Antrim claimed victory in the opening round of the Joe McDonagh Cup, with the Saffrons easing to a 14-point victory over a disappointing Kerry outfit.

Antrim were fantastic in the second half and will be real contenders for the Joe McDonagh Cup if they can replicate this performance.

Kerry were poor on the other hand however and they face a huge battle to avoid the drop to the Christy Ring, with their next game away to Westmeath of utmost importance.

Kerry opted to play with Michael Boyle as a sweeper despite having wind advantage in the opening half and it backfired, as the Kingdom trailed at the break despite playing with a strong wind and they were never going to have any chance of winning when chasing the game and playing against the breeze.

Kerry started the game superbly scoring the first three points of the match, courtesy of Michael O’Leary and Shane Conway (2), before Eoin O’Neill opened his sides account.

It was tit for tat right up until the 32nd minute, when Ciaran Clarke found the net after a set up from James McNaughton to give his side a 1-6 to 0-7 advantage.

Two scores from Shane Conway levelled proceedings, but a score from O’Neill on the stroke of the interval gave Antrim a 1-7 to 0-9 lead at the break.

Whatever Neal Peden said to his players at half-time worked wonders as Antrim were magnificent in the second half.

The key moment arrived just after the break when Nicky McKeague’s speculative long range effort made its way past the Kerry goalkeeper and into the back of the net and Martin Stackpoole may want that one back as it should never have gone into the net.

Kerry were reduced to 14 men in the 57th minute, when John Buckley was shown a red card, which made their task even more difficult.

Antrim eased to victory from this point on-wards, with a 62ndminute goal from substitute Nigel Elliott sealing the victory, with the 14 point winning margin in no way flattering the hosts.

Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Stephen Rooney, John Dillon, Phelim Duffin; Paddy Burke (0-01), Conor Boyd, Matthew Donnelly; Neil McManus (0-04, 0-4f), Nicky McKeague (1-0); James McNaughton (0-02, 0-2f), Ryan McCambridge (0-01); Keelan Molloy (0-03); Ciaran Clarke (1-01), Conor McCann (0-02), Eoin O'Neill (0-02).

Subs: Nigel Elliott (1-00) for McNaughton (48), Joe Maskey (0-01) for O’Neill (61), David Kearney (0-01) for McKeague (61), Daniel McCloskey for Clarke (67), Kevin Rice (0-01) for McCann (69).

Kerry: Martin Stackpoole; John Buckley, James O'Connor: Evan Murphy; Sean Weir, Bryan Murphy, Tomas O'Connor (0-01); Colum Harty (0-01), Jack Goulding; Shane Conway (0-10, 0-10f), Michael O'Leary (0-02), Jordan Conway; Dan Goggin, Michael Boyle, Padraig Boyle.

Subs: Michael Slattery for P Boyle (50), Patrick Kelly for Harty (59), Daniel Carroll for J Conway (61), Gavin Dooley for Goulding (65).

Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway)