Leinster Senior Hurling Championship
Dublin 3-32 Antrim 1-18

WITH 58 minutes on the clock at a sun-kissed Parnell Park on Saturday, Dublin led Antrim by six points. The Saffrons had been hanging in there having trailed by 10 at one point, whittled it down to four and then seemed to be coming again having found themselves nine behind.

A goal would have turned up the heat but instead, it was Dublin's Brian Hayes who rippled the Antrim net and from there, the floodgates opened with Micheál Donoghue's men moved to the top of the table in the Leinster round robin following Carlow's stunning draw against Kilkenny - the latest drama in the competition.

Antrim did enjoy their moments int he capital, but not enough of them as a good spell either side of the break would keep them in contention, but Dublin were finding their men and scores easier, ruling the sky and opening the Saffrons up with trademark moves off the shoulder as eventually the dam burst.

Donal Burke led the way with 1-12, his brother Conor and Sean Currie with 0-5 apiece, with 12 different scores including the starting front six and midfield that was a guide to how on top they were over the piece.

Perhaps the 20-point margin of victory was a little unkind on Antrim who were within striking distance until that second Dublin major, but there is no place for sentiment in championship hurling and Dublin weren't about to break that mould.

"We had a couple of balls came off the post (in the second half) we didn't get the break of," said a disappointed Antrim manager, Darren Gleeson.

"They came up the field and it was two-point swings a couple of times from those. We struggled to retain ball in the first-half and it was the same in the second after we got a bit of fluency.

"The 10 minutes before and after half-time, we looked a bit more like ourselves, but again, when the push came, we left it there and it was disappointing there wasn't a second push in us.

"You're not going to take back a six-point lead with six points - you're going to need 10 or 11 to their four or five to balance it. We just seemed to go at it with a wrong mentality, but we'll look at that and address it because we have two games left and can still be in the business end of the Championship. 

"Galway at home next week and Carlow the week after - we will just have to try and take the learning from today, but it was just disappointing we let the game fizzle out completely at the end and end up on the back of a big scoreline."

The hosts couldn't have wished for a better start as they had the ball in the net after just 10 seconds when Conor Burke went long and Paul Crummey rose to get the touch home.

That goal separated the teams after eight minutes as Seaan Elliott and Eoghan Campbell replied to scores from John Bellew and Donal Burke.

Dublin began to take charge, out-scoring Antrim by seven points to one over the next 15 minutes as the visitors were unable to gain much primary ball with Dublin lording it around then middle and mistakes from Antrim also gifted opportunities. The lead was 10 by this stage and in truth, could have been much more only for a host of wides and some scrambled defence.

Antrim needed a spark and after Conal Cunning pointed a free, they got it on 28 minutes as a move from out the back led by Eoghan Campbell saw him find Nigel Elliott who put James McNaughton away and although he had plenty of work to do, the Loughgiel man shrugged off challenges to find the net.

The teams would go score-for-score into the break as Dublin led 1-13 to 1-7, but Antrim, despite having been second best for the most part, seemed to be back in it.

Brian Hayes challenges James McNaughton

Brian Hayes challenges James McNaughton

Those suspicions were raised further as Antrim landed early scores through Nigel Elliott and Keelan Molloy, but they couldn't push on with Cunning seeing a couple of efforts come down off the post and cleared - perhaps a sign this wasn't to be their day.

Dublin would clip over scores on the breakaway and gradually, they began pull away again with Burke, his brother Conor and Sean Currie were finding their range.

Antrim rallied again with Campbell landing a brace with Seaan Elliott and Cunning splitting the posts with the gap back to six, but then came the killer on 58 minutes as Dublin substitute Ronan Hayes popped into younger brother Brian who crashed home.

This was a hammer blow for Antrim who seemed to have the life sucked out of them as the scores began to flow for Dublin.

To compound matters, on 65 minutes, Burke found the net from a free to rub salt into Antrim's wounds and the hosts would finish with a flourish as Ronan Hayes landed a couple and other subs, Sean Gallagher and Darragh Power, got their name on the scoresheet as The Dubs ultimately ran out emphatic winners.

Eoghan O'Donnell tackles Conal Cunning

Eoghan O'Donnell tackles Conal Cunning

"There was a lot of energy about the group this week and that was reflected in the performance today," said Dublin manager, Donoghue.

"We said before the game that the last couple of encounters with Antrim, there was only a puck of the ball between us, so we gave them massive repeat.

"With this being our first home game (in the competition), we put a lot of emphasis on that, so it's great to come back here, put in a performance like that and get the win.

"The pleasing thing for us is that we started well. We were disappointed with the goal we conceded midway through the second half to bring them back into it. The start of the second half, they got it down to four and we pushed on, which was pleasing."

DUBLIN: S Brennan; J Bellew (0-2), P Smyth, P Doyle; C Crummy, C Donohoe (0-1), E O'Donnell; B Hayes (1-0), C Burke (0-5); D Sutcliffe (0-1), D Burke (1-12, 1-8f, 0-1 65), S Currie (0-5); F Whitely (0-1), C O'Sullivan (0-2), P Crummey (1-0)
Subs: R Hayes (0-2) for P Crummy (47), D Power (0-1) for D Sutcliffe (59), J Madden for C Crummy (64), J Malone for C O'Sullivan (65), S Gallagher (0-1) for B Hayes (69).

ANTRIM: R Elliott; N O'Connor, R McGarry, P Burke; G Walsh (0-2, 1f), C Boyd, C Bohill; E Campbell (0-3), K Molloy (0-2); S Elliott (0-2), N Elliott (0-1), J McNaughton (1-2); C Cunning (0-4f), N McKenna (0-1), A O'Brien.
Subs: J McLoughlin for A O'Brien (47), P Boyle for K Molly (50), F McCurry (0-1) for C Boyd (55), C McGarry for N McKenna (62), S McKay for C Cunning (66).

REFEREE: Kevin Jordan (Tipperary)