Allianz Hurling League – Division 2A
Antrim 4-19 Mayo 0-7
Sunday February 2
Brendan McTaggart reports from Fr Healy Park, Loughgiel
Antrim made it two from two on Sunday afternoon as they swept aside the challenge of Mayo. The Saffrons had 24 points to spare in the end as they pulled away in the second half but after a slow start, they never looked troubled by the visitors to Healy Park.
The stats will show nine different scorers and just five points from placed ball over the 70 minutes but this was a match played in the trenches for the most part of it. The conditions in Loughgiel weren’t conducive for fast flowing and free hurling while the heavy down pour in the first half just added to what was already tough conditions.
Antrim showed enough glimpses of quality throughout though to ensure it was a comfortable afternoons work. Defensively they always looked in control and coughed up no goal chances. Paddy Burke at home in the heart of the defence while Matthew Donnelly in full back was commanding and authoritive. Mayo never really troubled the Antrim defence but to concede just two points from open play in 70 minutes of hurling shows the work rate and intensity they brought to the game.
Eoghan Campbell and Conor McHugh dovetailed well in midfield with the Ruairi Og man scoring four points from play in another 70 minutes that seemed effortless. In attack all six starting forwards scored from play, a stat that will have pleased Darren Gleeson and his backroom team. Alex Delargy, the man with the goal-den touch once again. Goals in either half from ‘Del’ before Dan McCloskey’s major in the 48th minute lit up the contest. McManus sending the sliotar to the edge of the square from wide on the left. McCloskey stole in from behind his marker and doubled on the sliotar in mid-air. A brilliant piece of forward play by the Loughgiel man.
The fourth Antrim goal came in injury time and rounded off what was an excellent performance from Niall McKenna. The Sarsfields man already had three points to his name in a strong display and he was certainly deserving of his major. Collecting the pass from Delargy, McKenna burst past two defenders before somehow getting his shot away and high to the back of the Mayo net.
Antrim made full use of their squad once again and made five changes from half time along with a senior county league debut for Aodhan O’Brien and a match where the Rossa man rarely put a foot wrong. Antrim are beginning to develop that are pushing each other for places but with a mounting injury list. A few marquee forwards missing in Conor Johnston, Conal Cunning, Keelan Molloy and Ciaran Clarke while Ciaran Johnston was a late withdrawal before the start of the Mayo game.
As far as competitive matches go, the result was never in doubt. Antrim came with two points on the line and did what they needed to do. The remaining three fixtures were always going to be pivotal however and with the news of Kerry defeating Offaly, two week’s time in Tullamore has become a bit tastier. In the meantime, a meeting with Tipperary to mark the opening of the new facilities at Davitt’s GAC and the Fr Reid Trophy is next for the Saffrons. Playing the All-Ireland champions isn’t a bad way to prepare for a huge match when they return to league action.
Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Stephen Rooney, Matthew Donnelly, Conor Boyd; Gerard Walsh, Paddy Burke, Aodhan O’Brien; Eoghan Campbell, Conor McHugh; Niall McKenna, Neil McManus, James McNaughgton; Dan McCloskey, Conor McCann, Alex Delargy
Subs: Ryan McGarry for P Burke (46); Domhnall Nugent for C McCann (46); Ronan Molloy for C McHugh (54); Joe Maskey for M Donnelly (58); Michael Bradley for C Boyd (60)
Scorers: Niall McKenna 1-4; Alex Delargy 2-00; Neil McManus 0-6 (5 f’s); Dan McCloskey 1-2; Eoghan Campbell 0-4; Conor McCann 0-1; Gerard Walsh 0-1; James McNaughton 0-1
Mayo: Gerald Kelly; Adrian Brennan, Tony Sweeney, Conor Murray; Conor Henry, Sean Mulroy, Mark Phillips; Daniel Huane, Brian Hunt; Callum Gardner, Shane Boland, Zak O’Toole; Eoin Delaney, Adrian Phillips, Sean Kenny
Subs: Jason Coyne for C Gardner (ht); Cormac Phillips for Z O’Toole (ht); Eanna Varley for A Brennan (53); John Geraghty for C Henry (57); Shane Nugent for T Sweeney (67)
Scorers: Shane Boland 0-3 (3 frees); Sean Kenny 0-2 (1f); Gerald Kelly 0-1 (1f); Eoin Delaney 0-1