Allianz Hurling League Division One Group B, round two
Antrim 1-19 Dublin 1-20
From Brendan Crossan at Corrigan Park
YOUNG Tiernan Smyth cut a disconsolate figure in the Antrim goal at Corrigan Park yesterday afternoon as Dublin stole the points from under the noses of their hosts with a last-gasp goal.
It was the kind of mistake a goalkeeper prays he never makes.
With Antrim leading by a point entering stoppage-time, Dublin substitute Sean Gallagher’s effort was crawling between the posts at the Whiterock Road end.
Smyth reached with his hurl, saved the point, but when it dropped to his feet, he panicked and a clumsy piece of stickwork saw him push the ball over his own goal-line.
An eagle-eyed umpire gestured the ball had crossed Antrim’s goal-line and the home side were suddenly two points behind.
It was a devastating blow to Darren Gleeson’s players and one they didn’t have time to recover from.
In their next, and what proved to be, their last attack Aaron Bradley brought this absorbing Division 1B contest to a one-point game before the final whistle sounded.
There have been several gut-wrenching near-misses against the Dubs at Corrigan Park over the last decade – but this one was easily the worst and most difficult to comprehend for Antrim.
“We didn’t get what we deserved out of it,” Gleeson told reporters in the St John’s clubhouse afterwards.
“Obviously the mistake is what everyone will focus on at the end but there were mistakes in the lead-up to it, how we tackled and a ball before it that should have gone dead.
“Again, we had a goal chance that should have been taken, a couple of frees, a couple of bad decisions and one or two other things that went wrong.
“You know, that’s been the trend – our own little errors. You get really tested against the top teams.”
The hugely talented Smyth, who plays outfield for his club Ballycastle, has been Gleeson’s number one choice this season since Dunloy netminder Ryan Elliott stepped away from the Antrim panel.
An All-Ireland winning goalkeeper with Tipperary, Gleeson knows a thing or two about the fine margins of minding the net.
“I could write the book on it,” he sighed.
“That’s Tiernan’s third inter-county start in goals.
“It’s a harsh learning place for Tiernan today but, by God, we’ll all learn with him. We’ll get in behind him and make sure that he gets loads more opportunities to collect balls like that.”
Gleeson added: “He played against the All-Ireland champions [Limerick] last week. He conceded one goal and made two or three great saves…
“You have to be brave to play this game. So, you learn from the mistake. I suppose it’s the elephant in the room. But you move on. The management team will look at it and how the ball got there.”
Dublin boss Michael Donoghue knew his side had got out of jail with the freak goal at the end.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I thought the goalkeeper was going to control it but he obviously mis-controlled it and it went over the line. That’s unfortunate for keepers. If they make a mistake it’s highlighted more than any other mistake. "
After a difficult start, Antrim settled into their stride with Conal Cunning’s brilliant 25th minute goal giving them a fantastic platform.
Cushendall duo Scott Walsh and Joseph McLaughlin pushed Antrim ahead by two points in the 55th and 63 minutes, respectively, but the home side could never shake off the visitors - and paid the ultimate price in stoppage-time.
Antrim will lick their wounds now and prepare for the visit of Galway in two weeks’ time while the Dubs can breathe a little easier as they host All-Ireland champions Limerick in their next Division 1B meeting.
The top three in Division 1A and 1B qualify for a new-look Division One next season and the fourth-placed teams play-off for the seventh and final slot.