We curled up when the game was there for the taking: Antrim boss Darren Gleeson
Allianz National Hurling League Division 1B: Laois 1-20 Antrim 1-19
From Brendan Crossan at O’Moore Park
IT took Darren Gleeson around an hour to emerge from the Antrim changing room after yesterday’s gut-wrenching one-point defeat to Laois that knocks them into a NHL relegation play-off against Offaly or Limerick later this month.
And it will take a lot longer for the Antrim manager and his players to make sense of the events of O’Moore Park as they were a pale shadow of the side that had put up fine displays against Kilkenny, Dublin and Waterford in recent weeks.
Typically, Gleeson didn’t sugar-coat anything after yesterday’s loss.
Antrim, he said, had “curled up” when the game was there for the taking and identified his team’s abject first-half display as the “root cause” of yesterday’s surprise defeat.
“We led late on when we had the opportunities to win the game - we didn’t take them,” he said.
“But I suppose the root cause was our first half performance. We set up, we had a plan in place, we didn’t execute it, [there was] very poor tracking, we were very loose in the first half.
“We seemed to curl up when the opportunity was there to play and it’s very disappointing. But you have to give credit to Laois.
“They saw where they were going and focused on the match that was there and came and executed it with 14 men.”
Indeed, Antrim had a numerical advantage for over 50 minutes of yesterday’s critical Division 1B clash after Laois midfielder Jack Kelly was red-carded for reckless use of the hurl – but the visitors couldn’t make it count.
Despite Neil McManus levelling the game with a well-struck 62nd minute goal and Paddy Burke edging Antrim in front with two minutes of normal time remaining, the O’Moore men found the answers in stoppage-time thanks to scores from substitute PJ Scully and Charlie ‘Cha’ Dwyer.
“Our use of the ball wasn’t up to the standard it should be at," Gleeson added. "It felt like a relegation final today but it wasn’t. It’s coming down the line now and we just have to prepare for it.”