Antrim go Down to agonising defeat

Allianz National Football League – Division 3

Down 2-18 Antrim 2-17

Antrim footballers have suffered many disappointing defeats over the years but Saturday evening’s reverse at Pairc Esler in Newry must be near the top of that list. Beaten on their first day out last week against Offaly when they squandered enough chances to win comfortably, the Saffrons appeared to be on course to put that all behind them when they led Down by five points, with five minutes left to play in a highly entertaining game. However the Mourne men (who had started the match at odds of 1-8) produced a storming finish with a Conor Poland goal, plus points from Liam Kerr, Pat Havern and Andrew Gilmore to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Ruairi McCann (Aghagallon) fires the ball to the Down net for his team’s second goal

Barry O’Hagan had given the home side the lead with a point in the opening minute, but that was to be the only time they would lead until Havern’s injury time point as Antrim got the upper hand. In a great game of football Antrim hit back with four of the next five points, two from Ruairi McCann and one each from Ryan Murray and Joe Finnegan. Kane, Kerr and O’Hagan hit points apiece in reply to one from Antrim’s Conor Stewart to level matters by the 24th minute, but great play by Antrim’s Ryan Murray set up Ruairi McCann for a brilliant goal soon afterwards and when Stewart hit his second point of the game the Saffrons were four to the good.

The excellent Gilmore brought Down back on terms again when he slotted over a point and followed it up with a goal, but Antrim finished the first half strongly and a second goal from Ruairi McCann after being placedby Adam Loughran, plus points from Finnegan and James McAuley saw them go in at the break with a 2-8 to 1-9 advantage.

The home side started the second half well and points from Kerr and Havern brought them level once again, but Antrim responded really well as goalkeeper Michael Byrne landed a 45, Ryan Murray hit a beauty from play and Dominic McEnhill slotted over another neat score. Gilmore and Shay Millar came back with points for Down, but when Antrim responded with points from McEnhill, Marc Jordan and Paddy Finnegan the Saffrons seemed to be set for victory.

However disaster struck for the visitors when points from substitute Eamon Brown and Odhran Murdoch were followed by a scrambled goal from Conor Poland which gave the home side their second win of the campaign.

Heartbreak for the Saffrons and their manager Andy McEntee, who must have thought his side had done enough to gain the points. Still the Meath man must take a lot of encouragement from Saturday evening’s performance and hope they can get their first win when they visit Semple Stadium in Thurles in two weeks’ time to take on Tipperary  

The Antrim team who lost out to Down Saturday evening’s NFL Division 3 game in Newry

Down scorers: A Gilmore 1-4 (0-2f), C Poland 1-0, L Kerr 0-3 (0-1f), B O’Hagan 0-3 (0-1f), O Murdock 0-3 (0-1f), Pat Havern 0-2, Niall Kane 0-1 (0-1 45), S Millar 0-1, E Brown 0-1.

Antrim scorers: Ruairi McCann (Aghagallon) 2-1, C Stewart 0-3, D McEnhill 0-3 (0-1m), R Murray 0-2, M Byrne 0-2 (0-1f, 0-1 45), P Finnegan 0-2, J McAuley 0-1, J Finnegan 0-1, Ruairi McCann (Creggan) 0-1 (0-1f), A Loughran 0-1.

Antrim full back Declan Lynch tries to take it all in at the end

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