NFL Division Four
Antrim 3-10 Wexford 0-13
Antrim hit the ground running in their National football league opener when they recorded a fully merited six point win over visitors Wexford at Glenavy on Sunday.
Lenny Harbinson’s men started their opening encounter favoured by most of the pundits and in the event they proved too good in the end for a Wexford side who briefly threatened in the closing stages
The visitors did pick up the pace to draw abreast of their hosts nearing the end of the opening period but an excellent Eunan Walsh 31st minute major reclaimed the advantage which was to be maintained for the duration.
The Saffron’s started in confidence and soon established a four point lead with Paddy Cunningham raising four early white flags but the Slaneysiders, with Niall Hughes impressing in the middle recovered from a sluggish opening to close the gap before Walsh’s goal ensured a 1-07 to 0-08 interval advantage for the Saffrons.
Antrim started the second half with confidence and really sewed the seeds of victory in the early stages when full forward Ruairi McCann grabbed a brace of goals to ensure a seven point lead at 3-07 to 0-10.
Wexford fought to get back into contention but the Antrim defence in which Declan Lynch led by example, prove resolute in the extreme. The visitors pressed hard during the closing stages which included seven minutes injury time but could find no way through for the goal that might have ignited their chances.
The ‘Chapel Hill’ home to St Joseph’s Glenavy hosted the opening game of the National League as Antrim played hosts to Wexford and although the weather had been less than favourable during the previous week the sod looked in good nick as Dublin based whistler Barry Tiernach got proceedings under way.
The home side, having just missed out on promotion last term needed a good start and they were quickly into their stride as the recalled Paddy Cunningham split the posts less than a minute into proceedings.
The Lamh Dhearg man was unerring in the finish after Peter Healey made fine interception and Ruairi Mc Cann was to follow suit after being set up by Eunan Walsh.
The Saffron’s having started in confidence with the proverbial spring in their step had given employment to the score board attendant on three occasions without reply when the redoubtable Paddy Cunningham raised another white flag from a 30 metre free when an indiscretion on Eunan Walsh was spotted and penalised in the 7th minute.
The visitors did open account in the 9th minute when Eoghan Noaln claimed the loose leather in the middle to supply the opening for Ben Brosnan but Lenny Harbinson’s charges were quick to return to the offensive again.
Another illegal challenge on the hard grafting Eunan Walsh was punished when Paddy Cunningham sent the resultant award between the posts and similarly when Marc Jordan was fouled en route to the target the end result was the same.
Antrim had nipped into a 0-05 to 0-01 advantage and looked in charge.
Wexford having struggled in the opening quarter improved for a time as they adjusted to the settings with Niall Hughes and Glen Malone getting to grips in the central zone.
A fine fetch and delivery by Hughes opened the way for Jonathan Bealin to split the posts in the 17th minute and when late replacement Glen Malone set up the former a couple of minutes later the end result was the same.
Paddy Cunningham extended the home sides lead again in the 19th minute with another point but the Leinster men made a positive reply and three unanswered scores by Glen Malone, Niall Hughes, and Ben Brosnan squared the contest at O-06 apiece.
The Antrim response was decisive as Eunan Walsh collected the ball 30 meters from goal before soloing through the heart of the Wexford defence and finishing to the net in stylish conclusion.
Paddy Cunningham added a further point to the home side’s total in the latter stages with Tom Byrne and Jonathan Bealin splitting the posts for the visitors as the home side led 1-07 to 0-08 at the end of the opening period.
Antrim started the second half on the offensive as Marc Jordan, Declan Lynch, and Niall Delargy combined to open the way for Ruairi McCann to palm the ball to the net from close range.
A superb finish to compliment an equally fine build up but the visitors were quick to post reply as Ben Brosnan and Glen Malone raised back to back points.
Antrim were in no mood to let this one slip however and after the hard grafting Colum Duffin raised an excellent 46th minute white flag in reply Ruairi Mc Cann was to follow with his second major.
James McAuley made a fine interception to thwart a Wexford attack on his own 20 metre line to initiate a counter attack and McCann capitalised on a mistake by a Wexford defender to send the ball to the back of the net and the Saffron’s were 3-08 to 0-10 ahead and in charge.
The visitors faced an eight point deficit as the game moved into the last quarter but they were not about to throw in the towel.
Several changes in personnel aided the Wexford cause but the home side stood tall in defiance. Points by Jonathan Bealin, Ben Brosnan, and replacement Sean Nolan reduced the deficit but the home defence were excellent, denying them a glimpse of goal.
When they did finally breech the last line of defence Oisin Kerr pulled off a splendid save to deny Nolan at the expense of a point before Colum Duffin replied with a point on the counter attack.
The visitors were reduced in number deep in time added on when their best on view, Glen Malone picked up a second yellow. just as Patrick Mc Bride raised a further white flag to the Antrim total to ensure points secured and a 3-09 to 0-13 winning scoreline.
Antrim: Oisin Kerr, Patrick Gallagher, Ricky Johnston, Mark Gardiner, Declan Lynch, James Mc Auley, Peter Healey, Colum Duffin (0-02), Marc Jordan, Eunan Walsh (1-00), Patrick Mc Bride (0-01), Niall Delargy, Paddy Cunningham (0-06), Ruairi Mc Cann (2-01), Conor Murray
Subs: Conor Small for P Cunningham
Dermot Mc Aleese for N Delargy
Adam Loughran for C Duffin
Eoin Nagle for M Jordan
Wexford: Patrick Doyle, Martin O’ Connor, Gavin Sheehan, Jim Rossitor, Ryan Devereux, Brian Malone, Conor Carty, Eoghan Nolan, Niall Hughes (0-01), Rory Heffernan, James Stafford, Tom Byrne (0-01), Glen Malone (0-02), Jonathan Bealin (0-04), Ben Brosnan (0-04)
Mark Rossiter for J Bealin