Antrim deliver on promise at Semple Stadium

Allianz NFL Division 3

Tipperary 0-14 Antrim 1-19

Antrim finally delivered on their early season promise when they defeated Tipperary at Semple Stadium on Saturday night. The Saffrons dominated matters from early in the game and the end result should have been even more comprehensive with Creggan’s Ruairi McCann pulling his penalty effort wide late in the first half and the same player had an attempt pushed over by Tipp keeper, Mike O’Reilly when a goal looked certain.

Many of us left Pairc Esler a fortnight ago bemoaning defeat to Down in a game we should have wrapped up with five minutes remaining but there was seldom any doubt that Andy McEntee’s side were going to win this one as they took the game to their hosts right from the throw in.

Antrim’s Ryan Murray under pressure from Tipp’s Shane O’Connell and Jimmy Feehan during their Allianz Football League Rd 3 clash. Photo by Eamonn McGee

Ryan Murray shot them ahead from a free in the 2nd minute and the same player was off target before Conor Stewart screwed his effort wide of the posts in the 5th minute as the Saffrons dominated the opening exchanges.

Tipperary replied and Lee McGrath pulled them level before Emmet Maloney gave them the lead with a point in the 8th minute following a mistake by Antrim keeper, Mick Byrne who gave the ball away on one of his customary forays out the field with the home support shouting for a Black card for the Antrim custodian after he had dragged back a Tipperary player.

Fortunately for Antrim that didn’t happen and they were soon in front as Conor Stewart intercepted an O’Reilly kick out and raced through to hit the net in the 15th minute to give his side a lead they would not again relinquish.

Michael Byrne followed from a 16th minute free and Marc Jordan added another from play as a superbly organised Antrim started to turn the screw as they continuously turned over the opposition.

Pat Shivers, who was a constant threat throughout in attack, added another to move the visitors five in front after 22 minutes before Tipperary briefly threatened a comeback with points from Jack Kennedy, Mickey O’Shea and Paudie Sheehan.

It was Antrim who finished the half on top however as they continued to win primary possession around mid-field and Ruairi McCann had his goal bound shot turned over at the expense of a point and Ryan Murray added another to move his side four in front after 31 minutes.

Tipperary then lost Shane O’Connell to a silly Black card as Odhran Eastwood replaced the injured Murray in the Antrim attack but it failed to disrupt the Antrim rhythm as Marc Jordan came forward again for his second point of the game after being set up by Ronan Boyle.

It was all Antrim at this stage and Ruairi McCann had the opportunity to put them in an even more commanding position when Colm McLarnon was pulled down on route to goal but the Creggan man dragged his shot jut wide of the post.

Kevin Small in action in Semple Stadium against Tipperary during their Allianz Football League Rd 3 clash. Photo by Eamonn McGee

A let off for the out played home side but Pat Shivers followed with a close range point when another goal looked on before Teddy Doyle sent over an excellent point with the outside of his right foot to leave his side trailing by five at the short whistle.

Tipperary introduced Donnach Leahy and Martin Keogh at the start of the second half but it was visitors Antrim who drew first blood as Pat Shivers pointed left footed in the opening minute and added another with his right to move his side seven in front with only two minutes of the new half gone.

Leahy finally got the home side off the mark but Tipperary were being forced to feed on crumbs by a resolute and well organised Antrim defence who were always ready to counter and as things started to liven up Marc Jordan and Ruairi McCann for Antrim and Martin Keogh for Tipp were issued Yellow cards by referee Brendan Griffin.

The visitors continued to call the shots however and Ruairi McCann and Odhran Easdtwood extended their lead to eight by the 11th minute and further points from Jordan, Eastwood and substitute Dominic McEnhill, with his first touch, had them in cruise control with 20 minutes of the second half gone.

Jack Kennedy briefly interrupted the onslaught from a 21st minute free but Antrim were in no mood to take their foot of the gas as Dominic McEnhill and Ruairi McCann replied at the other end before Andy McEntee rang the changes.

Jack Dowling and Colm Duffin replaced Kevin Small and Pat Shivers and Duffin looked in for a goal with virtually his first touch but had his shot deflected for a ‘45’ which Mick Byrne stroked between the uprights to put Antrim 10 ahead with five minutes of normal time remaining.

To their credit the Premier County kept going to the end with Martin Keogh, Kevin Fahey and Jack Kennedy kicking consolation points and Dominic McEnhill getting Antrim’s final point to leave them comprehensive winners.

Antrim’s Ruairí McCann in action against Tipp’s Kevin Fahey during their Allianz Football League Rd 3 clash. Photo by Eamonn McGee

An excellent first competitive win for Andy McEntee and his Antrim side but it doesn’t come as a great surprise to those of us who have witnessed this new look side’s progress this season and had fortune favoured us then we might well be sitting on 4 or even 6 points.

This win will give the side a lot of confidence as they look forward to the visit of Fermanagh next Saturday to Corrigan Park and that game will give Antrim a better indication as to just where they are at but it is a game they will be looking forward to and is sure to attract a big crowd to the Whiterock Road venue.

Antrim manager Andy McEntee shouts instructions to his players in Semple Stadium during their Allianz Football League Rd 3 clash against Tipperary. Photo by Eamonn McGee

 ANTRIM: M Byrne; P Healy (capt), R Boyle, J McAuley; O Lenehan, J Finnegan, M Jordan; K Small, C Stewart; C McLarnon, P Finnegan, R McCann (Creggan Kickhams); P Shivers, R McCann (St Mary’s Aghagallon), R Murray.

Subs: O Eastwood for Murray (30 inj), D McEnhill for McLarnon (52), J Dowling for Small (61), C Duffin for Shivers (63), S McGarry for McCann (Aghagallon) (70).

Antrim Scorers: P Shivers (0-4); C Stewart (1-0); M Jordan, O Eastwood (0-3 each); M Byrne (2 frees), R Murray (1 free), R McCann (Creggan), D McEnhill (0-2 each); R McCann (Aghagallon) (0-1).

TIPPERARY: M O’Reilly; S O’Connell (capt), J Feehan, C O’Shaughnessy; E Moloney, K Fahey, D Carew; P Feehan, L Boland; C Deely, J Kennedy, T Doyle; M O’Shea, L McGrath, P Maher.

Subs: D Leahy for Deely (h-t), M Kehoe for Boland (h-t), D Brennan for O’Shea (53), M Stokes for McGrath (54), T Maher for P Feehan (59).

Black card: S O’Connell (30-h-t).

Tipperary Scorers: J Kennedy (0-5, 2 frees); E Moloney, K Fahey, P Feehan, T Doyle, M O’Shea, L McGrath (free), P Maher, D Leahy, M Kehoe (0-1 each).

Referee: B Griffin (Kerry).

Antrim keeper Michael Byrne heads outfield against Tipp during their Allianz Football League Rd 3 clash. Photo by Eamonn McGee

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