Allianz National Football League Division Four North
Antrim 3-13-3-12 Sligo
Kevin Herron reports from Corrigan Park
Cometh the hour cometh the man! Paddy Cunningham pinched victory for Antrim nine minutes into injury time in Sunday’s league game with Sligo. His late score saw Antrim make it two league wins from two, but put the county through the mill in the process, as they defeated Sligo by 3-13 to 3-12 at Corrigan Park this afternoon.
Ahead early through goals from Odhran Eastwood and Marc Jordan the Saffrons conceded 1-06 from frees in the opening half- including a penalty by Niall Murphy.
Murphy would convert a second spot kick for Sligo early in the second period and Antrim were forced to chase for the majority of the half that they began with 14-men following Ryan Murray receiving a black card.
Murray’s made amends- contributing three points in succession and assisting to what appeared to be Eunan Walsh’s winning goal in injury time.
But Sligo were awarded a third penalty of the game and with Murphy dismissed for picking up a second yellow card it was left to Nathan Rooney to surely bag his side a point.
McGinley made one alteration from the side that defeated Louth last Saturday as Ricky Johnston replaced James McAuley in the starting fifteen.
Antrim were first off the mark after six minutes of play when Odhran Eastwood pointed after a sustained period of pressure in the aftermath of Marc Jordan’s shot coming back off the large post.
Sixty-seconds later and the Saffrons found the net, Conor Murray slipped the ball inside to Kevin Small who attempted to round Sligo keeper Eamonn Kilgannon but was felled and Eastwood was on hand to sweep the loose ball to the net.
Sligo responded with a free from Sean Carrabine after Ricky Johnston caught Niall Murphy.
Carrabine would convert a second free after referee Conor Dourneen spotted a tug on the jersey in the aftermath of the kick-out from the first score.
Antrim then found their second goal soon after as Conor Murray slipped in the ball inside to Lamh Dhearg club-mate Marc Jordan who picked his spot to make it 2-01-0-02.
Sligo responded through frees from Carrabine and Sean Murphy with Odhran Eastwood kicking an angled free to ensure the hosts were 2-02-0-04 ahead at the water break.
In the aftermath of the water break Ryan Murray converted a free after Sligo full-back Sean McGuinness floored Marc Jordan and was booked for his troubles.
But at the other end Niall Murphy kicked his sides fifth free of the afternoon.
Their first from play would soon follow from Sean Carrabine and the visitors had the chance to level when referee Dourneen adjudged Michael Byrne to have touched the ball on the ground and signalled for a penalty.
Niall Murphy took responsibility and was ice cool as he powered the penalty into the top left hand corner to level at 2-03-1-06.
Antrim regained the initiative with points from Ricky Johnston and a sensational converted free from Ruairi McCann.
However Niall Murphy kicked his first from play and then converted his third free of the half.
Odhran Eastwood looked to have sent Antrim in with the half time lead after combining with Dermot McAleese and conjuring a fine point.
But Murphy kicked his fourth free with the final kick of the half and to compound the hosts misery they lost Ryan Murray to a black-card.
Sligo made the most of their numerical advantage and forged ahead for the first time through Sean Carrabine’s fourth free of the afternoon and Niall Murphy’s second from play.
Half-time substitute Eunan Walsh hit back with a point from out wide and the 14-men pulled level following a mazy run and score from Conor Murray.
But their momentum was short lived as Sligo were awarded their second penalty of the contest for a trip on Patrick O’Connor that was borderline on the edge of the square and required a bit of consultation before the decision was finalised.
Up stepped Niall Murphy for the second time and this time he dispatched his kick low to the net to give his side a 2-11-2-08 lead.
Darragh Cummins added a point to stretch the lead and Antrim needed a big lift.
They were aided by first half substitute Paddy McBride who produced an outstanding score on his home patch to make it a three point game going into the final ten minutes.
Ryan Murray atoned for his black card before the break with his second converted free and he would add another from a tight angle a few minutes later.
Antrim pushed hard for the equalising score and their quest was given a boost a minute from time when Sligo marksman Niall Murphy was dismissed for a second bookable offence- giving them a numerical advantage heading into the dying embers.
Six minutes of injury time was shown on the board and two minutes in the sides were drawn level courtesy of Ryan Murray who blasted over for his third score in succession and his first from play in the afternoon.
The resulting kick-out was won fantastically by Eoghan McCabe and Enda McGinley’s side went in search of the winner. Paddy McBride went on a penetrating run that drew the visiting defenders apart and slipped the ball inside to Ryan Murray who in turn found Eunan Walsh who fumbled the ball and saw it roll past the Sligo keeper and into the net.
Referee Conor Dourneen consulted with the umpires behind the goal in what was almost the equivalent of a VAR call – the decision was that Walsh’s goal would stand and the Saffrons were 3-12-2-12 ahead.
The drama wasn’t quite at an end however as Sligo were awarded their third penalty of the game as Dourneen adjudged there to have been the denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity.
With Murphy in the stand it was up to substitute Nathan Rooney to take responsibility for the pressure kick and Rooney shot low to the corner of the net to claw his team level at 3-12 a piece.
A share of the spoils would probably have been a fair outcome but Antrim pressed for the winner and just like last week in Louth it came from the boot of Paddy Cunningham.
The magician worked his magic and popped the ball over from an almost impossible angle to make it two wins from two for Antrim after a pulsating afternoon on the Whiterock Road.
Antrim: M Byrne, R Johnston (0-01), D Lynch, P Healy, M Jordan (1-00), J Laverty, D McAleese, C Stewart, N McKeever, R Murray (0-04, 0-03f), A Loughran, R McCann (0-01f), O Eastwood (1-03, 0-01f), K Small, C Murray (0-01). Subs: P McBride (0-01) for A Loughran (28), J McAuley for D Lynch (HT), E Walsh (1-01) for K Small (HT), T McCann for M Jordan (59), P Cunningham (0-01) for O Eastwood (65), E McCabe for D McAleese (65).
Sligo: E Kilgannon, R Feehily, E McGuinness, E Lyons, K Cawley, P McNamara, D Cummins (0-01), P Kilcoyne, P O’Connor, D Quinn, C Lally, C Griffin, S Carrabine (0-05, 0-04f), N Murphy (2-06, 2-04f), R Og Murphy. Subs: N Rooney (1-00f) for C Griffin (28), N Mullen for D Cummins (55), M Gordon for S Carrabine (55), D Conlon for R Og Murphy (65), G Gorman for P O’Connor (67), P Naughton for K Cawley (70).
Referee: Conor Dourneen (Cavan)