Saffrons defeated in return to Leinster Championship

Leinster GAA Senior Hurling Championship Quarter-Final

Antrim 0-22 Dublin 3-31

Saturday June 26

Brendan McTaggart reports from Pairc Tailteann

It was a chastening return to the Leinster championship for Antrim as they succumbed to a 18 point defeat to Dublin.  The Dubs proved to be a step above what the Saffrons could produce on the day as they dominated after a close opening quarter.

Dublin’s ability to win primary possession was remarkable on the day with their half forward line imperious, captain Danny Sutcliffe, my man of the match Donal Burke and Conor Burke in particular the heartbeat of a hugely impressive Dublin side.

Conal Cunning shoots for goal near the end of the opening quarter but his shot is turned over the bar by Dublin goalkeeper Alan Nolan

Dublin had 12 different scorers on the day with Donal Burke top scoring with 0-12 while their three goals came from the inside forward trio of Cian Boland, Ronan Hayes and Cian O’Sullivan.  Antrim’s defence struggled with the movement of the Dublin attack but the delivery into them from deep was measured and precise.  Dublin manoeuvred the sliotar expertly, intelligently and created chances at will throughout.

Ciaran Clarke was Antrim’s top scorer with two of his nine points coming from play while Neil McManus finished with 0-6 beside his name.  Some of his scores in the opening half in particular enough to grace any pitch in the country.

Trailing by eight points at the short whistle, Antrim competed well at the start of the second half but in nine minutes either side of the second half water-break Dublin kept Darren Gleeson’s men scoreless and scored 2-4 themselves to effectively end any hopes of a dream return to the Liam McCarthy for the Saffrons.

Antrim manager Darren Gleeson reflected after the game that his side now know exactly where they need to be if they want to continue their upturn in fortunes.  He told us: “It was a difficult afternoon but we’ve been saying it all along and it’s not trying to play things down.  That’s a serious high level when you go into the Liam McCarthy.  The Joe McDonagh last year was a nice level and suited us maybe with the pace of play.”  The Tipperary native continued: “The League was another step up from that and we handled that well at times but that’s the level we need to get to and we didn’t get there today.”

The Dubs were slick with their running off the shoulder and moved the Saffron defence from one side of the Navan pitch to the other as they manoeuvred the sliotar superbly.  Antrim just couldn’t reach those levels and Gleeson said it’s another massive step on this team of players journey together: “Our ball handling wasn’t at the level it needed to be.  Our ball handling was way off and our speed of thought.  Planting your feet to strike, you get away with that at a certain level.  You don’t get away with that at Liam McCarthy.”

Antrim corner back Damon McMullan in action against Dublin’s Cian Boland

Having suffered an eight point defeat to Dublin five weeks ago, there was hopes that the Saffrons would have learned from that outing in Parnell Park.  Gleeson told us they had prepared for the challenge: “The learnings was there but it wasn’t for the want of planning.  It’s just the execution didn’t happen today.  So for whatever reason, we’ll reflect and look at ourselves first as a coaching team and what we brought to the table then we’ll bring it to the players.  We’ll ask them the questions on Tuesday night and see how we can get back.

“The boys have to experience that (intensity).  When was the last time an Antrim team experienced that level of intensity in a championship setting?  They’ll learn from it.  They have another game in two weeks’ time and let’s see what happens there.  A win brings you back into the championship so we’ll have to learn from this and get back at it on Tuesday night.”

Neil McManus breaks clear of two Dublin defenders

That match on July 10th will be against Laois who lost out to Wexford.  A play-off that will decide if Antrim’s season continues or if they will return to the McDonagh Cup in 2022.  After such a defeat, Gleeson and his backroom team will have a job on their hands to lift their side once more but the Antrim manager reiterated the faith he has in his squad: “It (lift the spirits) won’t be difficult at all.  This isn’t our first defeat, it isn’t my first defeat.  Teams get beaten and teams get the opportunity to bounce back.  Sometimes teams have to wait 12 months for it, this time we only have to wait 14 days.  There’s no one dead, it was a massive learning day for the lads.  Maybe we thought we could come out and turn it on but it doesn’t work like that.”

That match in a fortnights’ time is scheduled for Portlaoise no matter the result.  Gleeson said they will do their homework no matter who they come up against: “Whatever opposition comes now is irrelevant.  If we don’t have ourselves right for the next day, it won’t matter.”

TEAMS

Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Stephen Rooney, Gerard Walsh, Damon McMullan; Eoghan Campbell, Paddy Burke, Joe Maskey; James McNaughton, Keelan Molloy; Michael Bradley, Neil McManus, Niall McKenna; Seaan Elliott, Conal Cunning, Ciaran Clarke

Subs: Conor McCann for S Elliott (27); Domhnall Nugent for N McKenna (49); Shea Shannon for M Bradley (49); Ryan McGarry for E Campbell (58); Ciaran Johnston for J Maskey (58)

Scorers: C Clarke 0-9 (6f 1’65); N McManus 0-6; K Molloy 0-3; C Cunning 0-1; M Bradley 0-1; J McNaughton 0-1 (1f); C McCann 0-1

Dublin: Alan Nolan; Paddy Smyth, Eoghan O’Donnell, Cian O’Callaghan; Daire Gray, Liam Rushe, James Madden; Rian McBride, Conor Burke; Danny Sutcliffe, Donal Burke, Chris Crummey; Cian Boland, Ronan Hayes, Cian O’Sullivan

Subs: Jake Malone for Riain McBride (58); Oisin O’Rorke for C O’Sullivan (58); Fergal Whitley for D Sutcliffe (58); Sean Moran for C Burke (60); Paul Crummey for C Crummey (63)

Scorers: D Burke 0-12 (4f); R Hayes 1-3; C O’Sullivan 1-2; C Boland 1-1; D Sutcliffe 0-3; C Crummey 0-3; R Burke 0-2; E O’Donnell 0-1; C Burke 0-1; O O’Rorke 0-1; F Whitley 0-1; S Moran 0-1

Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway)

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