Draw not enough for Antrim as Sligo progress to Tailteann Cup quarter-finals

The Saffrons will face a preliminary quarter-final against London next weekend

Antrim’s Joseph Finnegan
Antrim’s Joseph Finnegan on the attack during the draw with Sligo in Kingspan Breffni Picture: Mark Marlow (" ")

Tailteann Cup Group 2, round three

Sligo 0-20 Antrim 0-20

AS games go, they don’t get much more entertaining that what Antrim and Sligo served up in Kingspan Breffni on Sunday, but the draw was better news for the Yeatsmen who topped Group 2 of the Tailteann Cup and earn the bye into the quarter-finals.

Antrim, who now host London next weekend in a preliminary quarter-final, arrived in Cavan knowing they had to win and they came up agonisingly short as they battled back from four down late on, but couldn’t find the winner they needed.

Coming into this game, both had won their first two fixtures, but the Yeatsmen’s better scoring difference meant they only had to avoid defeat to Antrim in order to earn the bye straight through to a home quarter-final and they did enough to achieve that.

“It’s a bit frustrating,” said Antrim manager, Andy McEntee.

“I suppose they had a couple of wides in the second half too, but we had two really good goal chances, which we’ve been doing and not taking. Either one of those would have made a big difference at the end. We just have to dust ourselves down and get ready for next week.

“Loads of character and fitness. If there are any neutrals here, that would have been a pretty good game to watch, but a little bit too open for my liking.”

Sligo were the better side for the first part of the game and they led 0-11 to 0-6 after 25 minutes as it seemed they were ready to pull away. Top-scorer Niall Murphy led the way, assisted by Alan McLaughlin and Sean Carrabine.

Antrim couldn’t manage to put any scores back-to-back, but that would change as they rattled off five on the spin, with the impressive Ryan McQuillan and Patrick McBride notching two apiece and Joseph Finnegan with the other to level.

McQuillan would actually kick Antrim into a 0-13 to 0-12 lead at the end of a shoot-out of a first half and they had a great chance to kick on early in the second period, but Paddy McAleer found the side-netting.

The scores weren’t flowing like the first half, but it was nonetheless tight as neither could fully take a grip in the third quarter.

The gap remained one on 58 minutes when Marc Jordan was put through on goal, but blazed wide with the goal at his mercy.

Sligo replied with points from Murphy, Carrabine and Mark Walsh to push the gap to four as the minutes ticked down and they looked in a good place again.

However, there was another Antrim surge as Conor Hand kicked two, McQuillan brought his tally to six and then goalkeeper Michael Byrne levelled from a free.

But a draw was no good for Antrim and they pushed to find a winner. But Sligo gave them little room to manoeuvre and in the end, a shot-to-nothing from Eoin Hynds went outside the post.

“In that first half, we looked really good when we went five points up, but then let them score five after that, so we were hot and cold for large parts of it,” reflected Sligo manager Tony McEntee, who had mixed feelings about the result.

“The second half, we just struggled our way through it, so it wasn’t one of our better displays this year. Not having played that well, we finish with 20 points on the board. It was good, open game of football and we have gone through to the quarter-finals, so we shouldn’t be so harsh on ourselves.

“We most definitely have work to do, but I think that’s good. It’s good we got that challenge today, good we found out more about ourselves and good we can reflect back and improve in two weeks for a quarter-final.”

Sligo A Delaney; E Lyons, E McGuinness, P McNamara; B Cox, D Cummins (0-1), N Mullen (0-1); P Kilcoyne, C Mulligan; C Lally (0-1), A McLaughlin (0-3), S Carrabne (0-3); M Gordon, P O’Connor (0-2), N Murphy (0-8, 3f)

Subs M Walsh (0-1) for M Gordon (58), E Smith for C Lally (61), J Lavin for P McNamara (64), L Deignan for P O’Connor (70+2)

Antrim M Byrne (0-1f); D Lynch, E Walsh, K Keenan; N Burns (0-1), J Finnegan (0-1), D McAleese; P McAleer (0-1), C Hynds; C McLarnon (0-1), P McBride (0-4, 2f), R McCann (Creggan, 0-2); R McQuillan (0-6, 1f), R McCann (Aghagallon), M Jordan (0-1).

Subs D McEnhill for P McBride (52), C Hand (0-2) for N Burns (52), J McDonnell for K Keenan (63), C Johnston for R McCann (Aghagallon, 65), E Hynds for C McLarnon (69)

Referee S Lonergan (Tipperary)