McManus inspires Antrim
Joe McDonagh/Christy Ring promotion/relegation play/off
ANTRIM 3-23 KILDARE 1-17
By Orla Bannon at the Athletic Grounds
Neil McManus scored 2-10 as Antrim secured their place in the Joe McDonagh Cup for 2019 in sweltering conditions at the Athletic Grounds.
Kildare, who won the Christy Ring Cup in Croke Park just seven days earlier, faded badly in a second half which lacked a competitive edge or any intensity.
As things stand, the result means the Lilywhites will remain in hurling's third tier and participate in the Christy Ring Cup again next year.
Despite their efforts last weekend Kildare started brightly with Paul Divilly hitting the net after just three minutes.
Jack Sheridan did all the hard work in the left corner and floated it across for Divilly to bat into the net at the far post.
The Lilywhites kept ahead through James Burke frees but Antrim got a lot of joy out of long pucks over the top of the Kildare half-back line and started to work scores.
Keelan Molloy scored three first-half points and Nigel Elliott nailed one from the wing after a Kildare attack broke down.
A Neil McManus '65' put Antrim in front for the first time in the 18th minute and after a water break due to the sweltering heat, he was switched on to score the Saffrons' opening goal; catching a Kildare puck-out, running towards goal with a neat low finish to open up a 1-7 to 1-3 lead.
They stretched their cushion with Conor McCann reading the breaking ball and beating 'keeper Paddy McKenna who earlier made a superb save from Nigel Elliott.
McManus struck his second goal in first-half injury time to leave it 3-9 to 1-9 at the break.
The first half was pretty competitive, but the second half was a non-event.
Kildare wilted and managed just seven second-half points while Antrim tagged on scores at their leisure, Keelan Molloy finishing with 0-6 from play.
Scorers for Antrim: Neil McManus 2-10 (6fs, 1 65), Keelan Molloy 0-6, Conor McCann 1-1, Nigel Elliott 0-2, Ryan McCambridge 0-1, Eoin O'Neill 0-1, Eddie McCloskey 0-1, John Dillon 0-1.
Scorers for Kildare: James Burke 0-6 (5fs), Paul Divilly 1-5 (2fs), Bernard Deay 0-2 Kevin Whelan 0-1, Chris Bruce 0-1, Eanna O'Neill 0-1
ANTRIM: Ryan Elliott; Aaron Graffin, John Dillon, Ryan McCambridge; Paddy Burke, Matthew Donnelly; Conor McKinley; Simon McCrory, Eoghan Campbell; Keelan Molloy, Neil McManus, Nigel Elliott; Conor Carson, Conor McCann, Eoin O'Neill
Subs: Donal McKinley for McCambridge (50), James McNaughton for Donnelly (63), Eddie McCloskey for O'Neill (66), Stephen Rooney for McCrory (70), Daniel McCloskey for Carson (70).
KILDARE: Paddy McKenna; Conor Gordon, John Doran, Paul Sullivan; Eanna O'Neill, Mark Moloney, Kevin Whelan; Niall O'Muineachain, Brian Byrne; James Burke, Paul Divilly, Bernard Deay; Mark Delaney, Martin Fitzgerald, Jack Sheridan
Subs: Chris Bonus for Deay (53), Diarmuid Cahill for Whelan (53), Sean Gainey for Burke (56), Barry Cormack for Delaney (60), Shane Walsh for O'Neill (68).
REFEREE: David Hughes (Carlow).