Football

Antrim fly out of the blocks to win in Limerick

The Saffrons are one of eight Ulster sides to win their Allianz NFL opener

28 January 2024; Patrick McAleer of Antrim in action against Robbie Childs of Limerick during the Allianz Football League Division 3 match between Limerick and Antrim at Mick Neville Park in Rathkeale, Limerick. Photo by Tom Beary/Sportsfile
Start as you mean to go on: 28 January 2024; Patrick McAleer of Antrim in action against Robbie Childs of Limerick during the Allianz Football League Division 3 match between Limerick and Antrim at Mick Neville Park in Rathkeale, Limerick. Photo by Tom Beary/Sportsfile (Tom Beary / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

Allianz Football League Division Three Round 1

Limerick 2-7 Antrim 2-14

“All we wanted was a result,” was manager Andy McEntee’s reaction as Antrim got their National Football League Division Three campaign off to a flying start in Rathkeale yesterday with a comfortable seven-point win over Limerick.

“Although Limerick came right back at us after the break, our big half-time lead was enough to get us through.”

A pedestrian first half in which the wind-assisted visitors patiently built up a lead and then extended it on the back of a 22nd minute penalty looked to be heading for a predictable result.

However, it burst into life on the restart when the hosts threw off their earlier caution and reduced the margin to the minimum 10 minutes after the break.

Yet wayward shooting prevented them from drawing level. Antrim recovered their shape and, despite being hit by a second Limerick goal, they immediately replied with a second of their own and used the extra man in the closing minutes to move themselves beyond any danger.

More direct with the ball from the throw-in, Eoin Hynds got Antrim quickly off the mark but, once Limerick steadied their midfield, they had to wait another eight minute before goalie Michael Byrne sent over a long free which was immediately met by Iain Corbett.

After an exchange between Dermot McAleese and Peter Nash’s mark, disciplined marking by the visitors forced Limerick’s movement forward into lateral passing.

By the quarter mark, speed on the break led to Niall Burns and Dominic McEnhill stretching the gap to three.

That doubled when home goalkeeper Aaron O’Sullivan was forced into a turnover, coming out to clear. And after he fouled McEnhill, the Saffron corner-forward made no mistake with the penalty.

Andy McEntee was Meath manager for six years
The gaffer: Andy McEntee was Meath manager for six years

Tails up, the Saffrons looked to be coasting to a decisive half-time lead as McEnhill and Ruairí McCann struck on the break but, as the watch ticked into added time, a defensive error gifted Tommy Childs clean possession at the edge of the square.

Although the Galtee Gaels midfielder ballooned the goal chance over the bar, his brother Bob followed up to narrow Limerick’s half-time deficit to 1-7 to 0-4.

The rally carried beyond the break. Antrim skipper McAleese departed on a black card, O’Sullivan sent over a 45 followed by Corbett’s strike, and it was game on when Cillian Fahy forced Byrne to foul in possession inside his square. a

Corbett made no mistake from the penalty spot to narrow the gap to one.

However, the Treaty men then sent the next four chances wide and, once they were back to full strength going into the final quarter, McCann pointed and that was followed by converted frees from Byrne and McEnhill.

Limerick were back in business when they swarmed an Antrim clearance, but they were then sucker-punched  straight from the kick-out when two passes found McCann to strike low into the corner.

A foul which McEnhill punished also resulted in Brian O’Sullivan’s black card.

Although Fahy struck back, the visitors used their numerical advantage for Ronan Boyle and McEnhill from play and a free respectively to close the scoring and wrap up the points.

Antrim: M Byrne; R Boyle, E Walsh, K Keenan; M Jordan, J Finnegan, D McAleese; C McLarnon, P McAleer; E Hynds, N  Burns,R McCann (1-2); P McAleer, C McGilligan, D McEnhill (1-6, 1-0 pen, 0-4 frees)

Subs C Hand for R Boyle (69), D Lynch for D McAleese (70), B Kelly for P McAleer (72).

Limerick: A O’Sullivan; J Liston, S O’Dea, B O’Sullivan; C McSweeney, R Childs, P Maher; T Childs, T Griffin; I Corbett, J Naughton, C Fahy; B Coleman, D Daly, P Nash

Subs E Rigter for J Naughton (28),E Hurley for D Daly (34), C Downes for T Griffin (43), A Meade forP Nash (63).

Referee S Lonergan (Tipperary)