Allianz Football League Division Three
Westmeath 4-27 Antrim 0-8
Antrim suffered defeat on the road once more after a demolishing away loss at the hands of Westmeath.
The result was a demoralising 31-point defeat in Mullingar which is a serious cause for concern for the relegation threatened Saffrons.
“It was very disappointing and hard to take after what was a very decent performance and it’s hard to my finger on it," said manager, Andy McEntee.
"But today was certainly not the performance we have been showing in recent weeks.”
An awful start was not what Antrim needed, but it was exactly what happened. Antrim found themselves down by a margin of nine after the opening 10 minutes after John Heslin had scored a total of 1-5 by himself in the opening stages.
The first few scores from Heslin were frees from close range after Antrim’s half-backs Joseph Finnegan and Marc Jordan dragged down Senan Baker and Ronan O’Toole after relentless attempts to break through the defensive line.
Heslin was dominant from minute one and on the 16th minute planted the first goal of the afternoon. Antrim caused their own demise as the goal came from poor ball carrying which saw the it played straight into the hands of Ronan O’Toole. The half-forward looped a hand-pass into Heslin who had a free run at Michael Byrne and placed it underneath the Antrim goalkeeper.
The big issue was the lack of intensity in closing down the Westmeath attackers. Antrim’s backline either mistimed a tackle – gifting a free from close range or enough space for Westmeath to shoot without any pressure. Senan Baker and Luke Loughlin added to their team’s tally and took advantage of Antrim’s awful defensive work.
Pat Shivers scored Antrim’s first score after they were 1-6 to 0-0 down. Patrick Finnegan found Sean O’Neill who played in the corner forward Shivers who reversed his earlier missed effort and put the ball between the Westmeath posts.
Antrim looked like maybe they had woken up when Odhran Eastwood a second point in succession after a high strike 30 yards. However, Heslin replied instantly as Antrim returned to their poor tackling game and dragged Ronan Wallace down which saw Kevin Small booked.
This game had a few common themes: Antrim relinquish possession poorly and Westmeath would punish them every time.
The Antrim line ball was caught Wallace and he found Senan Baker who had 30 yards of space empty after the Antrim defenders disappeared and he put his strike past Michael Byrne to make it 2-8 to 0-2. A few other scores from James Dolan and Conor Loughlin added to the home side's ridiculously high score.
Minutes silence before todays game. Sending our condolences to Paddy McBride and his family on the sad passing of his sister Marie. The players and GAA community have you in our thoughts.— Antrim GAA (@AontroimGAA) March 5, 2023
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam. pic.twitter.com/nEVs3Lnqxn
Eoghan McCabe made a darting run from full-back and dragged Antrim up the pitch where he played the ball to Conor Stewart who pulled a point back.
The half-time score was an insurmountable 2-12 to 0-3. John Heslin had a personal tally of 1-9 at the interval.
The second half saw multiple subs as expected but they could do little to impact the awful display that Antrim had offered.
Dominic McEnhill switched in for Creggan's Ruairi McCann, Seamus McGarry slotted in wing-half forward for Patrick Finnegan and Sean O’Neill was put in place of Ronan Boyle.
Antrim offered very little in the second half. Westmeath scored another goal straight from throw-in to the second half as David Lynch was played in after Sam Duncan claimed the throw-in and Lynch drilled his effort past Byrne once again.
Antrim did have a handful of chances but they couldn’t hit the target whatsoever. Dominic McEnhill punted a free just wide and Aghagallon's Ruairi McCann missed two great goal chances as he flashed a close-range effort into the side netting. McCann caught a lovely pass from McEnhill but squandered the effort wide.
Heslin kept up his scoring act and notched up more scores both from open play and gifted frees from Antrim.
Pat Shivers scored twice from open play for the Saffs but it was simply nowhere near enough to conjure a comeback.
With every score Antrim had, Westmeath replied with four. Ruairi McCann eventually notched a point for himself and his side, although corner-forward David Lynch was straight to reply as he finished off his sides fourth goal with a brilliantly placed effort into the bottom corner.
Substitutes Shane Dempsey and Tom Molloy piled onto Antrim’s misery after both were able to walk through the Antrim back-line unchallenged rounding off a huge win for the Lake County.
Antrim captain, Peter Healy felt last weekend's dramatic injury time defeat - which saw Fermanagh snatch victory from Antrim’s grasp after the Saffron’s lead by 8 - proved a setback from which they were still reeling in this game.
“I think after last weekend after a good shift in Fermanagh losing in the final few minutes and Down, probably knocked us back a good bit," he said.
"We were a bit flat this week and tried to keep things positive but realistically we may aswell have not even turned up for the bus today, because we didn’t turn up at all in the game.
“We gave them an early lead and the game was 2-10 before we knew it and by then the game was basically gone. It was a matter of pride at that stage and it was just poor from us.”
“We’re back up to Longford in a few weeks’ time and that will be our season wrapped up. And in two weeks’ time against Cavan. We are going to get back to the training ground and get things right.”
The improvement must be made from the Saffrons if they are to keep themselves alive in Division Three, in which they face Cavan and Longford and will be hoping for some positive results to steer themselves clear of relegation.
“You have days like that in football that is the cruelty of it," Healy added.
"We as a team need to run a lot more and work a lot harder to avoid disappointment such as today.”
WESTMEATH: J Daly, D Scahill, K Maguire, N Harte, J Dolan 0-1, R Wallace, S McCartan 1-1, S Duncan 0-2, R Connellan, S Baker 1-2, R O’Toole 0-1, C McCormack 0-1, L Loughlin 0-2, J Heslin 1-13 (8 frees), D Lynch 1-0
Subs: T Martin, L Dolan, K Martin, J Lynam, D Giles, A McGivern, S Dempsey (0-2), S Smith, C Dillon, A McCormack, T Molloy 0-2
ANTRIM: M Byrne, E McCabe, O Lenahan, J McAuley, P Healy, J Finnegan, S O’Neill, K Small, C Stewart 0-1, P Finnegan, R McCann (Creggan), C McLarnon, P Shivers 0-3 (1 free), R McCann (Aghagallon) 0-1, R Boyle.
Subs: R Hanna, P McCormick, C Hynds, P Mervyn, S O’Neill, J Dowling, D McEnhill 0-1 (free), B McCormick, C Duffin, O Eastwood 0-2, S McGarry.
REFEREE: A Nolan (Wicklow).