In the strangest of seasons Antrim’s promotion hopes still hang on by a thread following their seven goal mauling in Aughrim last Saturday. As I travelled with a colleague to the Wicklow venue I was full of hope that Antrim would gain the win that would almost certainly win them promotion.
At 2-45 those hopes had been torn to shreds by a Wicklow team who had out thought, out fought and certainly out scored an Antrim team who looked very much off the pace and I was convinced on the long journey home that we would be reporting on Division 4 football again in 2021.
That might well still be the case but Wexford’s win away to Limerick has created a scenario that might still see Antrim arise like the phoenix from the ashes to gain an unlikely promotion spot.
Wishful thinking-maybe but let’s examine the possibilities no matter how unlikely they might seem.
Wexford entertain Wicklow at Wexford Park. Both sides are already on 8 points while Antrim sit on 7. A win for either would put them on 10 points and leave their opponents still on 8. Worst result here for Antrim would be a draw.
Limerick, who looked on their way to promotion going into their last game before the lock-down have lost to Antrim and again to Wexford last day out and travel to Markievicz Park to play Sligo needing at least a draw and possibly a win to still ensure promotion.
Sligo are one of four sides who could still finish on 8 points (Depending on results elsewhere) and should Antrim lose to Waterford then 8 points could conceivably be enough for a promotion place with head-to-head coming into the equation.
So let’s look at another scenario! Should Wicklow and Wexford draw and Sligo and Limerick draw and Antrim defeat Waterford we would have four teams finishing on 9 points. Antrim defeated both Limerick and Wexford, Wexford beat Limerick and Limerick defeated Wicklow so score difference could come into play.
In the event of Wicklow, Wexford and Limerick all finishing on 9 points, Antrim need to win by at least 23 points due to their inferior scoring difference. They’ll not overtake Wicklow but they need to at least match Wexford.
Wishful thinking! Perhaps but in the strangest of seasons anything is possible so this punter will be praying for a Wexford or Wicklow win and a draw or even better, a Sligo win at Markievicz Park.
Let the celebrations begin!
HOW THEY STAND AT PRESENT
2020 Allianz Football League Division 4 Fixtures
Sat 25.01.2020 Carlow 0-11 Wicklow 0-9 Waterford 0-10 Limerick 1-10
Sun 26.01.2020 Antrim 3-10 Wexford 0-13 London 0-11 Sligo 5-9
Sat 01.02.2020 Wexford 2-10 Carlow 1-06
Sun 02.02.2020 Limerick 0-8 London 0-7 Sligo 0-15 Antrim 0-14 Wickow 2-11 Waterford 1-6
Sat 08.02.2020 Waterford 0-8 Wexford 2-3
Sun 09.02.2020 Carlow 0-9 Limerick 1-7 London 0-10 Antrim 0-14 Wickow 1-15 Sligo 1-10
Sat 22.02.2020 Sligo 0-16 Waterford 2-12
Sun 23.02.2020 Wexford 4-15 London 1-9 Limerick 5-10 Wicklow 1-14 Antrim 0-11 Carlow 1-8
Sat 29.02.2020 London 2-10 Wicklow 5-9 Wexford 1-9 Sligo 2-7
Sun 01.03.2020 Antrim 2-21 Limerick 1-12 Waterford 2-14 Carlow 2-14
Sat 17.10.2020 Wickow 7-11 Antrim 0-7 Carlow 2-17 Sligo 2-15
Sun 18.10.2020 Limerick 1-10 Wexford 1-13 Waterford v London – OFF
Sat 24.10.2020 Antrim v Waterford, Portglenone, 2pm Sligo v Limerick, Markievicz Park, 2pm Wexford v Wicklow, Wexford Park, 2pm London v Carlow – OFF
Antrim’s promotion hopes hang by a flimsy thread following this 7 goal mauling by a lively Wicklow in Aughrim today. The Saffrons went into this game knowing a win would almost certainly guarantee them a place in division 3 next season but the men from the Garden County failed to read the script.
Instead it is they who have put themselves right into the promotion race and on today’s performance they look more ready for a tilt at life in the higher grade than today’s opponents.
Antrim made six starting changes from the side who comprehensively defeated league leaders Limerick way back at the start of March, just before the lockdown with Odhran Eastwood who scored 2-3 in a man of the match performance in that excellent victory left on the bench.
