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Antrim 0.13, Sligo 0.12

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04 February 2012
Ok so it may have been a performance marred by stray passes, some poor decision making at times and wayward shooting but at the business end of this game, when guts and determination mattered as much as skill and fitness, Antrim stepped up, made and took their chances and got their Division 3 campaign off to a perfect start. This league opener ended in a 1 point victory and the relatively small but vocal home support went home happy. Cold, but very happy. #

Antrim dominated the early exchanges and settled into a 3 – 1 lead before the visitors drew level. A low key first half seemed to be heading for a 5 – 5 scoreline until, in a foretaste of the second half drama, Tomas McCann sweetly struck a 45 to put Antrim in front 0.6 to 0.5.

The third quarter was the saffrons least productive and Sligo scored 3 unanswered points to go into a 2 point lead. Paddy Cunningham, who is now well settled into his role on the 40, scored a free to get the Antrim second half challenge underway. At this stage Simon McDonagh replaced Conor Murray, with Sean Finch replacing Mark Sweeney. Finch’s first touch of the ball produced a point from a very narrow angle, and that was one of a run of 3 scores which brought the sides level.

The first of the 3 came from Kevin Brady who caught expertly before almost claiming a goal with a chip over the Sligo keeper. The equalising score was the best of all, and apologies to the scorer, but I don’t know exactly it was who swung over from way out on the right hand side.

Antrim needed to maintain this momentum if the match was to be won. However a gifted point was the next item on the agenda as our defence surrendered easy possession leading to a Sligo point. We were behind 11 – 10.

Antrim equalised again and the game drifted towards injury time. Tomas McCann collected a breaking ball in midfield and off he went on an unstoppable run, which could only end in a score or a foul. Sligo choose the foul and he was brought down cynically. After a lengthy period of treatment McCann got up and hit the free himself, Antrim were in front but with 4 minutes on the clock.

When Sligo equalised from a difficult free of their own, maybe a draw would have been accepted by both teams. However an inexplicable and blatant ball foul gave the saffrons one last chance – albeit a very difficult one. Up stepped Tomas, some 40 – 50 yards out and he sent the ball over the black spot and the support into delirium. That was his 5th of the game, and what a score. No doubting the man of this match.

Liam Bradley said this week that it was vital to win our home games. Damn right it is and that is precisely what we got tonight, a deserved and hard fought home win. Lots of players will have gained useful experience and will have a bigger impact on games to come while some more experienced names probably pulled us through on the night.

A truly team effort, Baker and co have plenty of work to do in cutting out mistakes and capitalising on possession. But, what a start to the league. Next up – it’s a long way to Tipperary, but that’s where our next two points lie.

Brendan Mulgrew
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