Bad day for Antrim puts Wicklow in 7-th Heaven

Allianz Football League Division Four

Wicklow 7-11

Antrim 0-7

Antrim’s promotion hopes hang by a flimsy thread following this 7 goal mauling by a lively Wicklow in Aughrim today. The Saffrons went into this game knowing a win would almost certainly guarantee them a place in division 3 next season but the men from the Garden County failed to read the script.

Instead it is they who have put themselves right into the promotion race and on today’s performance they look more ready for a tilt at life in the higher grade than today’s opponents.

Antrim made six starting changes from the side who comprehensively defeated league leaders Limerick way back at the start of March, just before the lockdown with Odhran Eastwood who scored 2-3 in a man of the match performance in that excellent victory left on the bench.

In the event it was Wicklow tore up the form book to put themselves firmly in the promotion picture with a stunning 7-11 to 0-7 win over Antrim in Aughrim this afternoon.

The visitors came into the game with their fate very much in their own hands but after going ahead through a Kevin Quinn point early in the game were totally outclassed by a rampant Wicklow outfit.

Antrim took the lead on three minutes when Kevin Quinn split the posts following good work from Paddy McBride and Dermot McAleese but amazingly were not to score again in the opening half as the home side took complete control.

Wicklow equalised through the impressive Padraig O’Toole and then hit the front from the penalty spot after keeper, Oisin Kerr was adjudged to have tripped David Devereux and Seanie Furlong drilled the ball past Kerr to give his side a 1-1 to 0-1 lead on 10 minutes.

Spurred on by this early success the home side began to exert more and more control as Antrim’s slow and ponderous build ups came unstuck time and again and by half time it looked as good as over with Wicklow leading 3-5 to 0-1 and good value for that lead.

Wicklow’s high intensity press was forcing their opponents into elementary mistakes and they struck for a second goal in the 25th minute when an excellent pass from Eoin Darcy put O’Toole through on goal and he slotted the ball past Kerr to move the hosts six ahead.

Now dominant all over the field the home side continued to take the game to their opponents and as the Antrim defence was opened up once more they struck with a third goal when Conor Byrne followed up to return a rebound to the net after Kevin O’Boyle had blocked his initial effort.

Things went from bad to worse for the Saffrons when centre-forward Colum Duffin was shown a black card while Wicklow centre-back Niall Donnelly was also sin-binned just before the break as Wicklow took a 3-5 to 0-1 lead into the break.

Antrim who had replaced Peter Healey and Marc Jordan with Niall Delargy and Patrick McCormick during the first half, introduced Eoin Nagle for Ricki Johnston at the start of the second half and with the wind at their backs there must have been hope that they could close the gap in the second half.

It was Wicklow who were to draw first blood however when the impressive Eoin Darcy fired over before Tomas McCann finally raised a second Antrim flag from a tight angle after an astute pass from Conor Murray.

It was goals that the visitors needed however and on a day when their hosts looked likely to hit the net every time they attacked, the majors just wouldn’t come for the Saffrons despite a big effort in the second half.

They came close on a number of occasions with Conor Murray palming a tantalising Paddy McBride cross just wide of an upright and McBride crashed a shot of the crossbar before Wicklow punished the visitors again on the break.

Padraig O’Toole and Mark Kenny did the spade work to set up Seanie Furlong and the corner-forward Made no mistake from close range to beat Oisin Kerr for a fourth Wicklow goal. McBride and substitute Paddy Cunningham landed points at the other end for Antrim, but Wicklow were relentless to the end.

Seanie Furlong unselfishly passed to substitute Pat Burke who skilfully chipped the ball into the top corner of the net to leave Wicklow 5-9 to 0-6 ahead while Antrim skipper Declan Lynch picked up a black card five minutes from time for dissent after he was unceremoniously dragged to the ground.

Antrim continued to fight against impossible odds with substitute Adam Loughran seeing his well struck effort come back of an upright and Niall Delargy had his attempt charged down as the Saffrons sought the consolation goal that just would not come.

Late goals from Darcy and substitute Gearoid Murphy compounded Antrim’s woes and wrapped up a facile 25-point win for Davy Burke’s men who can now win promotion if they can defeat Wexford in their final game.

ANTRIM: O Kerr; P Gallagher, R Johnston, K O’Boyle; D Lynch, J McAuley, P Healy; M Sweeney, M Jordan; K Quinn (0-1), C Duffin, D McAleese (0-1), T McCann (0-2, 0-1f); C Murray, P McBride (0-2).

Subs: P McCormick for Healy (33mins), N Delargy for Jordan (33mins), E Nagle for Johnston (HT), A Loughran for Murray (45mins), P Cunningham (0-1) for McCann (52mins). 

WICKLOW: M Jackson (0-1, 0-1f); P O’Keane (0-1), J Snell, E Murtagh; A Maher, N Donnelly, D Devereux; P O’Toole (1-1), D Healy (0-1); D Keane, M Kenny (0-1), D Hayden; E Darcy (1-2, 0-1f), C Byrne (1-1), S Furlong (2-1, 1-0 pen, 0-1f).

Subs: R Finn (0-2) for D Keane (26mins), S Kearon for Donnelly (55mins), P Burke (1-0) for Devereux (61mins) G Murphy (1-0) for O’Keane (67mins). 

REFEREE: J Hickey (Carlow).

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