Thursday 23 November 2017

Antrim eye bigger fish after passing Exiles test

Antrim 1-17 London 2-7 Leinster SHC Qualifying Group RD 3

Conor Johnston, Antrim, in action against Stephen Fawley, London. GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Qualifier Group, Round 3, Antrim v London, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim
Conor Johnston, Antrim, in action against Stephen Fawley, London. GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Qualifier Group, Round 3, Antrim v London, Ballycastle, Co. Antrim
Conor Johnston, Antrim, in action against PJ Rowe, London
Aaron Graffin, Antrim, in action against Kevin Walsh, London
Paul Shiels, Antrim, in action against Rory Foy, London
PJ O'Connell, Antrim, in action against Rory Foy, London

Antrim secured a place in the Leinster quarter-finals with a seven-point win over 14-man London in the round-robin clash at Ballycastle.

The victory makes it three wins from three for the Ulstermen, but they failed to impress against a gritty London side who bagged two second-half goals to trail by just two points with less than 15 minutes to go.

Antrim bossed possession throughout, but failed to make it count on the scoreboard. A goal from talisman Paul Shiels just after the restart failed to ignite the Saffrons as goals from Mark Duggan and Kevin Walsh reduced the deficit. However, the home side replied with six unanswered points to secure victory.

RIPPLE

A lacklustre first half finished with the home side one point to the good, 0-6 to 0-5. Midway through, Antrim led by 0-5 to 0-1, with all but one point coming from the stick of Shiels, who opened the scoring after two minutes.

Eoin Kelly levelled from a placed ball for London and the same player cut the gap to three, 0-5 to 0-2, by the 19th minute with his second free of the day. Shiels replied almost immediately, but three unanswered scores from the Exiles through Peter Phelan, Darren Moore and Kelly, left the minimum between the sides.

Antrim could have put the game out of reach in the dying minutes of the first half when PJ O'Connell was perhaps a bit too unselfish when setting up team-mate Shiels for a goal strike, whose effort off the ground was tipped wide. In injury-time, O'Connell did take responsibility, but found James Barrett equal to the task.

Within two minutes of the restart, Antrim finally bagged a goal when Ciaran Clarke set up Shiels to fire home.

Kelly responded with a free, but three further Antrim points opened up a six-point gap for the home side.

In between, London were reduced to 14 men when Noel McDonald received a straight red for a foul on O'Connell.

Then came the first of London's goals. Antrim 'keeper Chris O'Connell looked to have Duggan's shot from distance covered, but the sliothar found its way to the back of the net for a 1-9 to 1-6 scoreline.

Antrim responded through Shiels and Johnston, but the lead was further reduced when O'Connell failed to stop Walsh's 56th-minute effort. Again Antrim moved up a gear, this time adding six without reply, the pick of which came from Eoin Campbell.

Antrim now have a week's break before completing the round-robin series against Laois.

London face Laois next week, and complete their series a week later against Westmeath.

SCORERS – Antrim: P Shiels 1-10 (4fs, 2 '65s'), C Clarke 0-3 (f), N McManus, E Campbell, S McAfee, C Johnston 0-1 each. London: E Kelly 0-5 (3fs, 2 '65'), K Walsh, M Duggan 1-0 each, D Moore, P Phelan 0-1 each.

Antrim – C O'Connell 5; O McFadden 7, C McKinley 7, A Graffin 6, S McCrory 6, N McAuley 7, N McManus 6; E Campbell 6, C Johnston 7; C Carson 6, D Hamill 6, C McCann 6; C Clarke 7, P Shiels 8, PJ O'Connell 6. Subs: B McFall 7 for S McCrory (29), C Johnston 7 for D Hamill (h-t), S McAfee 7 for C McCann (46), T McCann 6 for C Carson (65), M Bradley 6 for E Campbell (68)

London – J Barrett 7; C McAlinden 6, R Foy 6, N McDonald 6; E Cooney 7, PJ Rowe 6, S Fawley 7; D Moore 7, H Vaughan 6; P Phelan 6, E Kelly 7, M Lynch 7; K Walsh 7, M Duggan 7, L Hands 6. Subs: K Killilea 6 for L Hands (h-t), P Cocoman 6 for P Phelan (46), D Egan for M Lynch (69)

Ref – J Keenan (Wicklow)

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