Antrim secure rare qualifier win with spirited effort against 13-man Louth
Louth 1-11 Antrim 2-16
Two first-half goals from Matthew Fitzpatrick helped turn this game on its head as Antrim came from six points down to storm clear with a dominant second-half performance.
Both sides had suffered chastening defeats in their previous games, against Dublin and Tyrone. Wayne Kieran’s Louth side were looking to bounce back against a side who had never beaten them in three attempts since the qualifier series began.
This was a bitterly disappointing display from Louth who finished the game with 13 men as they lost their discipline late on as Antrim surged clear.
The men from the Wee County began the game as favourites, and when Andy McDonnell’s goal put them six points clear 13 minutes into the game, it looked as though the game would go the way of the form book. However, those two Fitzpatrick goals reignited Antrim’s challenge and they killed off Louth in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, outscoring their opponents by eight points to two.
Antrim began well with the lively Ryan Murray scoring two points in the opening minutes but Louth dominated the next 15 minutes, scoring 1-5 without reply.
Their goal came after they took advantage of a mistake from goalkeeper Pádraig Nugent to score the game’s opening goal. Nugent’s short kick-out was intended for Declan Lynch but it was easily intercepted by the alert Sam Mulroy who ran in on goal before passing to Andy McDonnell who palmed the ball into the net.
So far, so good for Louth but within minutes a six-point lead would be wiped out as Antrim finally arrived to the party.
The comeback began with a Eunan Walsh free before two goals in five minutes from the pacey Matthew Fitzpatrick put the Saffrons back in front. Fitzpatrick’s first goal came after he cut inside before finishing into the top corner from a very tight angle. The Antrim forward repeated the trick five minutes later as he burst through the middle of a static Louth defence before firing past Fergal Sheeky to put the visitors a point ahead.
Both sides traded scores at the end of a topsy turvy opening half which ended with a Ryan Murray point to send Antrim in a point clear, 2-5 to 1-7.
Antrim extended their lead early in the second half with points in quick succession from the deadly duo of Rory Murray and Matthew Fitzpatrick.
Louth briefly rallied with points from Conall McKeever and Ryan Burns but the men in the yellow jerseys went through the gears, scoring five points in succession to surge clear and leave Louth trailing. The excellent Patrick McBride was causing Louth all sorts of problems with his running from deep as he drove his team forward.
A bad day for Louth got worse with goalkeeper Fergal Sheeky receiving his marching orders following an off the ball incident. Their misery was compounded when forward Declan Byrne followed his team-mate off the pitch after receiving a second yellow. Antrim would eventually coast to a comfortable and deserved eight-point victory and they can now look forward to Monday morning’s qualifier draw.
Scorers — Antrim: M Fitzpatrick 2-1, R Murray 0-6 (1f), C Duffin 0-2, P McBride 0-2, R Scott 0-2, E Walsh 0-1 (f), N Delargy 0-1, P McCormack 0-1. Louth: A McDonnell 1-1, D Byrne 0-2, R Burns 0-2 (2f), B Duffy, J Clutterbuck, C McKeever, E Carolan, C Downey, T Durnin 0-1 each.
Louth: F Sheeky (red card 59), D Corcoran, F Donohoe, J Craven, A Williams, B Duffy, J Clutterbuck, T Durnin 7, J Califf, C Downey, D Byrne (red card 60), C McKeever, A McDonnell, S Mulroy, R Burns Subs: E Duffy for A McDonnell (HT), C Earley for J Califf (48), R Holcroft for C Downey (50), E Carolan for J Craven (55), C Grimes for S Mulroy (58), C Lynch for J Clutterbuck (60)
Antrim: P Nugent, P McCormick, R Johnston, P Gallagher, P McBride, D Lynch, N Delargy, C Duffin, S Beatty, J McAuley, M Fitzpatrick, K Quinn, R Murray, M McCarry, E Walsh Subs: R McNulty for J McAuley (4), C Murray for M McCarry (HT), R Scott for S Beatty (50), F Burke for K Quinn (63), J Smith for C Duffin (67), P Branagan for N Delargy (70)
Referee: M McNally (Monaghan)