In the event it was Wicklow tore up the form book to put themselves firmly in the promotion picture with a stunning 7-11 to 0-7 win over Antrim in Aughrim this afternoon.
The visitors came into the game with their fate very much in their own hands but after going ahead through a Kevin Quinn point early in the game were totally outclassed by a rampant Wicklow outfit.
Antrim took the lead on three minutes when Kevin Quinn split the posts following good work from Paddy McBride and Dermot McAleese but amazingly were not to score again in the opening half as the home side took complete control.
Wicklow equalised through the impressive Padraig O’Toole and then hit the front from the penalty spot after keeper, Oisin Kerr was adjudged to have tripped David Devereux and Seanie Furlong drilled the ball past Kerr to give his side a 1-1 to 0-1 lead on 10 minutes.
Spurred on by this early success the home side began to exert more and more control as Antrim’s slow and ponderous build ups came unstuck time and again and by half time it looked as good as over with Wicklow leading 3-5 to 0-1 and good value for that lead.
Wicklow’s high intensity press was forcing their opponents into elementary mistakes and they struck for a second goal in the 25th minute when an excellent pass from Eoin Darcy put O’Toole through on goal and he slotted the ball past Kerr to move the hosts six ahead.
Now dominant all over the field the home side continued to take the game to their opponents and as the Antrim defence was opened up once more they struck with a third goal when Conor Byrne followed up to return a rebound to the net after Kevin O’Boyle had blocked his initial effort.
Things went from bad to worse for the Saffrons when centre-forward Colum Duffin was shown a black card while Wicklow centre-back Niall Donnelly was also sin-binned just before the break as Wicklow took a 3-5 to 0-1 lead into the break.
Antrim who had replaced Peter Healey and Marc Jordan with Niall Delargy and Patrick McCormick during the first half, introduced Eoin Nagle for Ricki Johnston at the start of the second half and with the wind at their backs there must have been hope that they could close the gap in the second half.
It was Wicklow who were to draw first blood however when the impressive Eoin Darcy fired over before Tomas McCann finally raised a second Antrim flag from a tight angle after an astute pass from Conor Murray.
It was goals that the visitors needed however and on a day when their hosts looked likely to hit the net every time they attacked, the majors just wouldn’t come for the Saffrons despite a big effort in the second half.
They came close on a number of occasions with Conor Murray palming a tantalising Paddy McBride cross just wide of an upright and McBride crashed a shot of the crossbar before Wicklow punished the visitors again on the break.
Padraig O’Toole and Mark Kenny did the spade work to set up Seanie Furlong and the corner-forward Made no mistake from close range to beat Oisin Kerr for a fourth Wicklow goal. McBride and substitute Paddy Cunningham landed points at the other end for Antrim, but Wicklow were relentless to the end.
Seanie Furlong unselfishly passed to substitute Pat Burke who skilfully chipped the ball into the top corner of the net to leave Wicklow 5-9 to 0-6 ahead while Antrim skipper Declan Lynch picked up a black card five minutes from time for dissent after he was unceremoniously dragged to the ground.
Antrim continued to fight against impossible odds with substitute Adam Loughran seeing his well struck effort come back of an upright and Niall Delargy had his attempt charged down as the Saffrons sought the consolation goal that just would not come.
Late goals from Darcy and substitute Gearoid Murphy compounded Antrim’s woes and wrapped up a facile 25-point win for Davy Burke’s men who can now win promotion if they can defeat Wexford in their final game.
ANTRIM: O Kerr; P Gallagher, R Johnston, K O’Boyle; D Lynch, J McAuley, P Healy; M Sweeney, M Jordan; K Quinn (0-1), C Duffin, D McAleese (0-1), T McCann (0-2, 0-1f); C Murray, P McBride (0-2).
Subs: P McCormick for Healy (33mins), N Delargy for Jordan (33mins), E Nagle for Johnston (HT), A Loughran for Murray (45mins), P Cunningham (0-1) for McCann (52mins).
WICKLOW: M Jackson (0-1, 0-1f); P O’Keane (0-1), J Snell, E Murtagh; A Maher, N Donnelly, D Devereux; P O’Toole (1-1), D Healy (0-1); D Keane, M Kenny (0-1), D Hayden; E Darcy (1-2, 0-1f), C Byrne (1-1), S Furlong (2-1, 1-0 pen, 0-1f).
