Eoghan Campell red card proves costly for Antrim in defeat to Waterford
Allianz Hurling League Division One Group B round three
Waterford 1-22 Antrim 0-17
A STRONG run to the line saw Waterford overcome 14-man Antrim's strong challenge at Fraher Field in Dungarvan on Sunday.
The sides were level with 10 to play despite the Saffrons having been reduced to 14 after 23 minutes as Eoghan Campbell was shown red for an off-the-ball tangle with Reuben Halleron.
There was so much to admire about how the visitors stuck with it and were right in play with the game looking to be heading for a tense finish, but perhaps the numerical disadvantage finally caught up with them late as Austin Gleeson's five points off the bench inspired the hosts to victory.
Just like the meeting between the teams last year, Shaun O'Brien would deny the Saffrons from a penalty as this time, Gerard Walsh's well-struck effort resulted in an even better save and had that rattled the net on 68 minutes, the margin would have been just two. But it didn't and with that, the door was finally closed on their challenge.
“We don't do moral victories but I'm immensely proud of them and the effort today,” said Antrim manager Darren Gleeson.
“I didn't see the sending off but Conor Doyle, the linesman, was close enough and he must have seen an infringement.
“It had a big bearing on the game but we hold ourselves accountable for our decisions on the field.
“It was an improved performance. The hurling was sharp today and had Waterford in difficulty at times. We focus on ourselves and not the opposition but then the numbers game caught us in the end.”
With the wind at their backs, Antrim opened quite brightly with Keelan Molloy landing early and although Patrick Curran levelled, they began to find their range with Michael Bradley firing over and Conal Cunning with the first of half a dozen first-half scores.
Curran and Jamie Barron begged the visitors back, but three on the spin from Antrim was a fair reward for their play.
Antrim were looking in control but then came that big moment on 23 minutes when Campbell was dismissed, yet the visitors would remain a step ahead going into the half as Cunning continued to convert frees and Gerard Walsh landed one from deep to help Antrim into a 0-11 to 0-09 advantage at the break.
Cunning extended the Antrim lead from a free early in the second period, but with the elements in their favour, Waterford's route-one approach led to Neil Montgomery getting on a break, but was fouled by Stephen Rooney inside the penalty area and Curran blasted home the reward to tie the game.
Despite this latest setback, Antrim continued to stay in the hunt with Cunning nudging them back in front for the final time on 56 minutes only to be cancelled out by Conor Prunty who split the posts from deep inside his own half.
Just as it seemed we were in for a tense finish, Gleeson nudged the hosts ahead again and this was the first of a run of five points on the spin inside of four minutes.
This was the gap on 68 minutes when Antrim were awarded a penalty of their own as Paddy Burke was deemed to have been denied a goalscoring opportunity outside the area by Calum Lyons and although Gerard Walsh struck his effort well, O'Brien made an acrobatic save.
That was effectively that as Gleeson reeled off a hat-trick of late scores including a beauty from play to seal Waterford's victory and leave Antrim still searing for their first points of the campaign.