Leinster Hurling Walsh Cup, Group A
Dublin 2-27 Antrim 1-21

ANTRIM fell to defeat to Dublin in their opening Walsh Cup fixture at Parnell Park on Sunday as they were unable to build on a bright start, but will still be content with their afternoon's work.

At one stage early in the game, it seemed as though Darren Gleeson's charges were on course to claim a rare win at the north Dublin venue when they raced into an early eight-point lead, but the hosts rallied in the second quarter and managed to get their noses in front before a goal early in the second half by top-scorer Colin Currie put daylight between the sides as the Dubs pulled clear despite finishing with 16 wides.

Currie finished with 1-13 including 1-5 from play, while Rian McBride with five points and a typically industrious display throughout saw the Boys in Blue maintain their winning streak over Antrim.

It was an experimental Antrim side with Scott Walsh making his debut from the start, while Aaron Bradley made his as a second half substitute and there were returns to county colours for Deaglan Murphy and Daniel McKernan, so it was more than a productive afternoon for Gleeson and his charges.

"We'll take a lot of positives out of that," he said after.

"Guys got their first minutes with Antrim, ever, and then are are a couple of guys who came back into the fold that we are delighted to have back onboard, coming back from injuries or time away from the squad which is fantastic for us.

"Younger guys coming in: Scott Walsh, young Aaron Bradley and guys like that coming in and getting minutes; the Dunloy boys returned and got some minutes into them.

"It's really pleasing getting these matches. Detach from the scoreboard because we are in the middle of pre-season and these pre-season competitions are what they are.

"We were competitive, worked really hard in the first half and emptied (ourselves) so we have a huge amount of work to do on the training field, but we'll do that and have the right panel in there to do that with."

Cian O'Sullivan is challenged by Michael Bradley and Shea Shannon

Cian O'Sullivan is challenged by Michael Bradley and Shea Shannon

Just 15 seconds had elapsed when Dublin's John Hetherton nipped in to open the scoring and the hosts were two to the good when Conor Johnston got the Saffrons off the mark on four minutes.

The gap was again two before Antrim hit an eight-minute purple patch when they hit 1-7 without reply to seemingly take a grip on proceedings.

Niall McKenna began the run when fielding superbly and breaking free from a challenge to score.

The Sarsfield's man was on target again after Ciaran Clarke opened his account from a free with the pair again adding one apiece before Johnston knocked over his second of the afternoon.

Antrim had been working the ball very well and their play was rewarded with a 13th minute goal as Neil McManus gained possession on the left end line, played it back inside to Clark etc popped to Deaglan Murphy and the Rossa man fired low to the net.

A Clarke free pushed the gap out to eight, but Dublin, who had been having real issues with their shooting, suddenly found their range and hit there final three points of the quarter through Colin Currie (two) and Rian McBride to leave it 1-8 to 0-6 at the water break.

Clarke extended the Antrim advantage from a free as play resumed, but the visitors began to lose their way as Dublin gained a firm grip around the middle and worked the openings, eating into the gap with Currie converting a hat-trick of frees, while Antrim goalkeeper Paul McMullan was called onto action to deny Cian O'Sullivan a goal.

John Hetherton and Michael Bradley traded points, but the Dubs drew level with points from three men who were initially not listed to start: Ronan Smith, Aidan Mellett and Chris Crummey as the first half moved into stoppage time.

McManus edged Antrim back in front, but Dublin would snatch the lead just before the break as from the subsequent pot-out, O'Sullivan gambled and ghosted in behind with the ball dropping in his favour as he raced through and finished low to make it 1-13 to 1-11 to Dublin at the half.

Clarke reduced the gap to one with a free five minutes into the second period, but then a stray pop-out from McMullan was read and intercepted by McBride who passed inside to Sean Currie who in turn found his brother Colin to finish to the net.

Antrim remained in touch with Johnston, Clarke and McKenna responding to scores from Currie (two) and Chris Crummey, but the Dubs were 2-20 to 1-16 clear at the water break of a game that had now become disjointed with both sides emptying their bench as the unlimited subs ensured there was little flow to the game in the final quarter.

Rian McBride is challenged by (L-R) Gerard Walsh, Aaron Crawford and Joe Maskey

Rian McBride is challenged by (L-R) Gerard Walsh, Aaron Crawford and Joe Maskey

McMullan made up for his error with a couple of excellent stops to deny Dublin a third goal, while Conor Johnston saw an effort blaze just over when a late major may have been on for Antrim.

Still, it was a useful exercise for both teams and Gleeson felt Antrim's flying start and subsequent drop-off was typical sign of a group in pre-season mode and says they will continue to knuckle down this week ahead of next week's trip to Offaly.

"It took a lot for us to get that on the scoreboard and then suffered for 10 minutes after that when we completely died," he reflected.

"We weren't resetting to where we needed to reset, but that's part of the process at this time of year for guys to know and it's a bit of a shock to the system.

"Dublin is a serious team: Leinster finalists last year and they are not there by mistake. A lot of their regulars were out there today and came off the bench, so it's pleasing to get that workout and we'll go again, up and at 'em in the gym tomorrow night and out on the field on Tuesday."

DUBLIN: S Brennan; R Smith (0-1), P Smyth, L Walsh; J Bellew, D Gray, J Madden; C Burke, R McBride (0-5); C O'Sullivan (1-1), S Currie, J Hetherton (0-2); C Currie (1-13, 0-8 frees, 0-1 65), C Crummey (0-3), A Mellett (0-1).
Subs: R Hayes for C O'Sullivan (HT), D Keogh for S Currie (48), D Burke for J Hetherton (48), T Connolly for R Smith (53), E Dillon (0-1) for A Mellett (58), S Barrett for D Gray (58), K Burke for L Walsh (58), D Power for C Burke (60).

ANTRIM: P McMullan; A Crawford, M Donnnelly, G Walsh; S Walsh, E Campbell (0-2, 1 free), J Maskey; S Shannon, M Bradley (0-1); N McKenna (0-5), C Johnston (0-4), C Bohill; D Murphy (1-1, 0-1 free), N McManus (0-1), C Clarke (0-6, 5 frees, 1 65).
Subs: D McKernan for S Shannon (HT), R McGarry for S Walsh (48), R McCambridge for J Maskey (48), P Burke for M Bradley (49), S Elliott (0-1) for C Clarke (53), A Bradley for C Bohill (53), K Molloy for N McManus (60), S Rooney for G Walsh (69).

REFEREE: David Hughes (Carlow)