Antrim celebrate return to top flight with shock win over Clare

Encouraging start for Darren Gleeson’s side as they record a deserved two-point win

Antrim 1-21 Clare 0-22

Antrim marked their return to Division One hurling with a deserved two-point win over Clare at Corrigan Park, Belfast.

The Saffrons trailed by six points after 13 minutes but then hit a 15-minute purple patch in which they outscored Clare by 1-6 to 0-3.

Ciarán Clarke was the man who raised the green flag for Antrim who trailed by two points at the break having played against a strong breeze in the opening half.

Clare got off to a steady if not spectacular start. David Reidy opened the scoring in the first minute with Tony Kelly doubling the lead a minute later.

By the 13th minute, the visitors had extended their lead to six points, 0-9 to 0-3, with Kelly, Cathal Malone, Shane O'Donnell and Ryan Taylor all on target for the Banner.

Antrim then began to find their range. The diagonal ball into corner forward Clarke was paying dividends and the Ballycastle man added his second point of the day on the quarter-hour mark. Neil McManus added a brace of frees, with captain Conor McCann making the most of a poor puckout from Eibhear Quilligan to reduce the deficit.

Ryan, O’Donnell and Kelly replied for Clare but Clarke then got on the end of another diagonal ball and this time fired past Quilligan between the Clare posts to level the game at 1-9 to 0-12.

Ryan and Kelly restored a two-point cushion and the same margin separated the sides at the break after Clarke and Keelan Molloy cancelled out two Kelly frees to leave the score 0-16 to 1-11 in favour of Clare.

With the wind at their backs, Antrim took the game to Clare on the restart and had levelled matters by the 40th minute through a Clarke brace from placed balls. In-between, Conal Cunning had a goalbound effort superbly saved by Quilligan.

The sides shared the next 14 points in turn with the scores tied seven times in the second half. Crucially for Antrim it was Clare who had to find the equalising score from the 46th minute onwards when Eoghan Campbell and Molloy strung together back-to-back points for the home side.

A monster effort from play on 68 minutes put Antrim a point ahead once more, and as the game ticked into injury time Clarke converted a close in free to seal a memorable victory for Darren Gleeson’s side.

ANTRIM: R Elliott: D McMullan, G Walsh, S Rooney; E Campbell (0-1), P Burke, J Maskey; K Molloy (0-3), N McManus (0-3, 2f); N McKenna, J McNaughton, M Bradley; C Cunning (0-2), C McCann (0-1), C Clarke (1-11, 9f, 0-1 '65')

Subs: E O'Neill for J McNaughton (46), D Nugent for C McCann (55), C Johnston for M Bradley (61), D McCloskey for C Cunning (69)

CLARE: E Quilligan; P Donnellan, C Cleary, P Flanagan; D Ryan (0-2), J Conlon, A McCarthy (0-1); C Galvin, T Kelly (0-11, 7f, 0-1 '65'); C Malone (0-1), D Reidy (0-3), C Guilfoyle (0-1); R Taylor (0-1), A Shanagher, S O'Donnell (0-2)

Subs: R Hayes for P Donnellan (ht), L Corry for A Shanagher (ht), S Golden for C Guilfoyle (49), D Fitzgerald for C Galvin (49), J Browne for P Flanagan (68)

Referee: L Gordon (Galway)