Tailteann Cup Preliminary quarter-final
Antrim 3-11 London 2-10

ON a day when the rain poured to make the ball greasy and the ground slippery, Antrim just about avoided skidding on the London banana skin to reach the last eight of the Tailteann Cup.

The conversation ahead of the game surrounded who was next in the quarter-finals for Andy McEntee's men and they just about got there. Was it a case of overlooking the task ahead or London, who had beaten Offaly in their group opener, being a more rounded outfit? 

Perhaps the truth lay in the middle as Antrim were far from their best and had to rely on the goal machine that is Aghagallon's Ruairi McCann to drag them into it early and finish it late, but aside from the final score, positives were hard to come by.

McCann, and Marc Jordan - who instigated both McCann goals and kicked a point of his own - were central to why Antrim are in Monday's quarter-final draw, but with 14 wides over the piece, London's quick start perhaps caused anxiety they just about got away with.

It would be unfair to simply castigate Antrim as London did so much right with their kick-out strategy superb which caused headaches. Their physical strength around the middle of the field and method was creating openings. Indeed, they let the hosts off the hook at times.

But when it came to the crunch, McCann netted late and there were some big plays from Jospeh Finnegan and Niall Burns late on to see them home.

"We were stretched to the limit to get a result there and I was glad to hear the final whistle," exhaled a thankful Antrim manager, Andy McEntee.

"The way they (London) play, you don't want to be playing catch-up as they do defend well and defend deep. Once they got the (early) four-point lead, our boys maybe got a bit tight and we had nine wides int he first half.

"But they stuck at it and big Ruairi does his usual stuff. We got goals and some of the lads really pushed on.

"Despite what way you approach it, maybe we just weren't spot-on mentally. I didn't feel that during the week as the lads were fully focussed, but look, we're there and that's all that counts."

The Exiles couldn't have wished for a better start as they absorbed early Antrim attacks and then hit the hosts for a goal on five minutes as a move through the hands culminated in Michael Byrne saving from Ruairi Rafferty, but Stephen Dornan finished the rebound.

Joshua Obahor added a point before the hosts finally got into it as a break from Marc Jordan saw him feed Ryan McQuillan and his pass inside was palmed home by Aghagallon's Ruairi McCann.

After an exchange of scores, London lost Cahir Healy to a back card on 26 minutes for a foot trip, but Antrim didn't quite take full advantage as although they edged ahead with points from Niall Burns and Paddy McAleer, the wides were staking up with eight in total in the first half.

Confidence was flowing for London and it soared further on 29 minutes as Ciarán McKeon cut in along the left end-line and squared for Michael Carroll to palm home.Antrim had drawn level at the break thanks to scores from Ryan McQuillan and Eunan Walsh to leave it 1-5 to 2-2, but it was the visitors who would have been much happier at this stage.

Antrim began the second half with more purpose as Patrick McBride slung over an early score, but Byrne had to be alert again to deny the outstretched Dornan from fisting home his second.

Joseph Finnegan and the industrious Marc Jordan added points and after Carroll hit back with one for London, Antrim had a second goal in rather fortuitous fashion as Dermot McAleese's shot dropped and with McCann making a nuisance of himself at the edge of the square, the ball beat Andrew Walsh and ended up int he net.

This made it 2-8 to 2-3 and Antrim looked set to kick on, but in fact it was London who replied with the next four points to reduce the gap back to one.

Substitute Dominic McEnhill then steadied the hosts once again with a brace, but Byrne was again called into action when London substitute PJ O'Flaherty rose to get his fist to a dropping ball that seemed destined for the net until Byrne acrobatically tipped it over. 


A Ciaran Diver free left one in it with five to play and although Conor Hand hit back for the hosts, it was London pressing for a winning goal in added time.

However, the green flag came at the other end with Jordan bursting forward and feeding McCann to finish and settle the argument, easing Antrim's nerves as they go into the hat for Monday's quarter-final draw.

"It was probably on show last week (against Sligo) in a different guise, but they showed a bit of character and stuck at it," McEntee added.

"We kept trying to do the right thing and thankfully, we got a lucky break with the (second) goal but then it was a similar break they got with one of their goals, so maybe they cancelled each other out."

ANTRIM: M Byrne; D Lynch, E Walsh (0-1), K Keenan; N Burns (0-1), J Finnegan (0-1), D McAleese (1-0); P McAleer (0-1, 1m), C Hynds; C McLarnon, P McBride (0-1), R McCann (Creggan); R McQuillan (0-2, 1f), R McCann (Aghagallon, 2-0), M Jordan (0-1).
Subs: D McEnhill (0-2, 1f) for R McQuillan (52), C Hand (0-1) for P McBride (52), J McDonnell for K Kennan (62), C Johnston for P McAleer (68), P Healy for R McCann (Aghagallon, 70+4).

LONDON: A Walsh; D Rooney, E Walsh, N McElwaine; O Kerr (0-1), C Healy, A McLoughlin; S Dornan (1-0), R Rafferty; C McKeon, M Carroll (1-1), C Diver (0-4,2f); J Obahor (0-1), D Clarke (0-1), S Rafter.
Subs: DJ O'Flaherty (0-1) for J Obahor (48), T Barry (0-1) for N McElwaine (57), J McGill for R Rafferty (61), M Miller for O Kerr (70), S Tucker for M Carroll (70+1).

REFEREE: C Dourneen (Cavan)