Antrim U21 hurlers finish unlucky losers against Carlow
Leinster Under 21 Hurling Championship: Carlow 3-22 Antrim 1-19 (after extra-time)
ANTRIM could count themselves desperately unlucky to bow out of the Leinster under 21 hurling championship when they coughed up a two-point lead in injury time at Parnell Park on Saturday before being overrun in 20 minutes of extra-time
At one stage in the second half Antrim were five points ahead and even though Ciaran Whelan scored a 53rd minute goal for Carlow the northerners still looked like holding on.
It was then luck deserted them.
They had probably enjoyed the balance of the 50-50 refereeing decisions as Carlow came in search of an equaliser.
Certainly their corner forward, Chris Nolan, was tackled hard as he took on the Antrim defence.
The ball carrier hit the ground and to the horror of the Saffrons the referee signalled a free in.
Nolan got up and drove the sliotar over the bar from the placed ball.
That tied the scores at Antrim's 1-15 to Carlow's 2-12 after 60 minutes.
Terence McNaughton was crestfallen after the game to see his side lose in such fashion.
“We thought we had done enough in ordinary time so we are disappointed to lose out,” the Antrim mentor conceded.
“We lost our momentum and it switched to Carlow in extra-time.”
McNaughton also felt the later Carlow free came in fortunate circumstances.
“It was a very soft free,” McNaughton suggested.
The third Carlow goal was the decisive moment in extra time according to the Antrim official: “Our lads dropped their heads then and Carlow took over after that.”
In the opening half both side's had tested each other without either getting up any momentum. James McNaughton scored 0-5 including two 65s as Antrim led 0-8 to 0-7 at the interval. Building up an intensity seemed to be a problem for both teams but in the second half that all changed.
Two Nolan frees edged Carlow in front but Gerard Walsh landed two points for Antrim while Conal Cunning also pointed. An opportunist Nolan goal edged Carlow in front but Keelan Molloy quickly equalised.
Cunning then took on the Carlow defence, broke free and gave Thomas Dowling no chance with a great shot.
When Ed McQuillan and Eoin O'Neill added further points Antrim looked to have booked their tickets in the next round.
Even more so when a Carlow attack was stopped in its tracks with a wonderful hurley tip intercept from Eamon Smyth. That should have lifted Antrim but they failed to build on that moment of brilliance.
Carlow have character though and Ciaran Whelan did well to find the net.
Then came the great escape from the Barrowside county with a tad of good fortune through that marginal call.
Antrim opted to play against the wind in first half of extra-time.
That decision came back to bite them as Jon Nolan nudged Carlow in front.
Then in the right hand corner of the Dublin City end of the ground Carlow won dirty ball, transferred it to Padraig Hynes and he drove home from a narrow angle.
That was a killer blow as Carlow led 3-16 to 1-17 in half-time of extra-time.
Whelan shot four points from frees in the second half of extra-time as Antrim finally bowed their heads in a disappointing defeat which could so easily have been a win on another day.
Carlow: T Dowling; J Wall (0-1), D Tobin, D Connors; A Casey, O Roberts, E Redmond; N Lynam, K McDonald (0-1); C Tracey, J Nolan (0-1), P Hynes (1-2); C Whelan (1-5, 0-4fs), P Connors, C Nolan (1-11, 0-9fs).
Subs: A Amond (0-1) for Lynam (48 mins), A Whelan for Tracey (54 mins), G Lawlor for Casey (70 mins), L Galway for P Connors (73 mins), E Holland for Hynes (78 mins).
Yellow cards: P Connors, J Wall, E Redmond, N Lynam
Antrim: R Elliott; A Crawford, C McMullan, C Carson; C Boyd, E Smyth, R McGarry; J McNaughton (0-10, 2 65s 0-5fs), G Walsh (0-2); K Molloy (0-1), C McHugh, R McKee; E McQuillan (0-1), C Cunning (1-3, 0-1f), E O'Neill (0-2).
Subs: A O'Brien for McKee (h/t), S Walsh for McGarry (49 mins), D Black for McHugh (53 mins), McKee for Walsh (69 mins).
Yellow cards: C McMullan, A Crawford (47), R McGarry, C Boyd, A Crawford (78).
Referee: S Stack (Dublin).