Monday 19 March 2018

O'Hagan pounces late to shock Galway


ORLA BANNON at Casement Park

Of all the punishing back-door defeats Galway have suffered, this may be one of the worst. Without a victory outside of Connacht since beating Louth in 2004, Galway travelled to Casement Park yesterday hopeful that their terrible run of defeats in the qualifiers would finally end.

Antrim, however, put up mighty resistance and kept fighting even when Pádraic Joyce twice put Galway a point ahead in the closing minutes.

The teams were level nine times over the 70 minutes and it looked like it might take extra-time to separate them when Tomás McCann cancelled out Joyce's free in the first minute of stoppage-time.

Antrim pressed for the jugular and a brave point from sub Deaghlán O'Hagan in the second minute of injury-time booked their place in the All-Ireland third round qualifiers.

After coming close to beating Kerry and Kildare in the qualifiers in 2009 and 2010, this was the big scalp Antrim were looking for.

But there will be much soul-searching in Galway after another shattering back-door defeat. They've lost to Westmeath, Wexford and Meath in recent years and yesterday was the fourth year in a row they have lost in the qualifiers by a single point (after Donegal, Wexford and Meath).

Pádraic Joyce came on with 10 minutes to go and tried to lead the way, scoring twice in the closing minutes. He thought he'd grabbed the winner in the last minute of normal time but Antrim scored twice in injury-time through Tomás McCann and O'Hagan. The McCann brothers, Tomás and Michael, scored 0-5 between them in a lively second half which was a vast improvement on the first. Galway, with a wind advantage, led by 0-5 to 0-4 at half-time. Both teams probed and felt each other out, but there wasn't much purpose to the attacks.

Played at a pedestrian pace, the build-up play was slow and laborious with way too much lateral passing.

Antrim had bodies behind the ball but, even so, it was poor stuff from both teams. Twelve long minutes passed in the first half with no score at all. The fact that both teams were struggling to convert their frees meant that it was fairly low-scoring in the first half.

Michael Meehan missed three frees, only just finding his range before the break when he landed his first. Tomás McCann also missed a couple for Antrim.

Seán Armstrong was taken off before half-time after failing to fire on the forty.

Rising star of Galway football, Mark Hehir, was moved out from the corner to centre-forward to try and get more involved in the game and he landed three frees from three attempts.

The sides were level four times in the opening period, both teams having their noses in front at various stages.

Tomás McCann clipped over the first point in the second minute but two Hehir frees put Galway in front.

Antrim thought they were taking a grip on proceedings when Aodhán Gallagher, an early substitute for the injured Conal Kelly, and Michael McCann burst forward to score two points in a row. But Galway finished strongly with Paul Conroy's spectacular effort putting them ahead again.

Antrim carved out the only decent goal chance but Owen Gallagher didn't react quickly enough to Tomás McCann's pass and he fumbled the ball with the net gaping.

There was far greater urgency to the second half and the tempo was significantly upped.

It made for an improved spectacle and Antrim made the better of it with three points from play in a row, including two superb efforts from midfielder Michael McCann.

Galway boss Alan Mulholland had seen enough and withdrew Joe Bergin, who was supposed to be marking McCann.

Conor Doherty's point brought Galway level on the hour mark, which signalled the arrival of Pádraic Joyce.

With his first touch, he fisted the ball over the bar to put Galway ahead for the first time in the second half but, inevitably, Antrim got an equaliser though Tomás McCann.

Joyce's free in the 70th minute looked like it might be enough but McCann and O'Hagan both scored in injury-time to put Antrim through.

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

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

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

Referee: D Fahy (Longford)

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