Darren Gleeson takes the positives from Antrim's defeat to Dublin
Walsh Cup Group One round one: Dublin 3-26 Antrim 2-22
A STRONG finish saw Dublin put Antrim to the sword at a sun-kissed Parnell Park on Saturday, yet there was plenty to be happy about for Darren Gleeson's men despite falling short.
On a day when a host of players made their senior debuts including Rory McCloskey, Paul Boyle, Rian McMullan and Caolan McKernan from the start – the latter three all registering – the Saffrons had 11 different scorers including 10 of the starting team and were level with just over 10 to play.
Yet Dublin never trailed and they powered to the line with an injury-time goal from substitute Andrew Jamieson-Murphy putting a gloss on the scoreboard.
Joe Flanagan top-scored with 0-14 to help Micheal Donoghue get off to a winning start as Dublin boss in what was an entertaining affair and a very useful exercise for both teams.
“We hadn't played a game yet and even in-house matches were tough for us to get [due to the number of players missing],” said Antrim manager Darren Gleeson.
“That was an important game and a lot of guys were making their Antrim senior debut, which was great as they wouldn't have played a lot of minor or U20 inter-county hurling. That was a big step up for them to take.”
The Dubs were quicker to settle with the first three points as Antrim adapted to their two-man inside forward line of Neil McManus and McMullan with Caolan McKernan dropping deep, but a McManus free energised them with Niall McKenna floating over straight after.
Flanagan was leading the charge for Dublin with Michael Bradley and Conall Bohill keeping the Saffrons in touch before the hosts enjoyed a fine spell and on 25 minutes they had their opening goal as Liam Murphy was held up but did well to spot Glenn Whelan outside and the full-forward cracked home.
The gap moved out to eight but Antrim summoned a response with Joe Maskey fielding and playing a good ball into McMullan who finished to the net.
This sparked a good spell for the Saffrons before the break as they hit five of the final six points to find themselves just 1-14 to 1-12 behind at the interval.
Perhaps stung by this Antrim resurgence, the hosts wasted no time in getting down to business upon the resumption and took just 20 seconds to find the net as they took advantage of a loose ball to attack with O'Sullivan playing in Liam Murphy to do the honours.
Antrim would again work their way back when six behind and a Niall McKenna goal after being teed-up by McManus brought the gap to the minimum.
It remained nip-and-tuck with Antrim goalkeeper Paul McMullan making a stunning stop from substitute Jamieson-Murphy and quickfire points from Paul Boyle and Bradley at the other end had the game level on 59 minutes.
But Dublin finished stronger as both teams emptied their bench, landing six points on the spin with Jamieson-Murphy getting his goal in stoppage time.
Still, it was a decent display from Antrim who face Westmeath next week, but first, have a Conor McGurk Cup game against Armagh at Dunsilly tonight.
“We've Armagh on Monday night and there'll be a couple of new faces there again, a few of the U20s we'll get a look at, so that's a good match for us,” Gleeson said.
“We've a hard week of training again and then we had six or seven injured boys out training this morning, so everything is rolling along nicely.”
In yesterday's Walsh Cup action, Galway beat Westmeath 3-27 to 0-20 in Group One, while in Group Two there were victories for Laois over Wexford by 0-20 to 0-18, and for Kilkenny, who beat Offaly by 2-19 to 0-21 in UPMC Nowlan Park.
Dublin: D Perry; J Bellew, D Gray (0-1), E Moran; D Power, C O'Leary (0-2), D McBride (0-1); C Costello (0-1), A Mallett; C Dowling, J Flanagan (0-14, 0-8 frees, 0-3 65s), C Boland (0-1); C O'Sullivan (0-2), G Whelan (1-1), L Murphy (1-0)
Subs: J Madden for Mellett (49), C Boyle (0-1) for Dowling (49), P Crummey for Whelan (54), A Jamieson-Murphy (1-2, 0-1 free) for Murphy (54), C Burke for Costello (57), A Considine for Power (62), E O'Donnell for Flanagan (67).
Antrim: P McMullan; P Burke, R McCloskey, N O'Connor; M Bradley (0-3), E Campbell (0-2), C Bohill (0-2); J Maskey, D McKernan (0-1); P Boyle (0-1), J McNaughton (0-4, 0-1 free), N McKenna (1-2);
R McMullan (1-1), N McManus (0-3, 0-2 frees), C McKernan (0-1)
Subs: S Walsh for D McKernan (50), E O'Neill for McManus (50), D McMullan for C McKernan (50), A Bradley for R McMullan (56), E McAlonan for Maskey (56), S McAuley (0-1) for Boyle (61), E Og McGarry for M Bradley (61), G Walsh for Bohill (61), E Trainor for R McCloskey (64)
Referee: E Furlong (Wexford)