Subs: R Finn (0-2) for D Keane (26mins), S Kearon for Donnelly (55mins), P Burke (1-0) for Devereux (61mins) G Murphy (1-0) for O’Keane (67mins).
As we continue the countdown to Saturdays vitally important NFL Division 4 clash between Antrim and Wicklow in Aughrim the Saffron Gael takes a look back at the last time the sides met in the league.
Antrim were going through a frustrating league campaign, losing three games by a single point but got back on the winning trail when Wicklow visited Corrigan Park but in the end were left to reflect on a season that might have been.
Allianz N F League Division 4 (round 6)
Antrim 2-15 Wicklow 0-10
March 16th 2019
Two second half goals from the impressive Matthew Fitzpatrick sealed an excellent victory for Antrim as an eye catching performance saw them cross the winning line with an eleven point advantage over visiting Wicklow at a blustery Corrigan Park today.
Despite the assistance of a strong, northerly wind in the opening half the Saffron’s struggled to make impact for most of the opening period.
The visitors looked more composed and dominated the central zone from the outset as Conor McGraynor and late replacement Anthony McLoughlin held aerial supremacy and they nipped into a fully deserved 0-06 to 0-03 advantage after 25th minutes.
The home side lacked any semblance of fluency up to that point but they did get it together in the latter stages with Colum Duffin working overtime and a late flurry of points, which included a couple from Ryan Murray ensured a 0-07 to 0-06 interval advantage.
Although they faced the wrath of the elements in the second half Antrim started with an early point from half time replacement Eoin Nagle and when the St Enda’s club man served up a pin point cross to open the way for Matthew Fitzpatrick to finish to the net Harbinson’s men were on their way.
The home side looked a different proposition to the one who had struggled for long periods in the opening half and Wicklow failed to get to grips.
As the Antrim defence shut shop the visitors failed to score again until the 49th minute when Anthony McLoughlin raised white but when Ryan Murray sent Fitzpatrick in for a second major the home side had moved ten points clear and the game was as good as over.
Such was Antrim’s dominance that corner back Patrick McCormick and sweeper Declan Lynch got forward for scores to see Antrim cross the line as impressive 2-15 to 0-10 winners.
In a season where results have not favoured Antrim with a win over London their only success to date, Antrim were badly in need of a win as Wicklow visited Corrigan Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Saffron’s had the strong breeze in their favour in the first half but in the event it was to be the Garden County who dominated the opening exchanges.
Antrim looked less than confident in approach with a strange reluctance to take a direct route and too often coughed up possession.
Wicklow looked more composed in the offensive and first to register as late replacement Patrick O’ Connor hoisted white in the third minute.
Ryan Murray, who was lively from the outset got the home side away when he punished an indiscretion on Odhran Eastwood sending the resultant award between the posts in the 5th minute but they failed to push on at this point.
The Saffron’s lacked ideas when in possession and the Leinster men took advantage and points from Conor McGraynor and Anthony McLoughlin ensured a 0-03 to 0-01 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
Kevin Quinn’s fine left sided approach and a precision finish saw the home side register their second score in the 20th minute and when Matthew Fitzpatrick followed suit a few minutes later Antrim had drawn level.
The visitors were quick to provide response however with the towering Conor Mc Graynor leading the way.
The centre forward was proving dominant in the air and after he had set up Mark Kenny to hoist white and Patrick O’Connor added another, the towering McGraynor assumed responsibility for the free taking duties and directed a right sided 30 metre free firmly between the posts to see his side move 0-06 to 0-03 ahead.
Antrim, now three in arrears as the end of the opening half approached staged a strong finish. Eunan Walsh replaced out of sorts Michael McCarry with team captain Declan Lynch moving to the centre of the defence and suddenly things began to come together.
It was the intervention of the hard grafting Lamh Dhearg man that opened the way for Matthew Fitzpatrick to drive through the middle and send between the posts before Odhran Eastwood added another.
The home side dominated the closing stages and a late double from the hard working Ryan Murray ensured an interval advantage of 0-07 to 0-06 which had seemed unlikely a few minutes previously.
