Promotion/relegation play-off: Antrim retain McDonagh Cup place

Antrim's Neil McManus celebrates his first goal at the Athletic Grounds
Antrim's Neil McManus celebrates his first goal at the Athletic Grounds

Antrim held onto their place in the Joe McDonagh Cup for 2019 with a 3-23 to 1-17 victory over Kildare in their promotion/relegation play-off.

An early goal by Jack Sheridan helped the Lilywhites to take an early lead at the Athletic Grounds but Antrim recovered to secure a comfortable win.

Neil McManus scored two goals and Conor McCann netted for the Saffrons.

The win means Antrim will remain in the second tier of the All-Ireland championship for next season.

The fixture took place despite both squads expressing their anger at the decision to schedule a play-off between the fifth-ranked McDonagh Cup team and the winners of the third tier Christy Ring Cup.

Fresh from being crowned the Ring Cup champions last weekend, Kildare had the better of the opening exchanges with Sheridan's goal helping them into a 1-1 to 0-0 lead after just three minutes.

Antrim recovered to level the game in the 11th minute and, although Kildare regained took the lead, once the home side moved 0-7 to 1-3 in front after 18 minutes they never relinquished the advantage for the remainder of the contest.

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McManus, who finished the game with 2-10, and fellow goal-scorer McCann led the Saffrons attack, while Keelan Molloy, Eoin O'Neill, Nigel Elliott and Ryan McCambridge all scored a point apiece in the opening half.

The home side led by just four points after half an hour before McManus got his second goal and McCann also scored his three-pointer to help their side into a 3-9 to 1-9 lead at half-time.

The Ulster side outscored Kildare by seven points to three in the third quarter to surger further ahead and they were able to maintain their cushion during the closing stages to clinch a deserved 12-point win.

Next year's Joe McDonagh Cup will be reduced to five teams, with Antrim holding onto their spot in the second tier where they will compete against Carlow, Kerry, Laois and Westmeath in 2019.

Antrim: R Elliott; A Graffin, J Dillon, R McCambridge; P Burke, M Donnelly, C McKinley; S McCrory, E Campbell; K Molloy, N McManus, N Elliott; C Carson, C McCann, E O'Neill.

Kildare: P McKenna; C Gordon, J Doran, P Sullivan; E O'Neill, M Moloney, K Whelan; N O'Muineachain, B Byrne; J Burke, P Divilly, B Deay; M Delaney, M Fitzgerald, J Sheridan.