As we continue the countdown to Saturdays vitally important NFL Division 4 clash between Antrim and Wicklow in Aughrim the Saffron Gael takes a look back at the last time the sides met in the league.
Antrim were going through a frustrating league campaign, losing three games by a single point but got back on the winning trail when Wicklow visited Corrigan Park but in the end were left to reflect on a season that might have been.
Allianz N F League Division 4 (round 6)
Antrim 2-15 Wicklow 0-10
March 16th 2019
Two second half goals from the impressive Matthew Fitzpatrick sealed an excellent victory for Antrim as an eye catching performance saw them cross the winning line with an eleven point advantage over visiting Wicklow at a blustery Corrigan Park today.
Despite the assistance of a strong, northerly wind in the opening half the Saffron’s struggled to make impact for most of the opening period.
The visitors looked more composed and dominated the central zone from the outset as Conor McGraynor and late replacement Anthony McLoughlin held aerial supremacy and they nipped into a fully deserved 0-06 to 0-03 advantage after 25th minutes.
The home side lacked any semblance of fluency up to that point but they did get it together in the latter stages with Colum Duffin working overtime and a late flurry of points, which included a couple from Ryan Murray ensured a 0-07 to 0-06 interval advantage.
Although they faced the wrath of the elements in the second half Antrim started with an early point from half time replacement Eoin Nagle and when the St Enda’s club man served up a pin point cross to open the way for Matthew Fitzpatrick to finish to the net Harbinson’s men were on their way.
The home side looked a different proposition to the one who had struggled for long periods in the opening half and Wicklow failed to get to grips.
As the Antrim defence shut shop the visitors failed to score again until the 49th minute when Anthony McLoughlin raised white but when Ryan Murray sent Fitzpatrick in for a second major the home side had moved ten points clear and the game was as good as over.
Such was Antrim’s dominance that corner back Patrick McCormick and sweeper Declan Lynch got forward for scores to see Antrim cross the line as impressive 2-15 to 0-10 winners.
In a season where results have not favoured Antrim with a win over London their only success to date, Antrim were badly in need of a win as Wicklow visited Corrigan Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Saffron’s had the strong breeze in their favour in the first half but in the event it was to be the Garden County who dominated the opening exchanges.
Antrim looked less than confident in approach with a strange reluctance to take a direct route and too often coughed up possession.
Wicklow looked more composed in the offensive and first to register as late replacement Patrick O’ Connor hoisted white in the third minute.
Ryan Murray, who was lively from the outset got the home side away when he punished an indiscretion on Odhran Eastwood sending the resultant award between the posts in the 5th minute but they failed to push on at this point.
The Saffron’s lacked ideas when in possession and the Leinster men took advantage and points from Conor McGraynor and Anthony McLoughlin ensured a 0-03 to 0-01 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
Kevin Quinn’s fine left sided approach and a precision finish saw the home side register their second score in the 20th minute and when Matthew Fitzpatrick followed suit a few minutes later Antrim had drawn level.
The visitors were quick to provide response however with the towering Conor Mc Graynor leading the way.
The centre forward was proving dominant in the air and after he had set up Mark Kenny to hoist white and Patrick O’Connor added another, the towering McGraynor assumed responsibility for the free taking duties and directed a right sided 30 metre free firmly between the posts to see his side move 0-06 to 0-03 ahead.
Antrim, now three in arrears as the end of the opening half approached staged a strong finish. Eunan Walsh replaced out of sorts Michael McCarry with team captain Declan Lynch moving to the centre of the defence and suddenly things began to come together.
It was the intervention of the hard grafting Lamh Dhearg man that opened the way for Matthew Fitzpatrick to drive through the middle and send between the posts before Odhran Eastwood added another.
The home side dominated the closing stages and a late double from the hard working Ryan Murray ensured an interval advantage of 0-07 to 0-06 which had seemed unlikely a few minutes previously.
Antrim started the second half with a slender lead but the question was, would it be enough given the strength of the breeze they were to face in the second half?
In the event those doubts were quickly dismissed as the Saffron’s began on the positive and half time replacement Eoin Nagle opened with a point seconds into proceedings.
The St. Enda’s youngster continued to impress and after gathering a pass from Declan Lynch his accurate cross field delivery opened the way for Matthew Fitzpatrick to send to the net.
The Antrim men looked transformed and despite facing the elements continued to press with confidence as back to back points by Fitzpatrick and Ryan Murray saw them move 1-10 to 0-07 ahead.
The visitors, having lost their way finally responded through Anthony McLoughlin who raised back to back white flags from respective free kicks in the 48th and 53rd minutes but they were then reduced in number for a ten minute period as mid fielder Dean Healey was issued black.
Ryan Murray and Eoin Nagle added points apiece as Antrim took control all over the pitch. Declan Lynch came forward to split the posts before Ryan Murray combined in stylish approach with Matthew Fitzpatrick for the latter to add his second major and the end was in sight.
Wicklow did add another couple of points to their total via late replacement Chris O’Brien and net minder Mark Jackson from a long range free but the home side were to have the final say.
Corner back Patrick McCormick moved forward to split the posts to add to another by Ryan Murray and usher Antrim over the line on a 2-15 to 0-10 winning score.
The second half performance was the best Antrim have produced this season and was perhaps a reflection on what might have been. They lost against Derry, Leitrim and Waterford by a single point with Derry and Leitrim set to contest the division 4 final later in the month.
With a wee bit of luck and more composure and belief Antrim might well have been in contention for one of the promotion spots going into their final game away to Limerick but will be hoping to finish with a win as they prepare for theirUlster championship opener against Tyrone.
Antrim: Padraig Nugent, Patrick Mc Cormick (0-01), Patrick Gallagher, James McAuley, Niall Delargy, Michael McCarry, Declan Lynch (0-01), Matthew Fitzpatrick (2-03), Martin Johnston, Kevin Quinn (0-01), Stephen Beatty, Patrick McBride, Colum Duffin, Odhran Eastwood (0-01), Ryan Murray (0-06)
Eunan Walsh for M McCarry
Eoin Nagle (0-02) for O Eastwood
Ruairi McCann for P Mc Bride
Fintan Burke for C Duffin
Wicklow: Mark Jackson (0-01), Eoin Murtagh, Ross O’ Brien, Jamie Snell, David Devereaux, Shane Mooney, Darragh Fitzgerald, Dean Healy, Padraig O’Toole, Darren Hayden, Conor McGraynor (0-02), Theo Smith, Mark Kenny (0-01), Patrick O’ Connor (0-02), Anthony McLoughlin (0-03)
Chris O’Brien (0-01) for Mark Kenny
Gearoid Murphy for A McLoughlin
Stephen Duffy for D Hayden
Saoirse Kearon for C McGraynor
Referee Dan Mullan (Doire)