Atkinson makes error-strewn Antrim pay
ANTRIM twice committed hurling hari-kari to gift Wexford the points and a place in the final against Clare.
Almost on the stroke of half-time, at Wexford Park yesterday, Antrim corner-forward PJ O'Connell was red-carded by referee Seamus Roche for a wild pull on Wexford full-back Keith Rossiter. And if the prospect of facing a strong breeze in the second half with just 14 players wasn't intimidating enough, the Glensmen, who have retained their Division Two status, shot themselves in the foot for a second time after the restart.
There appeared to be no significant danger to the visitors' goal when Diarmuid 'Gizzy' Lyng floated a long ball into the Clonard End. But Antrim goalkeeper Chris O'Connell failed to control the sliotar, and the lively Peter Atkinson -- who top-scored with 2-4 -- darted in to tap the ball to the net.
The two gaffes by the Saffrons were additionally regrettable as they had demonstrated abundant character, commitment and hurling skill in the first half, as a result of which they led 1-9 to 1-6 at the half-time break.
Wexford seemed to have put themselves firmly in the driving seat when they led 1-5 to 0-2 after 10 minutes. Rory Jacob had registered the first Wexford green flag. But after being six points adrift, Antrim turned the first half on its head, shooting an unanswered 1-5 in the space of 16 minutes. Neil McManus blasted a 20-metre free to the net on 17 minutes, just two minutes after he had a similar effort saved by Wexford's five-man wall.
Predictably, the second half turned out to be a mere procession of Wexford scores, and Antrim felt O'Connell's dismissal by going 25 minutes without a score after the interval. Paul Shiels finally pointing a free to open their second half account. Atkinson shot the third Wexford goal on 52 minutes before Jacob recorded the fourth goal, flicking home from close range after a long ball in by sub Thomas Waters.
"It was a must-win for us today, and thankfully we came through," said Wexford boss Colm Bonnar afterwards.
SCORERS -- Wexford: P Atkinson 2-4, R Jacob 2-3, D Lyng 0-5 (3f), S Banville 0-2, L Prendergast, C Kenny, C Farrell, Eoin Quigley (St Martin's) 0-1 each Antrim: P Shiels 0-6 (4f), N McManus 1-1 (1-1f), C McAlister 0-2, PJ O'Connell, E McCloskey, M Devlin 0-1 each.
WEXFORD -- N Carton; L Prendergast, K Rossiter, E Doyle; R Kehoe, C Kenny, M Travers; M Molloy, C Farrell; A Shore, Eoin Quigley (St Martin's), D Lyng; R Jacob, S Banville, P Atkinson. Subs: T Waters for Eoin Quigley (St Martin's) 44, M Jacob for Banville (55), H Kehoe for Doyle (56), P Kenny for Shore (61), Eoin Quigley (Rapparees) for R Kehoe (65).
ANTRIM -- C McConnell; B McFall, C Donnelly, A Graffin; N McAuley, J Campbell, C Herron; C McAlister, S McCrory; C McFall, P Shiels, E McCloskey; D Hamill, N McManus, PJ O'Connell. Subs: J McKeague for B McFall (inj 51), T McCann for McManus (63), M Devlin for McAlister (64), K McKeegan for Graffin (68).
REF -- S Roche (Tipperary).