Antrim 1-21 Wexford 2-18
Here's the thing about Davy Fitzgerald. He's not for changing.
Not for you, not for me, and not for Wexford as he turns up the dial with Championship in sight. A draw here in Belfast was far from the deflating sense a team might have got a few years back.
They had to come through plenty of hardship to escape with a point after Antrim hit the front for the first time in the game with Shea Shannon’s goal after Neil McManus displayed an otherworldly awareness to spot him free in space.
By that stage, Wexford's manager was leaning over the perimeter fence, on the outside looking in after referee Patrick Murphy sent him off in first-half injury time after his protests over a series of line balls against Antrim manager Darren Gleeson.
“All I know is I want to win,” said Fitzgerald. “I have a huge desire in me to win and I don’t care, I want to win. I don’t think that will change and I think if you take that fight out of the dog you are in trouble. People would love to see me quiet and saying nothing on the sideline but if I feel something, if I am passionate about something I am going after it. That’s it, end of story.”
As to the nature of the disagreement, carried on as both managers made their way to the dressingrooms, he said, “It was a lineball. He thought it was out, I didn’t think it was out. I could be wrong and I would be first one to say I am wrong.
“The reason I got moved was because of what happened with me and Darren. That happens guys, it’s not my first one.”
Antrim are struggling with slow starts back in the top flight, and in the first quarter it looked like they could be buried after goals from Conor McDonald and Paul Morris.
Kevin Foley was attending to his sweeping duties diligently and Antrim could not get Neil McManus, at full forward here, on the ball whatsoever.
The third quarter showed more of what this new Saffrons team are about. They outscored Wexford 0-7 to 0-2 and forced several turnovers. Celebrating one brought an altercation between McManus and Matthew O’Hanlon, who was sent off for interfering with McManus’s faceguard.
Despite 18 scoring attempts in the second half, Wexford were off the radar, Lee Chin alone accounting for five wides in that period. Antrim grabbed the lead with that Shannon goal. Roared on by a small but vociferous crowd that could smell another scalp in the offing, they rode their luck slightly, corner back Stephen Rooney having his pocket picked twice in a row for points by Paul Morris and Chin in the 64th and 66th minutes.
Their ability to come out of a ruck with possession told in the final score, substitute Ciarán Clarke emerging with possession, drilling a pass wide right to Keelan Molloy who sliced it over in the 82nd minute of a spellbinding finish.
“Will I take a draw? We didn’t lose,” said Fitzgerald after.
“That was important to me, I don’t like losing. And you have to have respect for Antrim too, that is important.
“People will say, ‘Ah sure, you didn’t beat Antrim’. Come up and play them and see how you get on, see what the story is.”
Antrim are now safe, so too are Wexford. All they will care about now is the start of the Leinster Championship in under three weeks when they face Dublin and Laois respectively.
ANTRIM: 1 R Elliott; 2 D McMullan, 3 G Walsh, 4 S Rooney; 5 E Campbell, 6 P Burke, 7 J Maskey; 8 K Molloy (0-4), 9 J McNaughton (0-7, four frees); 10 N McKenna, 11 E O'Neill, 12 N McManus (0-1); 13 D McCloskey, 14 C Cunning (0-7, six frees, one 65), 15 Conor Johnston (0-1).
Subs: 21 A O'Brien for Maskey (27mins), 25 C Clarke (0-1) for McCloskey (50), 26 S Shannon (1-0) for O'Neill (63), 24 C Bohill for C Johnston (70), 19 P Duffin for Rooney (75).
Red card: McManus (71 mins).
WEXFORD: 1 M Fanning (0-1, free); 19 C Flood, 3 L Ryan, 4 S Donohoe (0-1); 5 G Bailey, 6 M O'Hanlon, 7 S Murphy; 8 L Óg McGovern (0-2), 9 D O'Keefe; 10 A Nolan (0-1), 11 C McDonald (1-1), 12 P Morris (1-1); 21 R O'Connor (0-1), 22 L Chin (0-9, eight frees), 15 K Foley.
Subs: 23 Jack O'Connor for R O'Connor (14 mins), 17 Joe O'Connor (0-1) for Bailey (53), 20 C Hearne for Nolan (63), 18 C Firman for Murphy, 13 M Dwyer for Morris (both 64 ).
Red card: O'Hanlon (45 mins).
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow).