Superb Antrim see off Westmeath in Championship
Antrim staged a strong final quarter to secure a convincing 3-18 to 2-13 win over Westmeath in the first game of the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship.
Neil McManus led by example at Cusack Park, top-scoring with 2-4 in a game which saw a player from each side dismissed in the second half.
Antrim's Karl Stewart was shown a straight red card in the 49th minute, after being just introduced as a substitute.
Derek McNicholas of Westmeath followed six minutes later for two yellows.
Antrim's reward is a first round meeting with Laois.
Despite playing against a stiff wind in the opening half, Antrim took a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after seven minutes with Eddie McCloskey, Neil McManus, Jackson McGreevey and Shane McNaughton on target.
However, Westmeath bounced back with a ninth minute goal from Niall O'Brien.
Antrim worked hard and Neil McManus crashed the ball into the back of the Westmeath net for a 1-4 to 1-1 lead after 11 minutes.
Westmeath responded and, despite being wayward in front of the posts with seven wides by the interval, the hosts edged a 1-6 to 1-5 lead following a Brendan Murtagh score in the 22nd minute.
Brian Hanley's side extended this lead to three points 10 minutes later, with McNicholas and Murtagh on target.
McManus brought his tally to 1-2 before half-time with a late point, although the Antrim captain was unlucky not to claim the Saffrons' second goal in injury-time, after being denied by Westmeath goalkeeper Peter Collins.
Leading 1-9 to 1-7 at the break, the hosts extended their advantage to four points inside three minutes of the restart.
A 43rd-minute McManus penalty goal brought Antrim back into contention, in a period which saw the visitors score 2-5 without reply until the 57th minute, with Conor Carson scoring Antrim's third goal.
Both sides were reduced to 14 men at this stage, and despite a late Westmeath rally, with a goal from Tommy Doyle, Antrim bagged the final three points to ensure a eight-point win.
WEEKEND'S OTHER RESULTS
HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1 FINAL
Kilkenny 2-17 0-20 Tipperary
New York 0-07 4-19 Leitrim
CHRISTY RING CUP
Down 2-17 3-16 Kerry
Derry 1-11 1-10 Wicklow
Meath 1-20 2-10 Armagh
Kildare 1-23 0-15 Mayo
NICKY RACKARD CUP
Tyrone 1-11 0-12 Louth
Roscommon 1-18 0-14 Sligo
LORY MEAGHER CUP
Leitrim 0-12 3-13 Fermanagh
Warwickshire 1-15 1-10 Longford