Antrim started the second half with a slender lead but the question was, would it be enough given the strength of the breeze they were to face in the second half?
In the event those doubts were quickly dismissed as the Saffron’s began on the positive and half time replacement Eoin Nagle opened with a point seconds into proceedings.
The St. Enda’s youngster continued to impress and after gathering a pass from Declan Lynch his accurate cross field delivery opened the way for Matthew Fitzpatrick to send to the net.
The Antrim men looked transformed and despite facing the elements continued to press with confidence as back to back points by Fitzpatrick and Ryan Murray saw them move 1-10 to 0-07 ahead.
The visitors, having lost their way finally responded through Anthony McLoughlin who raised back to back white flags from respective free kicks in the 48th and 53rd minutes but they were then reduced in number for a ten minute period as mid fielder Dean Healey was issued black.
Ryan Murray and Eoin Nagle added points apiece as Antrim took control all over the pitch. Declan Lynch came forward to split the posts before Ryan Murray combined in stylish approach with Matthew Fitzpatrick for the latter to add his second major and the end was in sight.
Wicklow did add another couple of points to their total via late replacement Chris O’Brien and net minder Mark Jackson from a long range free but the home side were to have the final say.
Corner back Patrick McCormick moved forward to split the posts to add to another by Ryan Murray and usher Antrim over the line on a 2-15 to 0-10 winning score.
The second half performance was the best Antrim have produced this season and was perhaps a reflection on what might have been. They lost against Derry, Leitrim and Waterford by a single point with Derry and Leitrim set to contest the division 4 final later in the month.
With a wee bit of luck and more composure and belief Antrim might well have been in contention for one of the promotion spots going into their final game away to Limerick but will be hoping to finish with a win as they prepare for theirUlster championship opener against Tyrone.
Antrim: Padraig Nugent, Patrick Mc Cormick (0-01), Patrick Gallagher, James McAuley, Niall Delargy, Michael McCarry, Declan Lynch (0-01), Matthew Fitzpatrick (2-03), Martin Johnston, Kevin Quinn (0-01), Stephen Beatty, Patrick McBride, Colum Duffin, Odhran Eastwood (0-01), Ryan Murray (0-06)
Eunan Walsh for M McCarry
Eoin Nagle (0-02) for O Eastwood
Ruairi McCann for P Mc Bride
Fintan Burke for C Duffin
Wicklow: Mark Jackson (0-01), Eoin Murtagh, Ross O’ Brien, Jamie Snell, David Devereaux, Shane Mooney, Darragh Fitzgerald, Dean Healy, Padraig O’Toole, Darren Hayden, Conor McGraynor (0-02), Theo Smith, Mark Kenny (0-01), Patrick O’ Connor (0-02), Anthony McLoughlin (0-03)
Antrim travel to Wicklow this weekend knowing that anything less than a win will probably not be enough if they are to keep their hopes of promotion from division 4 alive but confident that they can come away from Aughrim with the necessary win.
Antrim’s promotion chances received a major boost when they defeated league leaders Limerick away back at the start of March and they will be hoping for a repeat of that performance when they travel to Aughrim on Saturday with throw in scheduled for 12-30.
Manager Lenny Harbison stated at the start of the season that promotion from division 4 was his primary ambition this season and that ambition is very muck within the Saffron’s reach as they make the long journey to Wicklow for the penultimate game in their league campaign.
It has been a mixed season for the Antrim footballers. They started with a good win over visitors Wexford in Glenavy and an away win in Ruislip on day two augured well for this season’s campaign but a one point defeat to Sligo at Markievicz Park in round 3 threw a spanner in the works.
The visit of Carlow in round four offered Antrim an opportunity to get their division 4 promotion bid back on track. The visitors had defeated Wicklow on day one but had struggled for results after that, losing to Wexford and Limerick.
The visitors arrived at Glenavy knowing that only a win would do and when they went 1-3 to 0-0 ahead after 15 minutes it wasn’t looking good for the home side. The introduction of Odhran Eastwood at half-time and Michael McCann during the second half saw Antrim get their game together and they pushed hard for the win in the second half but had to settle for a draw in the end.
