Allianz Hurling League Division 1B Round-up
By Ben Bernie
Two competitive games and one not so competitive. Two predictable results and one surprise. There was clearly a lack of sharpness in all encounters, but it was just amazing to have it back again. Kilkenny had a hard fought victory against Dublin on Saturday and Wexford eased to a win over Laois on Sunday. While the shock of the round was clearly in Belfast where Antrim overcame Clare after a memorable game in Corrigan Park.
Kilkenny 1-20 - 0-18 Dublin
Kilkenny wing forward Martin Keoghan proved to be the big difference in Parnell Park, he scored 1-4 and the goal came around the hour mark when the game was still in the melting pot. He somehow got past two defenders on the end line and finished well. 2019 Young Hurler of the Year Adrian Mullen returned for The Cats but only played the first half where Kilkenny went in two points up, not his finest performance but he’s only back from a long term knee injury. Dublin popped over four points in a row before the water break in the second half to bring them level. However, Kilkenny came out in the fourth quarter and won the game by outscoring Dublin 1-4 to 0-2. Another indicator of how important the water breaks can be. It wasn’t a vintage TJ Reid display, he was held scoreless from play but scored seven frees. Another sting for Dublin came when Liam Rushe was sent off late on for a second yellow. Another missed opportunity for The Dubs as they were close right up until the end.
Wexford 4-17 Laois 0-10 Conditions in Wexford Park were difficult, the wind was swirling and throughout the game both sides were guilty of poor shooting. Ross King opened the scoring for Laois with a fine score early on, but two Mikey Dwyer goals in the first quarter pretty much killed the game. The first a fine overhead strike after good work from debutant Conor Hearne.The game never really got going, Fiachra Fennell impressed for Laois while Diarmuid O’Keefe, Conall Flood and Man of the Match Gavin Bailey were best for Wexford. In the second half Wexford brought on the cavalry, Lee Chin and Rory O’Connor were introduced and showed us some snippets of their talent. O’Connor in particular, he was hauled down by Lee Cleere while heading towards goal, this resulted in a sin bin for Cleere and a penalty for Wexford. Lee Chin's penalty was subsequently saved by Enda Rowland. In injury time O’Connor ran through again and this time there was no stopping him as he finished to the bottom corner. Conor Hearne then got Wexford’s fourth goal almost immediately to really flatter the hosts on the scoreboard.
Antrim 1-21 Clare 0-22
Undoubtedly the shock of the weekend, a Ciarán Clarke goal in the first half proved to be the decisive score as the Saffrons celebrated a historic victory in Belfast. The sides were level on 68 minutes. A long range score from Neil McManus put them one in front, just before Clarke gave them breathing room with another point. Aided by a strong wing in the first half Clare started brighter. At one point in the first half they led by six, this was reduced to just two by the end of the half, in part due to Clarke’s goal. In the second half it was Antrim’s turn to be aided by the strong wind. Clare having scored 16 points in the first half, only managed six in the second. The sides were almost inseparable for most of the second half until MacManus knocked them in front in stoppage time from close to his own 45. A huge win for Antrim and it will be interesting to see if they can take further scalps, particularly in Belfast. Later in the campaign they will welcome both Wexford and Laois to Corrigan Park. For Clare it shouldn’t be seen as disaster, but more questions could arise about their preparation and support from the Co. Board.