Hurling & Camogie

After strong first-half display 14-man Antrim see Galway pull away in Leinster SHC encounter

Leinster Senior Hurling Championship: Antrim 1-14 Galway 2-25

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Galway's Tom Monaghan tries to escape the attentions of Antrim's Ryan McGarry during the counties' Leinster SHC clash at Corrigan Park (seamus loughran)

Barely a second passed between Conor Whelan claiming the sliotar and Ryan McGarry flicking out his stick and making contact with the Galway man’s faceguard, but in that time Antrim’s chances of pulling off a Leinster Championship shock disappeared on Saturday.

While the Galway captain had to depart with blood streaming from the bridge of his nose, it wasn’t dirty stroke. But anything mistimed around the head brings a red card into play, and referee Michael Kennedy had little option but to produce one for Antrim centre-back McGarry just over a minute into the second half.

Whelan would be back four minutes later, by which time Galway had turned a one-point half-time deficit into a two-point lead.

Two minutes after that, Conor Cooney smashed in penalty he won himself and, in the end, there were 14 points in it.

That was a little harsh on an Antrim team who had recovered from a shaky start to boss the first 35 minutes. Even with the wind to come in the second half, Galway didn’t look like they knew what to with Darren Gleeson’s side. Then came the red from Whelan’s nose and the referee’s pocket.

“It’s a big call but anything high and around the head seems to be a red,” said Gleeson.

“I don’t think he struck to the head but his hurl is high and it was pivotal moment in the game – I think there were a few pivotal moments in the game. There was a ball that the boys were sure was over the line and then had 15 wides, six or seven balls dropped short, we weren’t clinical enough.”

The “ball over the line” Gleeson referenced came in the 32nd minute when Galway goalkeeper Darach Fahy juggled a long free in from James McNaughton, grabbing it at the third attempt after it had appeared to rebound off the netting in the goal. That was after a couple of Antrim wides and with them leading 1-10 to 1-8. The goal came three minutes earlier when Conal Bohill fired low to the corner of the net after being found with clever pass from Rian McMullan, who started in place of Conal Cunning, a late scratch from the side after feeling discomfort from a foot injury during the warm-up.

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Antrim's Niall McKenna claims the sliotar ahead of Galway's Cianan Fahy (seamus loughran)

After defeat to Wexford a fortnight ago, manager Henry Shefflin brought his side to Corrigan under huge pressure. While they got off to a quick start, punctuated by Gavin Lee’s 10th-minute goal when he ghosted in behind the Antrim cover to collect a pass from Sean Linnane to fire past Ryan Elliott, Antrim took over shortly after.

They went from trailing 1-5 to 0-2 after 13 minutes to level pegging seven minutes later thanks to six consecutive points, three from McNaughton, two from Keelan Molloy and another from Michael Bradley.

Bohill’s goal in the 29th minute gave them the lead for the first time, 1-9 to 1-6, and they still held it at the break, although after 38 minutes in which they looked the sharper, hungrier side, the missed chances Gleeson pointed to felt like they could make a difference.

As it turned out, the biggest difference was McGarry’s red card. With Galway able to use their extra man to find the space denied them in the first half, they eased home, limiting Antrim to four second-half points, all from McNaughton, just one of which was from play.

While he will be without the suspended McGarry and Bohill, who went off injured in the second half, Gleeson is hopeful Cunning and captain Eoghan Campbell, who was substituted before the break on Saturday, will be available for this weekend’s clash with Carlow, a de facto relegation play-off.

“Carlow are coming here next week and there’s a good chance it’ll be the pivotal point of five, six years of work,” he said.

“We have to make sure we are ready for that.”

Antrim: R Elliott; C Boyd, N O’Connor, P Burke; G Walsh (0-2, 0-1 free, 0-1 sideline), R McGarry, C Bohill (1-0); E Campbell, K Molloy (0-3); N Elliott, M Bradley (0-1), N McKenna; R McMullan, S Elliott, J McNaughton (0-8, 0-5 frees).

Subs: S Walsh for Campbell (24), R McCloskey for McMullan (48), C McCann for Bohill (52), F McCurry for Bradley (56), P Boyle for McKenna (66).

Galway: D Fahy; J Grealish, Daithi Burke (0-1), F Burke, S Linnane (0-2), P Mannion (0-1), C Fahy (0-1); David Burke (0-1), R Glennon; G Lee (1-0), T Monaghan (0-1), J Cooney (0-1); C Whelan (0-3), C Cooney (1-6, 1-0 penalty, 0-3 frees, 0-1 65), E Niland (0-5, 0-3 frees).

Subs: D McLoughlin for Niland (52), A Tuohey for Glennon (55), D O’Shea (0-2) for David Burke (58), J Ryan for J Cooney (58), J Flynn (0-1) for Lee (66).

Blood subs: D McLoughlin for Whelan (38-42), J Glynn for Ryan (61-f-t).

Ref: M Kennedy (Tipperary)