Antrim ended their Allianz Football League Division 4 campaign with a well-deserved seven-point win over Waterford in Dundalk, but the Saffrons fell short in their bid for promotion with results elsewhere failing to go in their favour.
This fixture had been in doubt midweek when Waterford issued a statement expressing their reservations on travelling to Antrim, but a sporting gesture from Lenny Harbinson's side saw the game take place at Geraldine’s GAC, south of Dundalk.
After last weekend's stunning 25-point loss in Wicklow, Antrim would have been keen to make a positive start, but it was Waterford who took an early lead with corner-forward Stephen Curry splitting the posts.
The Saffrons were soon in command though and points from Paddy McBride and Paddy Cunningham saw them move ahead before they struck for the game’s opening goal. Centre-back James McAuley crashed a shot off the underside of the crossbar and his Naomh Éanna clubmate Odhran Eastwood was on hand to palm home the rebound to move Antrim 1-02 to 0-01 ahead after 10 minutes.
A fine point-blank save from Aaron Bereford denied Marc Jordan from adding a second goal, before Eastwood added another fine point, while Cunningham finished a superb first-half showing with five points to his credit including a brilliantly executed sideline kick.
Waterford wing-back Tony Grey hit two points in the first 35 minutes to keep the Munster side in touch as Antrim led 1-08 to 0-07 at half-time.
Ger Walsh made a hat-trick of changes at the break and Jack Mullaney made his presence felt with an early point while two long-range efforts from midfielder Jason Curry left the minimum between the sides.
Antrim’s Colum Duffin missed another goal chance as a series of poor wides from Harbinson’s threatened to hinder their progress.
Michael McCann fired over the bar moments later when he had a hint of goal before brother Tomás converted a free to steady the ship further.
The Saffrons finally bagged their second goal to put the game beyond the Déise, with McAuley finding the net having come close in the first half.
The McCann siblings hit a further three points between them, (two for Tomás and one for Michael) while Ryan Murray clipped over a point soon after his introduction.
Waterford ended the game with 14 men after Stephen Curry was shown a straight red for clashing with Murray off the ball.
Not long after the full-time whistle, word arrived that Limerick had held off Sligo’s late comeback - a result which confirmed Antrim’s place in Division 4 for next season.
Antrim: Oisin Kerr, Patrick Gallagher, Declan Lynch, Kevin O’Boyle; Dermot McAleese (0-01), James McAuley (1-00), Niall Delargy; Colum Duffin, Marc Jordan, Kevin Quinn, Peter Healy, Mark Sweeney, Patrick Cunningham (0-05, 0-01f, 0-01sl), Odhran Eastwood (1-01), Patrick McBride (0-01).
Subs: Michael McCann (0-02) for M Jordan (29mins), Tomás McCann (0-03, 0-02fs) for P Cunningham (48mins), Ruairi McCann for M Sweeney (52mins), Ryan Murray (0-01) for C Duffin (64mins).
Waterford: Aaron Bereford, Sean O’Donovan, Brian Looby, Aaron Jones, Robbie Flynn, Michael Curry (0-01), Tony Grey (0-03, 0-01m), Shane Ahearne, Jason Curry (0-02), Conor Murray (0-02), Darragh Cororan, Brian Lynch, Fearghal O Currin (0-01), David Hallinan, Stephen Curry (0-2).
Subs: Jack Mullaney (0-2) for S Ahearne (ht), Dylan Guiry for Hallinan (ht), William Hahessy for Jones (ht), Dermot Ryan for Looby (55mins).
Referee: Paul Faloon (Down).