Allianz National Hurling League Division 1BAntrim’s Neil McManus who scored 16 points of his 22 point total. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine
Antrim 0-22-0-23 Dublin
By Kevin Herron at Corrigan Park
Antrim hurlers suffered late heartache for the second successive weekend as a converted Donal Burke free with the final act of the game denied the Saffrons a share of the spoils in a closely contested clash with Dublin at Corrigan Park this afternoon.
Neil McManus’s dead eye free-taking had Antrim in front for the majority of the early stages but Dubs quality soon took over and at the break the visitors led by six. They were able to keep the Saffrons at arm’s length until the final ten minutes when the Glensmen came roaring back into contention and when Neill McManus sent over his sixteenth point of the game the home side were level at 0-22-0-22, with the four minutes allotted injury-time complete. Most of the 2000 fans in Corrigan Park were celebrating what appeared to be a well deserved draw and expected match referee Justin Heffernan to sound the final whistle on the puck-out, but the Wexford official felt there was more time still to play and when the Dubs won a free Burke snatched away that elusive league point deep into added time to leave Antrim still searching for their first point in Division 1B.
It was a cruel way for the home side to lose, for they had battled their way back into contention in the second-half after trailing by six at the break. They were still five in arrears entering the last ten minutes, but with McManus at the heart of everything they done they fought back to level, only to be denied by Burke’s late score.
Both sides went into the encounter on the Whiterock Road going in search of their first league win after opening day defeats to Galway and Offaly respectively and it was Dublin who hit the front from the throw-in, Danny Sutcliffe laid the ball into the path of Donal Burke who split the posts and registered the first point of the afternoon.
Antrim’s hero from Salthill – Neil McManus was then obstructed on route to goal and the Ruairi Og clubman converted the resulting free. A foul on Conor Johnston by Burke moments later afforded McManus another free and he duly converted to edge Antrim 0-02-0-01 ahead after five minutes.
The Saffrons suffered an early blow as James Connelly was forced off with a knock to be replaced by Conor Carson, but two converted frees from McManus in the aftermath had the hosts 0-04-0-01 ahead by the tenth minute.
Dublin hit back after twelve scoreless minutes through a Fergal Whitely point and a minute later they narrowed the margin to the bare minimum through Donal Burke – who picked up the loose ball and drove it between the posts.
Almost instantly Neil McManus hit back after hooking Chris Crummey and firing between the posts for his first from play to make it 0-05-0-03 approaching the quarter hour mark.
Paul Ryan’s point on the turn narrowed the deficit again – only for McManus to convert a free in response and keep the gap at two. Dublin were soon back on terms however, midway through the opening half Tomas Connelly caught Neil McManus napping with a quick line ball to James Madden who rounded McManus and floated the ball over and a minute later Paul Ryan scored his second point of the afternoon from a 65’ to level the scores at 0-06 apiece.
Dublin regained the lead for the first time since the opening minute with a converted free from Ryan on 22 minutes but Neil McManus converted his fifth dead-ball of the half to level the scores for the third time.
McManus would edge Antrim 0-08-0-07 ahead on 26 minutes after receiving substitute Conor Carson’s offload but in the aftermath it was all Dublin as the Leinster men stamped their authority on the contest.
Gerard Walsh conceded a free for over carrying and Paul Ryan converted the resulting free to level the tie for the fourth time and within sixty-seconds Conal Kearney’s shot sailed over the bar to edge Dublin in front for the third time.
The Dubs were on a roll and were beginning to exploit space as Cian McBride and Kearney struck within a minute of the half hour mark to give their side a 0-08-0-11 lead.
Paul Ryan added a free and at the other end Neil McManus spurned the opportunity to cancel the score out – with a rare wide from a set-piece. In the final two minutes of first-half added time Dublin found two further points through Ryan (free) and Danny Sutcliffe as the visitors led 0-08-0-14 at the interval.
Antrim’s Dan McCloskey battles for possession with the Dublin defence during the final minutes. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine
Dublin stretched their lead two minutes after the restart – Eamonn Dillon was upended in front of the posts and Paul Ryan converted his fifth free of the afternoon, but Antrim weren’t about to throw in the towel
An outstanding point from wing-back Arron Graffin was quickly followed by a swivel and point from Neil McManus – who converted a free within sixty-seconds and a fourth successive score courtesy of Gerard Walsh made it 0-12-0-15 and suddenly it was game on at Corrigan Park.
Dublin restored their six-point interval lead with three scores in a four-minute period as Donal Burke, Paul Ryan (free) and Cian McBride were all on target to put their side 0-12-0-18 ahead ten minutes into the second-half.
Danny Sutcliffe then picked out Fergal Whitely to stretch the Dubs lead to seven, though Antrim fought back for the second time in the half with a point from substitute James McNaughton – six minutes after his introduction and a converted Neil McManus free after over carrying.
The departure of free-taker Ryan saw Donal Burke take charge for the Dubs and Burke converted two frees in between a second Arron Graffin point to ensure his side were 0-15-0-21 ahead with less than a quarter of an hour remaining.
With little over ten minutes remaining Neil McManus claimed his twelfth point of the afternoon and McNaughton quickly added his second to reduce arrears to four-points on the hour mark.
Donal Burke stretched Dublin’s lead to five from a placed ball but with five-minutes remaining the Antrim fight back really ignited.
Neil McManus converted his ninth free of the afternoon before substitute Daniel McCloskey fired over off the back foot to narrow the margin to three, 0-19-0-22.
McManus narrowed the deficit to the bare minimum on the 70th minute mark with a converted 65’ before Dublin had the chance to seal victory with a free wide on the left midway inside the Antrim half, though after delaying the taking Donal Burke spurned the chance and from the resulting puck-out Antrm won themselves a free just short of the halfway line inside their own half.
Having scored 0-15 already – Neil McManus stepped forward charged with landing the equalising score and under huge pressure the big Ruairi Og man delivered yet again to level the score at 0-22-0-22.
The Antrim fans up on the ‘hill’ must have thought their team had gained a valuable league point, but Dublin goalkeeper Alan Nolan pucked the ball out as referee Justin Heffernan let play proceed, but the Loch Garman native awarded the visitors a free in what would surely be the final act of the game with injury-time elapsed – Donal Burke stood over the pressure puck and stroked the ball over the bar to secure a 0-22-0-23 win for his side and two crucial league points in Allianz 1B standings.
Antrim: C O’Connell, P Burke, J Dilon, A Graffin (0-02), J Maskey, M Donnelly, D Kearney, C McKinley, G Walsh (0-01), J Connelly, N McManus (0-16, 0-12f,0-02 65’), N Elliott, D McKinley, C McCann, C Johnston. Subs: C Carson for J Connelly (8 mins), N McAuley for J Maskey (43 mins), J McNaughton (0-02) for G Walsh (44 mins), D McCloskey for N Elliott (63 mins).
Dublin: A Nolan, P Smyth, B O’Carroll, E O’Donnell, S Barrett, C Crummey, J Madden (0-01), C McBride (0-02), T Connolly, D Burke (0-07, 0-04f), F Whitely (0-02), D Sutcliffe (0-01), C Kearney (0-02), E Dilon, P Ryan (0-08, 0-06f, 0-01 65’) . Subs: L Rushe for P Ryan (51 mins), J McCaffrey for C McBride (53 mins), F O’Riain Broin for T Connolly (64 mins), P Winters for E Dilon (68 mins).
Referee: Justin Heffernan (Loch Garman)
Pics by Dylan McIlwaine