Allianz Hurling League Division One – Group B
Dublin 1-26 Antrim 1-18
Saturday May 22
Brendan McTaggart reports from Pairc Tailteann
Antrim suffered their second defeat of the campaign in Parnell Park as a strong Dublin side ran out eight point winners. It was a rare off-day for the Saffrons who were minus the services of captain Conor McCann for the contest, but the Dubs were a slick and well organised outfit who with 13 different scorers on the day scored 1-21 from open play over the 70 minutes.
Antrim misfired from frees and made the wrong decision with ball in hand on a number of occasions but were it not for the brilliance of Ryan Elliott between the sticks, the scoreline could have been much worse for Darren Gleeson’s men. The Antrim number one made numerous point blank saves, the pick of them a double save in the first half denying Donal Burke and Cian O’Sullivan while the save he made in the second half where not only did he deny the Dubs but he controlled the sliotar was mesmeric and had the press box purring.
Outfield, it never really clicked for the Saffrons. Despite a good start where they led by two points after 14 minutes, they went 20 minutes without registering another score. Neil McManus top scored with 1-3 with Niall McKenna showing glimpses of the player we’ve come to expect over the past 12 months. Four points for the Sarsfields man in another top performance.
The Saffrons missed some standard frees that let the Dubs off the hook. Misses that sap energy and give the opposition a lift. The home side took that opportunity. Danny Sutcliffe, Chris Crummey and Liam Rushe dictating play. The biggest difference between the sides was Dublin’s dominance in rucks. Antrim struggled to win ‘dirty’ ball and couldn’t get any major momentum gathered until Dublin had a 10 point lead. As they are finding out, if you do that at this level, you’re going to come up short. The Saffron defence were given a workover by the Dubs with little ‘sticking’ up front. The athleticism and sheer physicality of the home side evident and with each of the seven substitutes they introduced throughout the 70 minutes.
Like last week, they came to life in the third quarter. Niall McKenna was the only Saffron player to score from open play in the first half and he was involved in the build up to the penalty which Antrim scored their goal from. Substitute Conor Johnston felled after McKenna sent the sliotar his way. McManus converted and Antrim sprang into life. Trailing by seven at half time, between the outstanding Elliott and the work rate of Gerard Walsh, Eoghan Campbell and Damon McMullan, Antrim kept in touch. James McNaughton chipping in with scores having taken over the free taking duties along with Keelan Molloy and Conor Johnston adding their name to the scoresheet.
Only five points separated the sides with two minutes of the 70 remaining but the home side finished strongly to put further daylight between the sides.
A second defeat but it’s far from doom and gloom. They have shown in the three matches this far at differing times they can compete at this level. Improvement is needed but this is a journey where Antrim need to learn as they navigate the League season. The gulf in class between is huge and they are now experiencing that first hand. They have a more than welcome break from the rigours of the league next weekend before welcoming Davy Fitzgerald to Corrigan Park in what will be a mouth-watering tie. The McGurk Cup resumes on Friday evening with Gleeson preparing his side to face Down in Corrigan Park. An opportunity to give other members of his panel some valuable game time as they assess their options once more ahead of the game against Wexford.
Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Damon McMullan, Gerard Walsh, Stephen Rooney; Eoghan Campbell; Paddy Burke, Joe Maskey; Keelan Molloy, Michael Bradley; Domhnall Nugent, James McNaughton, Niall McKenna; Conal Cunning, Neil McManus, Ciaran Clarke
Subs: Conor Johnston for D Nugent (HT); Shea Shannon for C Clarke (46); Phelim Duffin for S Rooney (46); Dan McCloskey for M Bradley (46); Eoin O’Neill for C Cunning (55); Ryan McCambridge for J Maskey (57)
Scorers: N McManus 1-3 (1-00 pen, 2fs); N McKenna 0-4; J McNaughton 0-3 (2f); C Clarke 0-3 (3f); K Molloy 0-2; Conor Johnston 0-2; E Campbell 0-1
Dublin: Sean Brennan; Andrew Dunphy, Eoghan O’Connell, Cian O’Callaghan; Daire Gray, Liam Rushe, Sean Moran; Jake Malone, Conor Burke; Danny Sutcliffe, Chris Crummey, Ronan Hayes; Donal Burke, Cian O’Sullivan, Cian Boland
Subs: John Hetherton for D Sutcliffe (50); Eamon Dillon for C O’Sullivan (50); Johnny Madden for L Rushe (56); Rian McBride for J Malone (56); Davy Keogh for C Boland (58); Paul Crummey for R Hayes (65); Paddy Smyth for S Moran (70)
Scorers: D Burke 0-7 (4f 1 ’65); D Sutcliffe 0-3; D Gray 0-3; R Hayes 1-00; C Burke 0-2; C Crummey 0-2; J Hetheron 0-2; C Boland 0-2; S Moran 0-1; J Malone 0-1; C O’Sullivan 0-1; P Crummey 0-1; D Keogh 0-1
Referee: Sean Cleere (Kilkenny)