Wednesday 21 March 2018

On-song Oliver eases Dublin into semi-finals

Dublin 2-22 Antrim 2-11

Dublin’s Eoghan Conroy
Dublin’s Eoghan Conroy

Francis Mooney

Dead-ball specialist Matthew Oliver landed 11 points as Dublin eased through to the last four with a comfortable win in this All-Ireland MHC quarter-final at Kingspan Breffni Park.

But the Dubs had to work had to put away a battling Saffron side which frequently exploited gaps in a nervous defence.

Oliver's sublime striking was in the end the difference, but Johnny McGuirk's side always had that little extra in terms of class and control.

Eoghan Conroy and Fergal Whitely got goals for Dublin, but with Christy McNaughton, who finished with 1-6, and Conor Small hitting the net for the Ulster side, it wasn't until the closing stages that the prospect of an upset could finally be ruled out.

Dublin were seven points ahead inside the opening eight minutes, their touch and striking setting them apart from their opponents.

Antrim goalkeeper Benny Connor saved from Ciaran Dowling, but the Dubs did get in for a ninth-minute goal when Carl Sammon delivered for Conroy to nip in and finish to the net.

They soon increased the advantage to eight, with McNaughton the Saffrons' only scorer during that difficult spell, while the Leinster side piled on the scores through Sammon, Mark Maguire and Whitely.

But Saffron spirit and graft eventually came to the fore, and they crafted a sublime goal when Ryan McKee sent Small in to control and finish in one glorious movement.

McKee narrowed the gap to two, but Whitely darted through the heart of the opposition defence to smash home a second Dublin goal in the 19th minute

McNaughton converted a handful of frees, but Dublin, with full-back Darragh Butler in commanding form and Eoin Foley displaying vision, pulled away with scores from Oliver and Whitely to lead by 2-11 to 1-8 at the break.

Oliver thumped over an 80-metre free, his seventh score, but Antrim had their own placed ball specialist in McNaughton, who landed his sixth.

But it was Dublin who retained the edge for much of the third quarter, until they conceded a second goal, finished from close range by McNaughton after Eoin Skelly had saved from McKee.

Dublin appeared unruffled, responding with a couple of monster frees from Oliver, and soon had re-established a six-point cushion. And they could have had another goal but for the alertness of keeper Connor, who kept out an angled shot from Alex Considine.

Scorers - Dublin: M Oliver 0-11 (10f), F Whitely 1-2, E Conroy 1-0, M Maguire 0-3, C Sammon 0-2, D Gray, A Considine, E Foley, G King 0-1 each. Antrim: C McNaughton 1-6 (0-6f), C Small 1-0, C Doherty-Cunning 0-2, R McKee, D McLaughlin, L Malloy 0-1 each.

Dublin: E Skelly, C Hendricken, D Butler, C Ryan, E Foley, P Smyth, C O'Sullivan, C Sammon, M Maguire, M Oliver, F Whitely, D Gray, C Dowling, E Conroy, A Considine.

Subs: G King for O'Sullivan, D Ryan for Smyth, J McGuirk for Dowling, C Currie for Conroy, C Burke for Considine.

Antrim: B Connor, O McKenna, D Carey, C Carson, J Maskey, G Walsh, S Duffin, C McMullan, K Malloy, C Doherty-Cunning, C Small, C McNaughton, D McShane, D McLaughlin, R McKee. Subs: J Daniels for McShane, C Blair for McKenna, A Burke for McLaughlin.

Referee: J Keane (Galway)

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