Kilkenny continued their perfect start to the Allianz National Hurling League on Sunday afternoon with a 1-28 to 3-15 victory against Antrim at UPMC Nowlan Park.
The hosts proved too strong for an Antrim side who impressed for the second consecutive game following an exceptional victory against Clare last weekend.
Kilkenny started the game the better of the two teams moving into an early 0-06 – 0-01 lead with points from James Bergin, Eoin Cody and Martin Keoghan supplementing Alan Murphy frees.
Play it again: Listen back to the game on Big Game Live here.
Antrim came into the game and reduced the gap to four points midway through the first half but a tidy finish from 2020 Young Hurler of the Year Eoin Cody extended the gap to seven, 1-07 – 0-03.
Bring forth the youth
Kilkenny’s young forward line continued to flourish with points from captain Adrian Mullen and Conahy’s James Bergin leaving the scoreline at 1-09 – 0-05 after 30 minutes.
Conor Browne was sin-binned for a foul that resulted in an Antrim penalty. Ciaran Clarke failed to beat Darren Brennan as Antrim rued their wastefulness in front of goal.
Two further frees from Murphy gave Kilkenny a comfortable eight-point lead at halftime, 1-11 to 0-06.
Saffrons stand up
Antrim’s star players stood up for the Saffrons in the second half with Ciaran Clarke and James McNaughton leading the charge for the away side.
Both sides exchanged scores at the start of the half as Antrim showed no sign of being capable of eating into the Leinster champion’s lead.
However, two goals from Conal Cunning and Ciaran Clarke in quick succession pulled the visitors level in what had swiftly become an enthralling encounter between two committed sides.
Unlike Clare last week, Kilkenny did not panic and scored the next eight points to once again pull away. The eight points consisted of impressive scores from Conor Browne, Adrian Mullen, James Bergin, Martin Keoghan and Richie Reid as well as three Murphy frees.
The final 15
1-21 to 2-10 behind with 15 minutes remaining, the easy option would have been to roll over for Antrim.
They refused to do so, however, and yet again showed the strong character that runs through the entire panel as they cut Kilkenny’s lead by scoring three unanswered points.
Kilkenny upped the gears when necessary, with scores from Mullen, Keoghan and substitute John Donnelly leaving the game beyond Darren Gleeson’s side who had too much to do with 5 minutes remaining.
Conor McCann bagged a third goal for Antrim but three more points from placed balls from Murphy saw Kilkenny over the line on a final score of 1-28 – 3-15.
Listen back to the game on Big Game Live here.
Next up for Kilkenny is a home tie with Wexford on Sunday 23 May at 2pm.