Antrim off the mark in scrappy Walsh Cup defeat to Westmeath

Antrim's Niall Mc Kenna with Eoghan Campbell in action against Westmeath's Niall O Brien, Mark Cunningham and Aaron Craig in Saturday's Walsh Cup game in Abbotstown Picture: Seamus Loughran
David Mohan in Abbotstown

Walsh Cup Group One: Westmeath 0-15 Antrim 0-13

IT was a forgettable afternoon at Abbotstown for a wasteful Antrim on Saturday as Westmeath pipped them to the points in a low-scoring, yet fiesty, Walsh Cup affair.

Both sides struggled with their shooting in a game that was played on a pristine sod, but with a crossfield wind, as Antrim hit 13 wides to Westmeath's dozen and also saw a couple of sights of goal come and go.

Conall Bohill's dismissal midway through the second period for appearing to strike out, five minutes after being introduced from the bench, didn't help Antrim's cause, but it wasn't the reason for their defeat as they just struggled to get anything going in attack consistently and manager Darren Gleeson was far from happy with how his team performed.

"The wind was sweeping across the field and all that, but when you're playing at this level you use it to your advantage," he insisted.

"You're shooting at the wrong posts if they're constantly going wide that side. It's disappointing to have 13 or 14 wides, a lot from placed balls, but overall it was a very disappointing day and I'm very disappointed with it."

Antrim opened quite brightly with points from brightly with Michael Bradley and Niall McKenna inside the opening two minutes, but a further 22 had passed before they added to their tally.

In that time, Niall O'Brien converted three frees with Niall Mitchell with Eoin Keyes adding from play, while Westmeath's Shane McGovern and Antrim's Gerard Walsh were cautioned after one of several coming together between both sets of players - this appearing to have been sparked with Walsh furious at comments aimed at him.

James McNaughton finally ended Antrim's barren spell from a free and McKenna landed his second of the afternoon and after an exchange of points, Walsh levelled before a further exchange left the sides level at 0-7 by midway.

Scores remained hard to come by in the second period although Aaron Bradley nudged Antrim ahead from a tight angle on the left after getting on the end of a perfect pass from older brother Michael.

Westmeath began to make the most of their opportunities with Keys coming into his own, cracking over a further three points to bring his tally to four for the day, O'Brien tapping over a free and Davy Glennon launching over a missile from deep.

A brace from Eoin O'Neill and one from McKenna was the Antrim response as the gap was one with six to play despite the Saffrons playing with 14, but O'Brien got his first from play and seventh overall and Joseph Boyle adding another to leave a goal in it in injury-time.

A McNaughton pointed free was all Antrim could muster as they came up short for the second week running.

"You're in the middle of a heavy training programme and the lads have played a lot of games," he accepted.

"A few played a bit of McGurk Cup and the game last week against Dublin, but you're on a really good surface here today and dry conditions.

"The retention rate of the ball up front was shocking and we conceded just 15 points. Had you told me coming down we'd concede that you would think you're winning the game, but to score just 13 with a lot of chances is disappointing.

"There were a few goal opportunities there as well, but wrong options (taken) and bad passes... We've a few weeks to straighten that out, but that is a disappointing performance to play the least."

WESTMEATH: N Conaty; D Egerton, C Shaw, T Doyle; A Craig, S Clavin, K Regan; J Gallagher, S McGovern; N Mitchell (0-1), E Keys (0-4), J Boyle (0-1); N O'Brien (0-7, 0-6 frees), S Williams (0-1), P Clarke

Subs: G Greville for S Clavin (19), D Williams for A Craig (h-t), D Glennon (0-1) for S Williams (h-t), M Cunningham for P Clarke (h-t), E Daly for J Gallagher (48), R Holding for C Shaw (69), E Cunneen for E Keys (69)

ANTRIM: T Smyth; D McMullan, P Burke, N O'Connor; M Bradley (0-1), E Campbell, G Walsh (0-1); J Maskey, D McKernan; P Boyle, E O'Neill (0-2), N McKenna (0-3); R McMullan, J McNaughton (0-5 frees), A Bradley (0-1).

Subs: S McAuley for R McMullan (48), C Bohill for P Boyle (48), E McAlonan for J Maskey (57), C McKernan for A Bradley (57), S Walsh for G Walsh (60), E Trainor for D McKernan (65)

REFEREE: Shane Guinan (Offaly)