Allianz Football League Division Four North
ANTRIM pulled off another dramatic victory to complete their Division Four North campaign with a 100 per cent record as Tomás McCann’s injury-time winner denied Leitrim a share of the spoils at a sun-kissed Corrigan Park.
Against Louth, Ryan Murray popped up with the later winner. Last Sunday at Corrigan Park, it was his Lámh Dhearg clubmate Paddy Cunningham who denied Sligo a point with the last kick of the game.
Having trialled by 11 points with 20 minutes remaining, Leitrim mounted a stunning comeback to level the game in stoppage time via a free from full-forward Keith Beirne.
Yet, as they’ve already shown in their Division Four North campaign to date, Enda McGinley’s men don’t throw in the towel lightly and a patient build-up led to Cargin’s Tomás McCann landing the winning point deep into added time.
Prior to taking to the field, the Saffrons already knew their semi-final fate and they’ll travel to Dungarvan to take on Waterford on the weekend of June 12/13 with a shot of promotion.
However, Antrim coach Sean Kelly insists there is plenty of scope for improvement before taking on the Déise.
“We lost a player (Marc Jordan) to a black card and we made a few changes (in the second half),” reflected Kelly.
“Looking on from the sidelines, we were hoping the boys could pull it out of the fire again, but it wouldn’t be good enough going forward.
“It has happened three weeks in a row when we could have been comfortable, but we haven’t managed the game well. We’ve got an awful lot to work on between now and the Waterford game.”
Leitrim boss Terry Hyland felt his side deserved a draw having staged a remarkable fightback in the closing 20 minutes.
“We pressed hard at the end and, to be fair, Antrim were always going to break and get a score at the other said,” said Hyland.
“With the momentum in the second half, we’d a couple of points when we could have had a goal chance or two to drive a bit more at them.
“I felt we should have got something out of it and a draw probably would have been a fair result for both teams.”
Antrim recovered from a sluggish start to take control of proceedings after the first water break. Having lost leading attacker Ryan Murray to a hamstring injury after 13 minutes,
The home side were second best in the early exchanges with Beirne proving to be a handful, scoring three frees in the opening quarter having won two of the frees himself.
Moments after Leitrim goalkeeper Brendan Flynn deflected Paddy McBride’s shot over the crossbar, McBride linked up with the lively Odhran Eastwood to play midfielder Conor Stewart through on goal. The Ballymena native, in his first year on the senior panel, showed great composure to tuck a low shot into the corner of the net to give the hosts a 1-5 to 0-6 lead.
With Eastwood and McBride in top form, Antrim moved seven clear by half-time, but lost Dermot McAleese to a black card just before the interval.
Eastwood stretched the lead further on the restart from a free before Conor Murray struck for Antrim’s second goal of the game.
After having his initial shot well-saved by Flynn, Murray followed up for the rebound to palm the ball into the net.
Eastwood (free) and Conor Small helped the Saffrons move 11 ahead with 50 minutes played. That ought to have been enough to seal a third straight win, but Leitrim substitute Evan Sweeney threw a spanner in the works for the home side when he hit 1-4 from play in a brilliant cameo for Hyland’s men.
When Marc Jordan was shown a black card for dissent on the hour mark, Leitrim sensed their opportunity.
Beirne (two), Mark Plunkett and Tom Prior all pointed while Eastwood tagged on a free for the besieged Saffrons at the other end.
Niall McGovern drew his side level in the final minute of normal time only for Paddy Cunningham to restore Antrim’s lead with a free as the game entered four minutes of injury-time.
A foul of centre-back Jack Gilheany was brought forward for dissent and Beirne made no mistake from 35 metres to tie the game (2-16 to 1-19) with 73 minutes played.
With time almost up, Antrim went in search for a winner. With no space on the stand side, substitute Justin Crozier sat back and took possession on the 45 before slipping the ball inside to his Cargin colleague McCann.
With a swing of his right peg, McCann restored Antrim’s one-point lead with what proved to be the last kick of the game.
They keep doing things the hard way, but Antrim are now just one more win away from a coveted spot in Division Three.
#AllianzLeagues Football Division 4 Tables after Round 3— GAA League Tables (@GAALeagueTables) May 30, 2021
Louth 3-18 v 1-14 Sligo
Antrim 2-17 v 1-19 Leitrim
Carlow 2-12 v 2-11 Wexford#gaa #football #antrim #sligo #carlow #limerick #london #waterford #wexford #wicklow #gaaleaguetables pic.twitter.com/Uh6ILmH2xq
ANTRIM: L Mulholland; J McAuley, R Johnston, P Healy; M Jordan, J Laverty, E Walsh; C Stewart (1-0), N McKeever; D McAleese, C Murray (1-1), P McBride (0-3); O Eastwood (0-6, 0-4fs), R McCann (0-2, 0-1f, 0-1 mark), R Murray (0-2, 0-1f).
Subs: K Small for R Murray (13), J Crozier for Johnston (HT), D Lynch for Laverty (HT), T McCann (0-1) for McAleese (43), C Small for C Murray (43), P Cunningham (0-1, 0-1f) for McKeever (46), N Delargy for Walsh (55).
LEITRIM: B Flynn; C Reynolds, P Maguire, S Moran; O Madden, J Gilheany, A Flynn; D McGovern (0-1), D Wrynn; S Quinn, M Plunkett (0-3), P Dolan; J Mitchell, K Beirne (0-8, 0-7fs), T Prior (0-2).
Subs: M Diffley for A Flynn (HT), K Keegan for Moran (HT), N McGovern (0-1) for Wrynn (51), E Sweeney (1-4) for D McGovern (51), D Bruen for Quinn (55), N Brady for Dolan (58).
REFEREE: K Faloon (Armagh).