Going into the Limerick game in Portglenone last day out, Antrim trailed league leaders Limerick by three points. Anything less than a win and it was good bye to promotion for another season but the Saffrons produced their best performance of the season and indeed for a number of seasons to comprehensively defeat previously unbeaten Limerick.
Two weeks earlier in that game against Carlow the introduction of Odhran Eastwood at half time proved an inspired substitution and it was no surprise when the St. Enda’s ‘Pocket Rocket’ was handed a starting birth against the league leaders.
Eastwood was outstanding, leading the Limerick defence a merry dance with his speed and movement and ended top scorer with 2-3 in a man of the match performance. The game also saw Paddy McBride produce his best performance of the season with the St. John’s man contributing 0-7 and looking more like his old self.
As I write this preview there is a sense of De Ja Vue. As I was preparing for the trip to Wicklow away back in March the news came through of a nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19 with all GAA fixture postponed until further notice.
A difficult time for everyone but the resumption of club fixtures and a great football and hurling championship in Antrim followed and we at the Saffron Gael were back doing what we love doing, bringing you previews and reports of all the games within the county.
Just how the lockdown will affect Antrim’s prospects this weekend remains to be seen. Momentum can be everything in sport and Antrim footballers certainly had the momentum going into that game against Wicklow so there is a sense that some of that momentum may have gone.
Against that the Antrim championship has provided the opportunity for Antrim manager, Lenny Harbison to take a look at his present panel and he has taken the opportunity of adding a number of players to his panel.
The experienced Kevin O’Boyle, Ryan Murray, Mark Sweeney and Patrick McCormick have returned to the Antrim fold but whether any of them will get a starting birth in Aughrim remains to be seen.
Two players who will have benefited from the shutdown and subsequent club championship are Cargin pair, Michael McCann and his brother Tomas. Michael came back into the Antrim fold after a couple of years in exile and played a part as a substitute in the games against Carlow and Limerick while Tomas was recovering from injury at the time but was around the panel.
Both players have been in great form during their club’s run to a three in a row championship success and would certainly add impetuous to the Antrim effort if called upon. Another player who has impressed during the club championship is Creggan keeper, Oisin Kerr so Lenny Harbison and his management team will have plenty to mull over before making their final selection for Saturday.
Antrtim will have been boosted by the announcement this week that the Casement Park development has been given approval and with their hurlers involved in a league final the following day (Sunday) against Kerry this could turn out to be a memorable weekend for Saffron Gaels.
Saturdays line-out is unlikely to show too many changes to the one who started against Limerick. The defence has pretty much picked itself throughout the league with Eastwood’s St. Enda’s colleagues Peter Healey and James McAuley turning in consistent performances all year and forming a solid half-back line with team captain Declan Lynch.
At mid-field Colum Duffin was outstanding against the Treaty men and has formed a hard working mid-field partnership with Marc Jordan while Conor Murray has been consistently good in attack and with Niall Delargy has been an ever present.
Paddy Cunningham is another player who has returned to the Antrim panel this year after a number of years in exile but after starting in the opening three games he has had to settle for a place on the bench but is another who could influence the outcome if called upon
WHAT ABOUT WICKLOW?
As we have seen, there is no such thing as an easy game in division 4 and Wicklow have mixed good performances with bad this year but are more than capable on their day. They lost to Carlow on day one, beat Waterford on day two and then raised a few eyebrows when they beat Sligo by five points at Sunday’s venue.
On day four Wicklow travelled to Limerick and were hammered by the league leaders who scored 5-10 against them but a week later they made the journey to London where they hit five goals themselves.
Wicklow’s best performances seem to have been at home and significantly they are one of three sides on six points, one behind Antrim with Wexford and Sligo the others hoping for an Antrim slip up.
Both Wexford and Sligo face difficult games when they travel to Limerick and Carlow respectively but for now Antrim will be concentrating on the Wicklow game and letting the other results take care of themselves.
The Saffrons need to produce another high intensity performance like the one they turned in against Limerick. They moved the ball with pace and always seemed to have an option when attacking while they dropped back effectively as a unit when defending and the Treaty men couldn’t cope with that intensity.
A win in Aughrim would set Antrim up nicely for their final game of the league campaign at home to Waterford and if results were to go well elsewhere could earn them promotion but for now all thoughts must be concentrated on Saturday’s visit to Wicklow.
