J Donnelly for L Blanchfield (ht); J Holden for Deegan (45), C Fogarty for Reid (56); T O’Dwyer for Bergin (61); M Carey for Buckley (67).

Antrim: R. Elliott; D. McMullan, G. Walsh, S. Rooney; E. Campbell, P. Burke, J. Maskey; K. Molloy, J. McNaughton; N. McKenna, N. McManus, M. Bradley; C List, C McCann, C Clarke.

Subs: E O’Neill for McKenna (48); C Johnston for List & D Nugent for Molloy (both 52); P Duffin for McMullan (54); D McCloskey for McCann (62); C Johnston for Rooney & S Shannon for Clarke (both 66).

fling

Moving the Frees was a big problem for Wexford during much of that Allianz Division 1B encounter with Clare at Ennis, but when the pressure really got on Rory O’Connor, the fatal blow to win them in a row landed.

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