Antrim keeper, Chris Kerr dives to his left to make a spectacular save and deny Leitrim early in the second half.
Allianz N F League Division 4 (Round One)
Antrim 0-15 Leitrim 0-05
Antrim started on the league trail 2018 under new management and on the positive when they proved too strong for the visiting Leitrim men at a windswept blustery Corrigan park on Sunday.
Lenny Harbinson’s men had hinted at possible improvement, and current wellbeing in the Mc Kenna cup competition, particularly in gaining victory over Cavan and they got off the mark and running on the National trail with a fully merited victory in the opening round of the league.
The Saffron’s started as firm favourites and although the Connaught men did sprint away from the start blocks to raise a white flag within seconds of the throw in a Patrick Mc Bride 8th minute point saw the home side on terms and when Sean Burke followed suit a couple of minutes later they were on their way.
Leitrim had the advantage of the stern westerly breeze which was sometimes accompanied by drizzle which swept down from the Black mountain in the opening period but after an uneasy couple of minutes the Antrim rear guard proved unyielding in their defensive duties.
Centre back Mark Sweeney proved outstanding throughout leading by example and a slick combination in a well laid counter, in which several were employed concluded with a fine score as corner back Peter Healy nipped in to fire between the posts in the 13th minute to make it 0-03 to 0-01.
The visitors were forced into change in the 13th minute as Aidan Flynn was forced out of the game with a shoulder injury replaced by Caillian Canning.
The Leitrim replacement was not to remain on the field for long however as after Keith Beirne’s point had reduced the deficit to the minimum the former was also forced out of the game injured being replaced by Dean Mc Govern.
Antrim increased their advantage with another Patrick McBride point after the hard working Stephen Beatty’s intervention and delivery opened the way in the 24th minute but back came Leitrim with some zest and they were back on terms within a couple of minutes as centre forward Keith Beirne added back to back points.
A foul on the incoming James Rooney 40 metres from the posts was fully punished when Beirne dispatched the resultant award directly between the posts in the 26th minute and when he claimed the resultant kick out to return over Chris Kerr’s cross bar the scores were tied on 0-04 apiece.
Antrim regained their composure however and a Kevin O’Boyle interception paved the way for a Paddy McBride point before raiding corner-back, Peter Healey set up Conor Murray for the final score of the half to leave the half-time score 0-6 to 0-4 in favour of the saffrons.
Left: Paddy McBride who top scored for Antrim with six points and Right: Conor Murray who worked tirelessly throughout for the Saffrons.
Having concluded the opening period on the positive Antrim with the breeze marginally in their favour began the second portion looking to increase the advantage. It was Leitrim who made the better start however and Chris Kerr in the Antrim goals was forced to dive to his left to pull off a spectacular save as the visitors momentarily threatened.
A goal then would have given the visitors a lead they hardly deserved but the Antrim rear guard closed shop after that and a precision based counter which involved Peter Healy, Matt Fitzpatrick, and the Murray brothers concluded with a foul on the latter and Patrick McBride added another point in conclusion.
Leitrim were forced into further change as a Ryan O’ Rourke challenge on Matthew Fitzpatrick warranted a ‘black card’ said the Dublin based referee before Patrick Mc Bride sent Ryan Murray in for a 44th minute point.
Leitrim did claim a point back as their sharpshooter Keith Beirne added a 46th minute point from a free awarded out on the left wing but it was to be their only score of the half as Antrim upped their game and began to turn the screw.
CJ Mc Gourty entered the fray and quickly announced his arrival as another Mark Sweeney interception and delivery opened the way and when Peter Healy made his way forward a couple of minutes later the indomitable St Gall’s man doubled his tally to see Antrim at 0-11 to 0-05 ahead with the end in sight.
It was backs to the wall for the Connaught men as Antrim dominated and when Ryan Murray received from a pin point Mark Sweeney delivery he forwarded directly between the posts. Conor Murray was then upended en route to the posts and CJ McGourty gained retribution as he sent the resultant free over the bar to make it 0-13 to 0-05 with less than ten minutes remaining.
Leitrim attempted to return fire but the home side were in no mood to give way and after a superb Paddy Gallagher catch on his 13 metre line denied the visitors his clearance sent Patrick McBride away to record his sixth point and late replacement Kristan Healey raced away on the right hand side to collect another and conclude the scoring as Antrim breasted the winning line full value for their 0-15 to 0-05 total and full points secured.
Antrim: Chris Kerr, Peter Healy (0-01), Patrick Gallagher, Niall Delargy, Kevin O’ Boyle, Mark Sweeney, James Laverty, Sean Burke (0-01), Niall Mc Keever, Stephen Beatty, Conor Murray (0-01), Paddy Mc Bride (0-06), Matthew Fitzpatrick, Colum Duffin, Ryan Murray (0-03).
CJ Mc Gourty (0-03) for C Duffin
Paddy Mc Aleer for J Laverty
Kristan Healy (0-01) for R Murray
Martin Mc Carry for S Burke
Pat Brannigan for P Healy
Leitrim: Diarmuid Mc Kiernan, James Mitchell, Michael Mc Weeny, Matthew Murphy, Nicholas Mc Weeny, Shane Quinn, Colm Moreton, Keith Keegan, Donal Wrynn, Darragh Rooney, Keith Beirne (0-04), Conor Gaffney (0-01), Aidan Flynn, James Rooney, Ryan O’ Rourke.
Caillian Canning for Aidan Flynn (inj)
Dean Mc Govern for C Canning (inj)
Eoin Ward for N Mc Weeny
Darren Carberry for R O’ Rourke
Damien Moran for D Rooney
Referee Barry Tiernan (Dublin)
Antrim who began their NFL Division 4 campaign with a good win over Leitrim at Corrigan Park on Sunday.