Antrim fall just short of making semi-finals

 

Wexford 2-15 Antrim 2-12

Wexford's experience of the big day stood them in good stead today as they came from behind to beat a resilient Antrim side at Croke Park. John Conran's men will now play Cork in next month's All-Ireland semi-final.

Antrim will rue a number of spurned goal opportunities and a lack of discipline in the latter stages as they were nicely poised to knick this game from their opponents. Having hurled passionately and skillfully in the early stages, Dinny Cahill's men crumbled somewhat in the second half and squandered a five point half-time lead to allow wily Wexford another championship outing.

Memories of a dire opening 15 minutes - for both sides - were swiftly forgotten when Antrim spiced things up with two quick goals late in the first half. The scores turned the game on its head as Antrim, trailing throughout the half, took to the tunnel with a 2-5 to 0-6 lead.

Having gone close minutes earlier, captain Colm McGuckian batted the ball home past Damien Fitzhenry two minutes after the 'keeper misfielded a Brian McFall 65 on his line and let it slip through his fingers for three points.

Wexford had led throughout the opening half until those closing minutes. After a lethargic start, the beaten Leinster finalists started to pick off scores with Larry Murphy and captain Paul Codd finding their range on more than one occasion.

The absence, through injury, of influential full-back Darragh Ryan proved a conundrum for Wexford as Gregory O'Kane bossed and controlled the Antrim full forward line with consummate ease. The number 14's physical presence demanded the attention of two defenders on most attacks, leaving corner forwards McFall and Liam Watson free to pick off the odd score.

Facing a five point deficit, Wexford got their second half off to the perfect start with Chris McGrath kicking the ball to the back of the Antrim net. The goal spurred Wexford on and they trailed by just two points with 10 minutes to play. Codd single handily kept his side in touch as Antrim substitute Aidan Delargy looked to put distance between the sides with a succession of fine scores.

But Codd had unfinished business and walloped home a superb goal, past six Antrim players guarding the line, from a close range free with five minutes to play. That score put Wexford ahead by the minimum. They extended that lead and secured an All-Ireland semi-final date with scores in the dying minutes from Rory McGrath and Barry Lambert.