Antrim secure vital win in nerve-wracking finish

Allianz National Football League – Division 3

Antrim 1-17 Cavan 2-12

Pics by Paddy McIlwaine

Antrim held off a late rally by table toppers, and hitherto unbeaten, Cavan at Corrigan Park on Saturday to earn a vital win and boost their chances of staying in Division 3. Ten points up seven minutes into the second half the Saffrons appeared to be in cruise control and when they still led by six with less that ten minutes to play, there seemed no way they could be beaten. But as we we all know Antrim sides don’t do things the easy way, and when Cavan cut the gap back to just two with their second goal of the game we were all thinking ‘not again’.

Eoghan McCabe drives forward to set up an Antrim attack

To their credit each and every one of them stood up and were counted when the chips were really down, and they sealed the win with points from man of the match Odhran Eastwood and Paddy McBride, who came back on after beings substituted earlier in the second half, to secure the victory.  

Antrim started well with a point from Eastwood but Cavan were soon back level when Paddy Lynn pointed at the other end. Five minutes in they home team got a real boost when full forward Ruairi McCann got in for a goal, and though Cavan replied with a point inside 30 seconds through Madden, March Jordan restored the Saffron’s two point lead on ten minutes with a great score from play.

A lovely score from out on the right wing by Dominic McEnhill put three between the sides and Odhran Eastwood then added two in a row to extend the Antrim lead to 1-6 to 0-4 by the 30th minute. A quick break from Paddy McBride on 33 minutes extended the lead to six when he sent over his second point from play and a minute later it looked like the gap was going to be extended when Odhran Eastwood set Dominic McEnhill away, but the Rossa man’s shot went just wide of the target, but the home side still went in at the break with a six point cushion.

Paddy McBride fires over an Antrim point

The home side continued where they left off after the break as they added four points in the first five minutes of the new half. Paddy McBride got the first two, Odhran Eastwood added another and then Paddy McCormick came up from half back to stretch the lead to ten with his team’s eight point without reply.

It all seemed too good to be true…and it was as Cavan began to get a foothold in the game as they hit four of the next six points, McEnhill and McCormick raising the white flags for the Saffrons. Still it all looked comfortable when points from Eastwood and McEnhill put the team eight ahead with just eleven minutes of normal time left on the clock.

However Cavan were beginning to get the upper hand and after coming close when the hit the post they broke through again and Conor Madden fired home a superb goal. The nerves were really jangling now for the home supporters and visions of their last day’s collapse against Fermanagh came flooding back. When the Breffni men hit the net for the second time through Paddy Lynch it had all the hallmarks of that last home game, but to their credit they were not going to let that happen again and they showed great character to score the last two points through Eastwood and McBride to seal the win and spark scenes of great celebration.

Antrim: Mick Byrne; Eoghan McCabe, Declan Lynch, James McAuley; Patrick McCormick (0-01), Joseph Finnegan, Marc Jordan (0-01); Colm McLarnon, Jack Dowling; Patrick Finnegan, Ruairi McCann (Creggan) (0-01f), Paddy McBride (0-05); Dominic McEnhill (0-02), Ruairi McCann (Aghagallon) (1-00), Odhran Eastwood (0-06, 2f).

Subs: Peter Healy for Patrick Finnegan (51), Seamus McGarry (0-01) for McBride (54), Conor Stewart for Dowling (64), Barry McCormick for Joseph Finnegan (67), Paddy McBride for McEnhill (68).

Cavan: Raymond Galligan (0-02, 2 ’45); Killian Brady, Padraig Faulkner, Conor Moynagh; Ciarán Brady, Cian Reilly, Tiernan Madden; Jack McKenna (0-01), Killian Clarke; Gerard Smith, Cian Madden (0-03), Jonathan McCabe; Brandon Boylan, Paddy Lynch (1-01), Ryan O’Neill.

Subs: Gearóid McKiernan (0-02, 2f) for Boylan (ht), James Smith for Killian Brady (HT), David Brady for McKenna (45), Conor Madden (1-02) for O’Neill (45), Conor Smith (0-01) for Smith (64).

Referee: Kieran Eannetta (Tyrone).

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