Hurling & Camogie

Antrim leave themselves too much to do as Wexford hold on for Leinster SHC win

Wexford's Lee  Chin tries to escape the attentions of Antrim pair Gerard Walsh and Paul Boyle during their Leinster SHC clash at Chadwicks Wexford Park. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Wexford's Lee Chin tries to escape the attentions of Antrim pair Gerard Walsh and Paul Boyle during their Leinster SHC clash at Chadwicks Wexford Park. Picture by Seamus Loughran

Leinster Senior Hurling Championship: Wexford 1-30 Antrim 1-26

ANTRIM didn’t produce their best finishing when it mattered and as a went down to a four-point defeat to Wexford in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship at Chadwicks Wexford Park.

While corner-forward Conal Cunning showed tremendous accuracy from placed balls, finishing the game with a personal tally of 0-13, (0-9 frees, 0-3 65s) it was not enough to salvage a victory despite the fact they outscored the home side 0-16 to 0-11 in the second half. 

It was a welcome first victory for Wexford, coming on the back of their disappointing opening round defeat to Galway, while Antrim will see this as an opportunity lost to build on their draw with Dublin.

Wexford built a nine-point interval lead and needed that cushion to hold off a resurgent second-half challenge from the Saffrons. Home goalkeeper James Lawlor was also forced into two quality saves from Neil McManus and Cunning, when a goal would have set Darren Gleeson’s side up for a victory effort.

It was the scoring exploits of the O’Connor brothers, Rory and Jack, that eventually steered Darragh Egan’s Yellowbellies to a crucial two points.

Rory finished the game with a personal tally of 0-7, with some huge points from a variety of angles, while Jack contributed 0-5 – scores which proved crucial, particularly in a second half when Wexford were labouring to cope with the Antrim challenge.

“It was a significant two points for us, especially following the disappointment of the opening game against Galway,” said Wexford boss Egan.

“We were fully aware that a victory was needed. We took the game to them in the opening half, opened up a significant lead but we would be somewhat disappointed with our second half display.

“The challenge facing us now is to back this up against Dublin next Saturday. That’s another huge challenge.”

Egan’s former Tipperary team-mate Gleeson lamented Antrim’s slow start which allowed Wexford to build an insurmountable lead.

“They got away from us during the opening stages of the first half. We rushed things, made mistakes which they capitalised upon,” he said.

“The second half brought much improvement. We made huge improvements, a lot of things went well but we still missed some crucial scoring chances. Still we met the challenge in the second half, created chances, and with a little luck close to goal, we could have added a further goal or two.”

Wexford opened with three quick-fire point through Rory O’Connor (0-2) and Liam Og McGovern, but Antrim responded through Seaan Elliott and a long-range free from Gerard Walsh.

Wexford led 0-6 to 0-3 when James McNaughton levelled the game with a fine goal from an acute angle on 11 minutes, while four minutes later Cathal Dunbar found the Antrim net. The sides continued to trade points with Cunning showing excellent accuracy for the visitors, while both O’Connors picked off some excellent points to Wexford leading 1-19 to 1-10 at the interval.

Neil McManus pointed within seconds of the restart, but Wexford continued to withstand the Antrim challenge, still leading 1-23 to 1-15 after 47 minutes. However, it was Antrim who took the initiative in the closing 15 minutes, gradually reducing the deficit. While chances came their way, they were unable to apply the finishing touch particularly with those two goal opportunities from close range.

Cunning got Antrim to within four points, 1-29 to 1-25, with three minutes remaining, but Wexford held firm as Antrim sought goals from two close-in frees in a tense finish.

Wexford: J Lawlor; S Reck, L Ryan, C Devitt; M O’Hanlon, C Foley, S Donohoe (0-1); D O’Keeffe, C Hearne; O Foley (0-4), J O’Connor (0-5), L Og McGovern (0-2); R O’Connor (0-7), L Chin (0-8, 0-2 frees), C Dunbar (1-2).  

Subs: Joe O’Connor for Ryan (h-t), C McDonald for Hearne (45), K Foley for O’Keeffe (55), M Dwyer for Jack O’Connor (59), R Lawlor (0-1) for Dunbar (68).

Antrim: R Elliott; P Burke. R McGarry, N O’Connor (0-1); G Walsh (0-1 free), E Campbell, S Walsh; M Bradley (0-1), S Elliott (0-1); K Molloy (0-1), J Maskey, J McNaughton (1-1); C Cunning (0-13, 0-9 frees, 0-3, 65s), N McManus (0-2), C Johnston (0-1). 

Subs: R McMullan (0-2) for Maskey (32), P Boyle (0-1) for S Walsh (33), E O’Neill for S Elliott (45), S McAuley (0-1) for Johnston (55), D Nugent for Campbell (61).

Referee: M Kennedy (Tipperary).