Derek Lyng enjoyed a winning start to his first Allianz Hurling League campaign as Kilkenny manager as the Noresiders finished strong in tricky conditions at Corrigan Park to get the better of Antrim.

Having stepped into the role following the retirement of Brian Cody after 24 seasons, there would have been a little pressure on the six-time All-Ireland winner to avoid slipping up in his first full game in charge and he will have been happy with how his players delivered.

Billy Drennan top-scored with 1-08 for the Cats and his goal midway through the opening half would prove vital as it gave the Noresiders a cushion they managed to defend and tagged on late points to put a bit of a gloss on their trip to Belfast.

There were some noticeable changes to the Kilkenny approach with a crisp, short-passing game utilised well, but when the wind and rain made life difficult for both teams in the second period, it was digging in and using their physicality that came to the fore as they fended off the hosts who were just two behind with five to go.

It was a fairly even start with the sides locked at 0-3 apiece 10 minutes in, but Kilkenny were looking that bit more menacing in attack despite a swirling wind in their faces.

Niall McKenna of Antrim celebrates winning a free

Antrim goalkeeper Ryan Elliott made smart stops from Martin Keoghan and Cian Kenny, but could do nothing on 14 minutes as Walter Walsh rose above Joe Maskey to fetch and popped to Drennan who burst through on the overlap and buried to the net.

The hosts were struggling to get going in attack but did put some decent phases together with Conal Bohill and Niall McKenna finishing good moves, while Cunning tapped over the frees, but Kilkenny were that bit more fluid and led 1-10 to 0-09 at the interval with Drennan knocking over the frees, while Walsh and Keoghan found their range.

Conditions deteriorated at the break with rain pouring and wind swirling, yet Kilkenny made a decent start with a pair of Drennan scores cancelling out an early Cunning free.

Antrim then began to enjoy a good spell but would manage just three points as the wind began to play havoc with shots.

They got to within two on a couple of occasions and that was the main with five to play, but Kilkenny just managed to find the answers and they finished well with Keoghan (two), Drennan and Billy Ryan sealing the win.

Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Paddy Burke (0-01), Ryan McGarry, Niall O'Connor; Gerard Walsh, Eoghan Campbell, Conall Bohill (0-01); Michael Bradley, Joe Maskey; Niall McKenna (0-02), Keelan Molloy (0-01), James McNaughton (0-01); Conal Cunning (0-08, all frees), Neil McManus (0-01), Eoin O'Neill.

Subs: Phelim Duffin for N O'Connor (HT), Seaan Elliott for E O'Neill (HT), Conor Johnston for J Maskey (43), Paul Boyle for K Molloy (65),

Kilkenny: Aidan Tallis (0-01 free); Mikey Butler, Huw Lawlor, Niall Rowe; Cillian Buckley, Padraig Walsh, David Blanchfield; Paddy Deegan (0-01), John Donnelly (0-01); Walter Walsh (0-01), Cian Kenny, Paul Cody (0-02); Billy Drennan (1-08, 0-07 frees), Martin Keoghan (0-03) Billy Ryan (0-01)

Subs: Shane Murphy for P Cody (HT), Tom Phelan for C Kenny (63), Alan Murphy for W Walsh (68), Gearóid Dunne for J Donnelly (70+4)

Referee: Chris Mooney (Dublin)