Antrim realistic about prospects as Dublin quench their flame

Ronan Hayes’ brilliantly taken goal lights up handsome Dubs league win at Parnell Park

Dublin’s Chris Crummey and Keelan Molloy of Antrim in action during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group B game at  Parnell Park. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

Dublin’s Chris Crummey and Keelan Molloy of Antrim in action during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group B game at Parnell Park. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

 

Dublin 1-26 Antrim 1-18

As much as Dublin navigating their way to back-to-back Allianz League wins was noteworthy, the real intrigue here lay with Antrim.

Victory against Clare in Round 1 was followed by another robust display in Kilkenny, suggesting they may very well take Dublin down at Parnell Park.

Save for a bright start, and a brief third quarter rally when the game was probably up, they never looked like pulling it off though.

Ronan Hayes’ 54th minute goal, shunting Dublin 10 points clear, was the game’s decisive score and all but sealed back-to-back wins for the hosts.

Dublin had 13 different scorers in total, including three from the bench as Mattie Kenny for the third game ran in his full allocation of seven substitutes, bringing to 27 the number of players he has used so far.

Mark Schutte still has to feature as well while David Treacy missed Saturday’s game through injury so Kenny could ultimately end up close to the 30 players he used in last year’s campaign.

Truth be told, Dublin’s final two games against Clare and Wexford will reveal more about their championship chances than their last two; wins over Laois and Antrim.

No, the real focus on Saturday was on the Ulster men and whether their terrific start to the campaign was a genuine coming of age or an example of briefly catching lightning in a bottle.

Manager Darren Gleeson, who guided them to Joe McDonagh Cup success in his first season, seemed to suggest somewhere in between.

“We’re very realistic about what’s going on,” said Gleeson, Tipperary’s All-Ireland winning goalkeeper in 2016. “It’s a building job. There’s nothing complete. We have to stay building on what we’re doing. We had a good result the first day, an opportunity came in front of us and we took it. The last two days we’ve given big leads to teams and then tried to claw them back. You can’t play like that at this level. Teams will just stay tipping away points and there’s no way of clawing them back without goals.

“The game now is really an 80-minute game and we’re playing well for 20, 25 minutes at a time. We played well for about 50 minutes above in Corrigan Park (against Clare). You need to be at least playing well for 40 minutes in a game and we’re not doing that. We have to look at that and ask why is that? Is it the way we’re setting up? Is it the physicality? Was it tiredness? I don’t have the answers, we’ll have to watch it again and break it down.”

Ronan Hayes was Dublin’s goalscorer in their win over Antrim. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho
Ronan Hayes was Dublin’s goalscorer in their win over Antrim. Photograph: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho

Antrim’s patches of promising play came in the first quarter, they led 0-5 to 0-3 after 15 minutes, and between the 56th and 64th minutes when they outscored Dublin by 0-6 to 0-1. Aside from that they largely operated in Dublin’s slip stream and unless it was some sort of rope-a-dope strategy then it was concerning ahead of their Leinster SHC quarter-final tie in five weeks.

“We know from past history, it’s not significant at all,” claimed Dublin manager Kenny about beating a Championship opponent in the league. “Every match in this Championship is going to be a kind of cup final.”

Antrim’s cause wasn’t helped by Ciaran Clarke’s malfunctioning radar, the free-taker having a nightmare with miscues and wides before being hauled off. A couple of his errant strikes came after the first water break, allowing Dublin to reel off seven points without reply which put them in a winning position.

Dublin’s 0-13 to 0-6 half-time lead was buttressed with a series of terrific points from wing-back Daire Gray in the third quarter, three in total.

Neil McManus pinched an Antrim goal from a 50th minute penalty but soon after Hayes would play a one-two of sorts with Jake Malone at the clubhouse end and smash in a Dublin goal - the first of their campaign - which left them 1-19 to 1-9 clear.

But that wasn’t quite that because James McNaughton, Clarke’s replacement on the frees, and sub Conor Johnston did lead a mini-Antrim revival but it soon petered out.

Dublin lost their shape a little with all the subs coming in but benefited from the changes too with Paul Crummey, Davy Keogh and John Hetherton all scoring.

Next up for Dublin, Clare on Saturday week at Parnell Park again.

“We’re competitors by nature, every day we go out to play we want to get a result and to win but it’s more about building towards the championship,” maintained Kenny.

Gleeson was more into specifics.

“We weren’t winning primary possession, we weren’t winning breaking ball, we were poor at tracking runs,” he observed. “You put the three of those into the mixer and you’re going to have a bad day. That’s what today was. But it’s not panic stations, it’s a learning day.”

Dublin: S Brennan; C O’Callaghan, E O’Donnell, A Dunphy; S Moran (0-1), L Rushe, D Gray (0-3); J Malone (0-1), C Burke (0-2); C Crummey (0-2), D Burke (0-7, four frees, 65), D Sutcliffe (0-3); C Boland (0-2), R Hayes (1-0), C O’Sullivan (0-1). Subs: E Dillon for O’Sullivan (50 min), J Hetherton (0-2) for Sutcliffe (50), R McBride for Malone (56), J Madden for Rushe (56), D Keogh (0-1) for Boland (59), P Crummey (0-1) for Hayes (65), P Smyth for Moran (70).

Antrim: R Elliott; D McMullan, G Walsh, S Rooney; E Campbell (0-1), P Burke, J Maskey; K Molloy (0-2), M Bradley; N McManus (1-2, 1-0 pen, free), J McNaughton (0-3, two frees), N McKenna (0-4); C Cunning, D Nugent, C Clarke (0-4, four frees). Subs: C Johnston (0-2) for Nugent (half-time), D McCloskey for Bradley (45 min), P Duffin for Clarke (46), S Shannon for Rooney (46), E O’Neill for Cunning (55), R McCambridge for Maskey (58).

Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny).

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