Goals give Antrim much-needed win in Division Three clash with Wicklow
Allianz Football League Division Three: Antrim 2-10 Wicklow 1-7
TWO second-half goals saw Antrim back to winning ways in Division Three of the Allianz Football League on Saturday at the expense of Wicklow at Corrigan Park on Saturday.
Lámh Dhearg duo Marc Jordan and Conor Murray were the men to find the net and in fairness, the hosts were well worth their victory as they dominated territory and possession, but it took until Murray's goal deep in stoppage time to finally put this game to bed.
It was a nervy enough finish as three points separated the teams late on with some big goal chances for the hosts coming and going in either half and there was a nagging fear they could come back to bite, but as it was, Antrim finished with that late flourish to bank two valuable points.
"The boys are working hard so you can't question their commitment and effort since we've been here," said assistant manager Stephen O'Neill.
"Against Limerick, we were just caught that day by a big, physical team. We made a slow start, a bad start, so we wanted a reaction and thankfully we got that today.
"The effort has always been there so we just need to iron out the final touches now, take a look at the finishing and the final pass that seemed to let us down a lot today.
"They were tough conditions, very slippery and the pitch cut up a bit, so it was just good to get the two points on the board and we will look forward to next week."
Antrim made the much better start, going 0-4 to 0-0 ahead after 16 minutes with Ruairi McCann pointing either side of points from Ryan Murray and Odharan Eastwood.
Wicklow had struggled until then, but from the next attack went direct with Eoin Darcy gathering in the left corner, passing inside to Kevin Quinn who found space to thump over Oisin Kerr and into the net.
A Mark Kenny point brought Wicklow level, but Antrim responded well with Kevin Small and Eastwood scoring in quick succession and they really should have had a goal, but Jamie Gribbin was unable to turn the ball home with two bits at the cherry from close range.
They were punished with the visitors getting back on terms again and while Ryan Murray appeared to give Antrim a lead going into the break, an Oisin McGraynor free with the last kick of the half left the sides level, 0-7 to 1-4.
After an exchange of points early in the second period, Antrim bagged their first goal on 40 minutes after a quick exchange of passes resulted in Tomás McCann passing to Marc Jordan to blast home.
Andy Maher hit back with a Wicklow point, but goal chances came and went at both ends with Tomás McCann denied by a square ball in the build-up and Kevin Small rattling the bar for Antrim, while Rory Stokes flashed a shot across goal at the other end.
The hosts finally gained breathing space with points from Conor Murray and Ruairi McCann and while there was just three in it in stoppage time, Conor Murray thumped to the net deep in stoppage time to seal the Antrim win.
"I thought we had to work very hard, especially in the first half, to get our scores and they seemed to be able to come up the field and get their scores quite easy," added O'Neill.
"You are always worried and they had a great goal chance in the second half that was just dragged wide.
"You were just glad to see the clock ticking down and getting to the 75th minute when you know you are nearly there."
Antrim: O Kerr; E McCabe, R Johnston, P McCormick; P McAleer, J Laverty, P Healy; M McCann, K Small (0-1); R Muray (0-2), J Gribbin, M Jordan (1-0); T McCann (0-1), R McCann (0-3, 0-1 free), O Eastwood (0-2)
Subs: C Murray (1-1) for E McCabe (h-t), P McBride for P McAleer (50), S McGarry for T McCann (55), M Johnston for M Jordan (59), P Shivers for R Johnston (68).
Wicklow: S Doyle; P O'Keane, M Stone, N Devereux; Z Cullen, N Donnelly, E Murtagh (0-1), D Healy, P O'Toole; A Maher (0-1), M Kenny (0-3, 0-2 frees), D Fitzgerald (0-1); O McGraynor (0-1 free), K Quinn (1-0), E Darcy.
Subs: T Moran for N Devereux (h-t), R Stokes for E Darcy (50), JP Hurley for K Quinn (64), C Maguire for Z Cullen (70)
Referee: Paul Faloon (Down)