Monday 19 February 2018

Bradley: I knew we had big shock in us

Antrim 0-11 Galway 0-10
SFC Round 2 Qualifier

Galway's Joe Bergin wins the ball ahead of Antrim's James Loughrey and Conal Kelly
Galway's Joe Bergin wins the ball ahead of Antrim's James Loughrey and Conal Kelly

Orla Bannon

Liam Bradley confidently predicted on Friday that the bookies had got it badly wrong.

The 3/1 offered for Antrim to cause a shock was a nonsense, he claimed, and suggested over the airwaves to anyone willing to listen that his team were "worth sticking 20 quid on''.

The victory may have come in dramatic circumstances with two injury-time points from Tomas McCann and substitute Deaghlan O'Hagan, but Antrim were full value for it.

Galway may not have liked the way Antrim set themselves up, but they played with a great purpose and they had a game plan. Players knew what they were doing and they stuck to it.

The same, unfortunately, could not be said of Galway, whose winless streak in the football qualifiers now stretches back to 2004.

Underestimated

With the exception of Meath in 2007, all their back-door defeats have been by a point. Westmeath (2006), Donegal (2009), Wexford (2010) and Meath again (2011) have all pipped them at the post, and it happened again at Casement Park on Saturday.

"We're very disappointed,'' said manager Alan Mulholland. "We always knew it would be difficult. A lot of people underestimated them but we knew what we were getting in to here.

"I have no problems with the players or the way they played. We were a point up with injury-time coming, but that's happened us a few times now.''

Mulholland suggested that Antrim's defensive strategy had made his side look slow and laborious, particularly in the first half.

"It's hard to play football against that shape but more and more teams are playing that kind of game nowadays,'' he said. "It looks like you're not getting going, but what's the alternative? To kick the ball to an Antrim lad in the full-back line?

"We have no excuses. We had our eyes open that we'd have to confront that type of game and unfortunately we weren't able to break them down.''

Antrim did play one forward, Mark Sweeney, as a sweeper in front of his full-back line but there was still plenty of opportunity for Galway if they had wanted it enough. Michael Meehan, starting his first championship game of the year, was still some way off his best and he missed three frees, with Paul Conroy missing another.

Justin Crozier did a good job on Meehan but the Galway star looked rusty, the ball bouncing out of his hands a few times at critical stages.

The sides were level nine times over the 70 minutes, Galway leading 0-5 to 0-4 at half-time.

A good burst from Antrim early in the second half saw them reel off three points in a row from play, including a brace of sweet long-range efforts from Michael McCann.

Galway responded well with their best spell in the game, outscoring the home side by four points to one in a 15-minute period in the second-half.

With Sean Armstrong ineffective and withdrawn before half-time, that left it to old hand Padraic Joyce to lead the way in the tense closing stages.

Fellow sub Danny Cummins was also lively and caused trouble as the game opened up, but it was Joyce who fisted over the point that put Galway's noses in front again, at 0-9 to 0-8, in the 61st minute.

Tomas McCann had been misfiring with free-kicks in the first-half -- Antrim undoubtedly missing the accuracy of axed forward Paddy Cunningham.

But McCann came good in the second half, with two crucial points from play, the second of which cancelled out Joyce's point.

A Joyce free gave Galway the lead again in the 70th minute, but they couldn't hold on, McCann and O'Hagan inflicting the damage.

"We knew going in today that we weren't going to be far away,'' said a jubilant Bradley.

"We had to take a scalp. We're knocking on the door this last three or four years, coming close against Kerry and Kildare. It was always going to come right for us and this was perfectly set up for us for a big hit.

"These guys are good footballers. Us and Sligo would be on a par and we knew if they could turn Galway over, then so could we.''

Scorers -- Antrim: T McCann 0-4 (2fs), M McCann 0-3, A Gallagher, J Loughrey, C Kelly, D O'Hagan 0-1 each. Galway: M Hehir 0-3 (3fs), P Joyce (1f), M Meehan (2fs) 0-2 each, P Conroy, G O'Donnell, C Doherty 0-1 each.

Antrim -- C Kerr 7; K O'Boyle 8, R Johnston 7, J Crozier 8; A Healey 6, T Scullion 7, M Sweeney 6; M McCann 8, C Kelly 6; J Loughrey 7, O Gallagher 5, M Johnston 5; T McCann 7, K Niblock 7, C Murray 6. Subs: A Gallagher 8 for Kelly (20), M Magill 7 for O Gallagher (47), M Armstrong 6 for Murray (67), D O'Hagan 7 for Healey (69).

Galway -- A Faherty 6; K Kelly 6, F Hanley 7, J Duane 6; G Bradshaw 6, G O'Donnell 7, T Fahy 6; J Bergin 5, F O Curraoin 6; G Sice 7, S Armstrong 5, C Doherty 6; M Meehan 7, P Conroy 7, M Hehir 7. Subs: D Cummins 7 for Armstrong (34), T Flynn 7 for Bergin (45), K McGrath 6 for Fahy (46), P Joyce 7 for Hehir (60), G Sweeney 6 for Doherty (67).

Ref -- D Fahy (Longford).

Irish Independent

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