Margin of victory flatters apprehensive Wexford
IT took a nervy Wexford until the 51st minute to finally put a gutsy Antrim team away in this lacklustre preliminary hurling qualifier yesterday afternoon.
The home side were clearly lacking confidence after last week's beating by Dublin. Their distribution was poor at times, they lacked composure and they had to rely on basic instincts from natural sharpshooters Rory Jacob, Paul Morris and Podge Doran, who all smashed home goals to see their side through to play Carlow next weekend.
Morris and Jacob had plenty of possession; the ball didn't always go their way but they fired 2-4 from play between them and that was enough to get them over the finishing line. A win over Carlow would lift their confidence another level but they have lots of work to do if they want to make a real impression on this year's championship.
Antrim did more than hang in there. The likes of Neil McManus, Paul Shiels, Karl Stewart and Conor McKinley played extremely well and their tactics were spot on for most of the game. They'll rue the goals conceded – two of which were very soft. It's a shame that they're gone now for another 12 months; hurling at this time of year is exactly what they need.
For long stages of this game, though, they were well in it. McManus and Jackson McGreevey bossed proceedings and between them they hit three points from behind midfield. As the game unfolded Antrim looked a lot more comfortable on the ball. Twice, though, Wexford struck for goals in the first period.
Doran rasped one home after 16 minutes. Antrim, however, regained their composure. Stewart had a goal chance but kicked wide, while Shane McNaughton landed two frees. It looked like the hosts would be trailing at the break until Gareth Sinnott hit the post; the sliothar dropped to Jacob, who buried it.
They may not have deserved it at the interval break but Wexford led 2-5 to 0-9. Jack Guiney, Jacob and Morris pointed soon after the restart to settle the home side, who now played with the wind at their backs. Although McManus epitomised the Antrim effort with his trojan spirit, the game drifted away from them and in the final quarter of an hour Morris sprinted for goal and gave Chris O'Connell no chance.
Wexford went onto win by 10 points, but no one will read too much into this result.
Scorers – Wexford: J Guiney 0-8 (5f, 1 '65', 1 s/c), R Jacob, P Morris 1-2 each, G Sinnott 0-4, P Doran 1-0, E Martin (f), S Murphy 0-1 each Antrim: N McManus (2f), S McNaughton (4f) 0-5 each, K Stewart (1f), J McGreevey 0-2 each, C McGuinness, N McAuley, C Carson 0-1 each
Wexford: M Fanning; E Moore, T Waters, B Kenny; R Kehoe, M O'Regan, C Kenny; D Redmond, L Chin; J Guiney, G Sinnott, H Kehoe; P Morris, R Jacob, P Doran. Subs: C O'Shaughnessy for P Doran (48), E Quigley for D Redmond (51), J Tonks for H Kehoe (55), S Murphy for C Kenny (65), E Martin for L Chin (66).
Antrim: C O'Connell; B McFall, A Graffin, C McKinley; S McRory, N McManus, P Shiels; J McGreevey, N McAuley; S McNaughton, C Carson, T McCloskey; C McGuinness, K Stewart, D Hamill. Subs: O McFadden for B McFall (43), K McKernan for C Carson (55), C Clarke for D Hamill (55)
Referee: J Sexton (Limerick)