Kerry have gone down to Antrim in the Allianz Hurling League Division 2A Final.
The Kingdom lost the decider by 2-23 to 2-20.
Both teams lined out as selected for the eagerly anticipated Final in Bord na Móna O’Connor Park in Tullamore.
Kerry were first to go on the attack but with only one player in the full forward line there was no joy for the Kingdom as the ball was cleared.
The first score went the way of Antrim as Conal Cunning hit the target after 2 minutes.
Shane Conway levelled things for the green and gold with a free outside the 20m line. There was a good start for both sides with the play flowing and any nerves that may have been there were settled early on.
The Lixnaw marksman Conway finished a lovely move from Jason Diggins to Shane Conway to put Kerry in front.
Antrim were back on terms thanks to Joe Maskey but not for long after Shane Conway converted another free.
Kerry 0-03 Antrim 0-02 after 7 minutes.
Antrim have plenty of neat players and Cunning picked up his second point in the 8th minute to level matters after a good sequence of possession and play.
The men in the saffron jerseys conceded a number of soft frees to allow Kerry’s Shane Conway punish them again and the Lixnaw man put the Kingdom back in front again.
Niall McKenna levelled things again with a fine point from distance for Antrim.
Small mistakes from Kerry were being punished by the Antrim men who regained the lead from the stick of James McNaughton.
Kerry 0-04 Antrim 0-05 after 10 minutes
Antrim had the firepower to score from distance with a tremendous point from Conal Cunning from his own 65m line. They held a two-point advantage for a four or five minute period of play until the water break.
Shane Conway gave Kerry a good start with a point after the water break following a brilliant pass from Jason Diggin but Antrim restored their 2 point lead immediately thanks to a Paddy Burke strike.
Kerry’s first goal chance fell to Mikey Boyle and the Antrim keeper stood up and deflected it around for a 65 which was converted by Shane Conway after 20 mins.
Conal Cunning was to Antrim what Shane Conway was to Kerry and he put two between them again.
Michael Leane, who had been working hard along the 40, put his name on the scoreboard with a great point from play after a good passage of play for Kerry. It was the catalyst for what came next.
Mikey Boyle received a super ball from Shane Conway to bat the ball to the net to put Kerry in front.
Kerry 1-07 Antrim 0-08 after 24 minutes.
Mikey Boyle added another point to his tally in response to a point from Antrim’s Michael Bradley.
The Ulster men always presented a threat and it would take a moment of brilliance to turn things again when Conor McCann struck the sliotar to the net. A foul from Kerry Captain Brian Murphy during his efforts to prevent the goal led to the Causeway man picking up a yellow card.
Michael Leane’s second point from play from the restart levelled things again on the 28-minute mark.
Kerry 1-09 Antrim 1-09
Two more tap over frees from Conal Cunning after some Kerry indiscipline, including a yellow card for James O’Connor, put some daylight between the sides approaching half time.
Kerry went three points down before an inspirational score from Shane Conway from a free was nearly followed by another goal from Mikey Boyle. The Antrim keeper swept the ball clear for a 65 but Conway just missed it.
He had a few more chances to close the gap and he finally found his range just on the stroke of half-time.
Half Time: Kerry 1-11 Antrim 1-12
Could Kerry improve on the errors that were allowing Antrim to score more freely from play? The early answer to that was no as the Ulster side nearly scored a second goal from the restart. The post denied them but Michael Bradley did take a point from the rebound.
Kerry’s passing was much improved but there was no reward on the scoreboard after a few good efforts while Antrim were clinical in their finishing as Niall McKenna gave Antrim a 3 point lead.
Kerry 1-11 Antrim 1-14 after 4 minutes of the second half.
Antrim were more physical since the break and a fourth point without reply came from the hurley of James McNaughton.
Michael O’Leary was fouled in possession when he had a chance to score or lay it off to a better placed team mate. Shane Conway popped it over for the first point of the second half for the Kingdom.
Antrim’s four-point lead was restored without delay when James McNaughton scored and there was so nearly a goal for Antrim only for a great save by Martin Stackpoole.
The goal may have been denied but a free was conceded allowing Antrim move five points ahead.
Kerry 1-12 Antrim 1-17
Kerry needed to increase the intensity and take advantage of any possession close to the Antrim goal. It was something that Michael Leane did when he picked up his third point for the Kingdom.
Shane Conway added another point but Antrim restored their four point lead when Conor McCann pointed.
Kerry 1-14 Antrim 1-18 at the water break midway through the second half.
Kerry needed a purple patch and there was still time to find something to secure the win and promotion with around 17 minutes remaining in the game.
A fine long-range point from Gerard Walsh put Antrim 5 points clear of Kerry while the Kingdom started to move Shane Conway into the edge of the square alongside Mikey Boyle.
Fionan Mackessy was the engine for Kerry in the middle of the park and he won a free which Shane Conway dropped into the box only for it to sneak into the net…goal for Kerry!!
Kerry 2-14 (20) Antrim 1-19 (22)
Persistent cynical fouling from Antrim was finally acted upon by the referee who awarded another free for Shane Conway who’s no stranger to being the target of such attention. The Lixnaw man added the point to leave one between them.
Antrim superior handling and ability to run at pace at the Kerry defence cancelled out the Kingdom comeback when James McNaughton hit the back of the net.
Kerry 2-15 (21) Antrim 2-19 (25)
Shane Conway pointed again from a free to leave 3 between them with only 6 minutes to go in normal time.
Conal Cunning added another point for Antrim which was answered another Shane Conway point. “They’re all jitters when Shane Conway gets the ball.” – Tim Moynihan, commentator.
The five-point cushion was restored when James McNaughton pointed for Antrim. Time was running out for Kerry.
Kerry 2-17 (23) Antrim 2-22 (28)
The officials announced 4 minutes of added time at the end of the 70.
Antrim were more clever when it came to winning the 50-50 decisions and another free from the stick of Conal Cunning.
A couple of points for Kerry put Fintan O’Connor’s within two scores of winning the title but time was running out and they couldn’t break through for the goal they needed. A last gasp effort to drop the ball into the square came to nought in terms of a goal. Shane Conway did score a point.
Antrim held on to be deserving winners securing promotion to the top tier of hurling in Ireland.
Final Score: Kerry 2-20 Antrim 2-23
Kerry manager Fintan O’Connor