Kilkenny faced the task of the long trip to Belfast, to take on Antrim in the third round of the Leinster Championship coming off the back of a draw with Galway.
TJ Reid from just inside the ’65 got the first of the day, after hitting over 8 dead balls against Galway last weekend. Then all of a sudden within the minute John Donnelly picked the ball from the air and found Mossy Keoghan who hit Kilkenny’s first goal of the championship. Billy Ryan added to the misery, with The Cats looking incredibly sharp in the opening exchanges.
Keelan Molloy hit Antrim’s first however from the resulting puck out, had the ball in the net again. As the old saying goes, you wait ages for a bus and then two come along at once. TJ Reid was in oceans of space buried the ball in the back of the net, the Shamrocks man left unmarked and was found from the Eoin Murphy puck out.
Antrim was not down and out yet though, Niall McKenna got a much-needed score. However, it was the next score that was more coveted but Keelan Molloy did well to find a smidge of space and did incredibly well to put the ball passed Murphy. Game on. Both sides then went on trading scores with TJ Reid and Conal Cunning hitting over frees.
Derek Lyng’s men then took control of the game, hitting the next five unanswered. Each score came from five separate hurleys with Adrien Mullen, Alan Murphy, Billy Ryan, Mossy Keoghan, and TJ with his first from play. It was very evident that Kilkenny’s half-back line was cleaning up on Antrim’s puck-outs. Conal Cunning stops the rot with a routine free. Mullen added another before a fine save was forced on Ryan Elliott by Billy Ryan. Niall McKenna hit his second down the other end, followed by Alan Murphy, and this phase repeated itself with McKenna and Murphy adding two more ticks beside their name making it 2-11 to 1-06 after 25 minutes.
The game turned into a bit of an exhibition game, with The Cats sauntering about the pitch in the remaining five minutes. Even goalie Eoin Murphy got in on the action with a point before Billy Ryan and Richie Reid added another two. It seems game set and matches though before the full-time whistle, Mossy Keoghan finds himself free of any Antrim players and takes advantage of the space hitting the net once again. Then just like that Mossy made it a hattrick of goals after Eoin Cody drew players towards him before passing off to Keoghan who got it by Ryan Elliot. Kilkenny added another two points and had another goal chance that went begging, while Conal Cunning hit Antrims first point in 14 minutes before the halftime whistle was blown.
Half time: Kilkenny 4-15(27) Antrim 1-7(10)
Antrim came out of the blocks, going route one. A long ball down on Kilkenny’s defense was caught by Conor Johnston, who turned twisted, and put it passed Eoin Murphy. David Blanchfield followed this up by getting his first of the game with Tom Phelan making it back-to-back Kilkenny scores.
Antrim were certainly not down and out just yet though capitalizing on sloppy play by Kilkenny. Just like The Cats, they went five points unanswered, however unlike Kilkenny one of their scores was a goal coming off the boss of Neil McManus. TJ Reid broke the duct for his side, however, it could have been worse only for Ryan Elliot denying Daragh Corcoran. Cunning and Reid traded scores making the game 4-20 to 3-12 with 15 minutes gone.
Kilkenny got back on too in the next few minutes, running points over the bar from TJ, Eoin Cody, Billy Ryan, and Walter Walsh. Richie Hogan came onto the field swapping out with Adrien Mullen to the delight of the Kilkenny faithful. This dominance continued all the way to the final whistle with TJ Reid hitting the fifth goal of the game for Kilkenny and both sides chipping away at points.
Dublin are up next for Derek Lyng and his side on the 20th of May with that game live on KCLR.
Full time: Kilkenny 5-31(46) Antrim 3-20(29)