Many of the crowd who stood on the Clones terraces to applaud Antrim, long after the full time whistle travelled to Tullamore to support their heroes. Despite defeat to Tyrone in the Ulster final there was a carnival atmosphere amongst the hordes who made the journey to the Offaly venue, some daring to believe that their heroes could topple the mighty Kingdom.
Kerry 2-12 Antrim 1-10
Sunday, 26 July 2009 15:49
The big crowd who made the journey to Tullamore hoping for a giant killing performance from Antrim were certainly not disappointed by the Antrim performance if not by the result.
Kerry finally made it to the All-Ireland quarter-finals, but once they were made to battle by would be giant-killer in Antrim. Jack O’Connor and his much vaunted side were relieved to hear the final whistle as they were pushed to the wire by an Antrim side showing little regard for the reputation of the Munster side.
A superb individual first half goal from Cargin’s Tony Scullion had the Saffron hoards in raptures and a late Ciaran Close point sent Baker’s men to the dressing room leading by a point at half time.
An upset still looked on the cards as Michael McCann struck three successive frees to leave it level with ten minutes remaining but a Paul Galvin goal for the Kingdon late in the game finally swung it in favour of the Kingdom.
He will however have been encouraged by a much-improved second-half performance in Tullamore, Having struggled to get the better of Longford, Sligo and now Antrim, the Kingdom continue to struggle for form. Kerry struck a major blow in the 12th-minute when Tadhg Kennelly slipped a pass inside to Tommy Walsh, and the big Kerins O’Rahilly’s man drilled a low shot past John Finucane. Moments later, Finucane pulled off a brilliant save from Darran O’Sullivan, who got on the end of a sweeping move involving Paul Galvin and Declan O’Sullivan.
Declan O’Sullivan eased the Kingdom into a 1-02 to 0-01 lead, but Antrim responded with a well-worked goal, with James Loughrey making ground on the right before slipping the ball to fellow wing back Tony Scullion, who rounded goalkeeper Diarmuid Murphy before planting the ball in an empty net. Kerry went 17 minutes without scoring, during which both Sean O’Sullivan and Declan O’Sullivan were guilty of glaring misses from easy frees, prompting the introduction of Colm Cooper on the half-hour. Tommy Walsh brought the Munster men level, but Ciaran Close’s fisted point in stoppage time sent the Saffrons in with a 1-04 to 1-03 interval lead.
Cooper converted two frees to bring the sides level 10 minutes into the second half, and two minutes later regained the lead for Kerry. Mike McCarthy’s surging runs forced Antrim to concede the frees from which Cooper punished the Ulster side, but Michael McCann steered over three Antrim frees, and with 10 minutes to play, the sides were still deadlocked on 1-08 each. But the game took an irreversible twist in the Kingdom’s favour when Michael Quirke fetched at midfield, and Donnacha Walsh sent Galvin in to finish to the net from close range. It was all over for brave Antrim, and Kerry finished the job off with a string of points from Paul O’Connor and Galvin.
Kerry: D Murphy, M O Se, T Griffin, T O’Sullivan, K Young, M McCarthy, A O’Mahony, D O Se, S Scanlon, P Galvin (1-2), T Kennelly, Darren O’Sullivan, T Walsh (1-2), Declan O’Sullivan (0-1), S O’Sullivan (0-1, f).
Subs: C Cooper (0-4, 4f) for S O’Sullivan (30), T O Se for O’Mahony (43), D Walsh for Kennelly (43), P O’Connor (0-2, 2f) for Darran O’Sullivan (56), M Quirke for Scanlon (58)
Antrim: J Finucane, C Brady, A McClean, K O’Boyle, T Scullion (1-0), J Crozier, J Loughrey, M McCann (0-4, 3f), A Gallagher, T O’Neill, C Close (0-1), N McKeever, P Cunningham (0-3, 2f), K Niblock, T McCann (0-2).
Subs: A Douglas for O’Boyle (13), C Murray for Close (49), K Brady for O’Neill (53), S Burke for Niblock (64)
Referee: J White (Donegal)
Despite this defeat hundreds of Antrim supporters invaded the Tullamore pitch at full-time to applaud their side and many remained there to have photographs taken with their heroes. It had been a great season for Antrim football and things were to get better the following year with promotion to division 2 of the NFL.