When Antrim were hit with four first half goals by Wexford in the 2009 National Hurling League game at Casement Park it appeared they were in for a real hiding. However the Saffrons dug deep and produced a great second half dispaly to win in the end by four points, a turnaround of twelve points.
NATIONAL HURLING LEAGUE AT CASEMENT PARK
Antrim 4-16 Wexford 4-12
Antrim hurlers staged a remarkable comeback as they battled back from nine points down to beat Wexford by four in Sunday’s Allianz National Hurling League Division Two clash at Casement Park.
When the visitors struck with four first half goals to give the scoreboard a surreal look (4-1 to 1-1) Antrim’s chances of a win seemed remote, but a couple of substitutions, and positional switches, steadied the ship and by half-time they were in a much healthier position, trailing by just three points, their second goal coming from a Kieran Kelly twenty metre free.
It still appeared to be an uphill task for the Saffrons as they resumed against a fresh breeze, but they turned in a magnificent second-half display to record a remarkable win.
PJ O’Connell, who had scored his team’s opening goal in the second minute of the first half, grabbed a second and Neill McManus blasted one in from the penalty spot to seal a superb win.
Neil McManus, who had been brilliant in Cushendall’s defeat in last weekend’s All Ireland Club semi-final defeat to De La Salle made a welcome start for the Saffrons and he soon made his presence felt as he blocked down an attempted clearance by Wexford full-back Richie Kehoe before soloing through to place PJ O’Connell for a brilliant opening goal.
The Antrim joy was short lived however as the visitors hit back with a ‘soft’ goal from a sixty yard shot from team captain ‘Gizzy’ Lyng which deceived goalkeeper Ryan McGarry and found its way to the net.
Things went from bad to worse for the Antrim men as Lyng tore the defence to shreds with three more goals to leave the scoreboard with a bizarre look – Antrim 1-1 Wexford 4-1.
The introduction of Michael Herron and a move which brought Sean Delargy back into the full-back line helped steady the sinking Antrim ship, and as confidence grew Kieran Kelly blasted a twenty metre free to the net to close the gap.
A series of well taken points from Paul Shiels, Brendan Herron, Karl Stewart, Eddie McCloskey and Sean Delargy, (the latter a brilliant effort from inside his own half) saw Antrim chip away at the Wexford lead, and by the half-time whistle it had been reduced to a three point margin.
The second-half turned out to be a real roller-coaster ride for the Antrim fans as chances were missed, some great scores taken, and goalkeeper Ryan McGarry pulled off a couple of incredible saves.
Paul Shiels began the fight-back with two points from placed balls, and though Lyng and Jacob restored Wexford’s three point advantage, Shiels and Karl Stewart reduced the gap to the minimum by the forty-first minute.
The score which put Antrim back in front for the first time since the opening minute came soon afterwards when PJ O’Connell flicked a high ball to the Wexford net to open a two point gap, and though the visitors fought back to level Neil McManus blasted a penalty to net to put his team 4-13 to 4-10 clear.
The final quarter saw both teams miss a succession of chances, but as the tension grew Sean Delargy raced forward to land a beautiful long range point to settle the nerves.
Lyng missed a chance to close the gap to two when he sent a long range free wide of the posts before Michael Herron placed his brother Brendan for the insurance point deep into injury time.
SCORERS — Antrim: PJ O’Connell 2-1; P Shiels 0-6 (0-5f, 1 ’65’), S Delargy 0-3, N McManus, K Kelly (1-0f) 1-0 each, K Stewart 0-2, N McAuley, B Herron, E McCloskey, M Herron 0-1 each. Wexford: D Lyng 3-3 (0-1f), E Quigley 1-1, S Banville, S Doyle, R Jacob 0-2 each, P Atkinson, D Redmond 0-1 each.
ANTRIM — R McGarry; K McGourty, N McGarry, C McKinley; C Herron, N McAuley, J Campbell; B Herron, P Shiels; K Stewart, N McManus, E McCloskey; PJ O’Connell, K Kelly, S Delargy. Subs: M Herron for McKinley (23), P Richmond for Kelly (30), J Scullion for O’Connell (69).
WEXFORD — D Fitzhenry; B O’Leary, R Kehoe, A O’Connell; M Jacob, C Kenny, M Travers; C Farrell, D Redmond; S Banville, E Quigley, D Lyng; S Doyle, R Jacob, N Kirwan. Subs: P Arkinson for Kirwan (38), J Gahan for Doyle (46), D O’Connor for Travers (yellow card, 48), P Carley for Gahan (65).
REF — D O’Donovan (Dublin).