This second round Joe McDonagh Cup game rattled and hummed from beginning to end with each of the six starting forwards on both teams registering points from play in the opening half at Netwatch Cullen Park today.
Despite coughing up an easy 2-02 in the first half when Ciaran Clarke and Conor McCann swooped for 19th and 22nd minute goals, the home side never panicked.
Carlow brothers Marty Kavanagh and Jack Kavanagh contributed 0-09 between them in the half. At the break Antrim held on to a 2-10 to 0-15 lead and the game was set up nicely for an amazing second half.
Niall McKenna's 36th minute point widened the Antrim advantage to two points but with the help of an Eddie Byrne goal and five points from substitute, Chris Nolan, Carlow were in the driving seat in the third quarter. Yet Antrim never let those concessions bother them.
It was a case of both sides adopting the mantra that whatever they conceded at one end they would make up for it at the other.
A Ciaran Clarke penalty levelled the game in the third quarter for Antrim. Carlow replied with four points to seize the initiative once again. With two minutes to go James McNaughton scored Antrim’s fourth goal but Carlow came down and cancelled out the concession with a John Michael Nolan three-pointer.
It was breath-taking stuff in the final minutes. Antrim centre-back, Paddy Burke, came forward to land a point while his forwards swarmed around the Carlow posts in waves. The home defence looked as if they had done enough as the game ticked over the allotted three-minutes of extra-time. Antrim kept pressing.
The ball could have gone anywhere. It bounced nicely for the visitors and when the sliotar flew high off a hurl which could have been anyone’s Donal Nugent was on hand to bat home from close range. That finished the scoring and the drama.
At the end Carlow will feel the most disappointed. On another day either 2-25 or 5-16 would have won most games. No doubt, the video examination from the respective camps will make for interesting viewing and comment.
Carlow: Brian Tracey; Michael Doyle, Paul Doyle, Gary Bennett; Ger Coady, David English, Richard Coady; Jack Kavanagh (0-04), Paul Coady; John Michael Nolan (1-01), Diarmuid Byrne (0-01), Eddie Byrne (1-02); Marty Kavanagh (0-07 0-05f), Kevin McDonald (0-02), Ted Joyce (0-02).
Subs: Jon Nolan (0-01) for R. Coady (h/t), Chris Nolan (0-05) for Joyce (39 mins), Aaron Amond for P. Coady (60 mins), Cathal Treacy for J. Kavanagh (70 mins).
Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin, Matthew Donnelly, Stephen Rooney; Gerard Walsh, Paddy Burke (0-01), Joe Maskey; Eoghan Campbell, Ryan McGarry; Niall McKenna (0-03), Keelan Molloy (0-02), Conal Cunning (0-01); Daniel McCloskey (0-01), Conor McCann (1-01), Ciaran Clarke (2-07, 1-00 pen 65 0-05f).
Subs: James McNaughton (1-00) for McCloskey (45 mins), Donal Nugent (1-0) for McGarry (52 mins), Damon McMullan for Duffin (57 mins), Aodhan O’Brien for Walsh (61 mins).
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork).