Strong finish sees Antrim home against Westmeath

Allianz National Hurling League Division 2

Westmeath 2-9 Antrim 2-13

A STRONG finish which saw them hit six unanswered points earned Antrim hurlers a four point victory over Westmeath in Sunday’s Allianz National hurling League Division 2 game with at Cussack Park, Mullingar.

When Westmeath corner-forward Dan Carthy fired in a goal to put his team 2-9 to 2-7 ahead thirteen minutes from time it appeared that the Saffrons were going to be punished for a sloppy second-half performance. However they dug deep and three points from Neil McManus, and one apiece from Shane McNaughton, James Black and Karl Stewart secured the victory and kept their slim promotion hopes alive.

It has to be said that Westmeath didn’t help their own cause by having two men sent off during the final ten minutes, one for a second yellow and the other a straight red, and in truth if the Midlanders had maintained their full contingent then Antrim would have been hard pushed to get the win.

Antrim have been notoriously slow starters through this league campaign and today was no exception, something not surely helped by the fact that they took to the field for the first time just three minutes before throw-in. (They did their warm up at a nearby club).

Westmeath took an early two point lead as their excellent centre-back Andy Mitchell converted two fine long range frees and it was twelve minutes before Karl Stewart opened the Saffrons’ account with a well taken point from play.

Things began to happen in the sixteenth minute when full-forward Conor Carson flicked a long free by Karl Stewart to the Westmeath net, though the home side hit back with a Dan Carthy point. With Micko Herron playing brilliantly at centre-back the Antrim chances began to materialise and a Neill McManus point, followed by a second Carson goal put Antrim four clear.

However just when it appeared they were gaining control of the game they lost their way again and Westmeath responded with two Andrew Mitchell points and a goal from Dan Carthy to draw level at the break.

FINE SPELL

Carthy put Westmeath back in front with a pointed free early in the second-half, but Antrim came back and produced a fine spell of hurling which brought some very good points from Shane McNaughton, Neil McManus (2) and Karl Stewart to pull three clear. However the handful of Antrim fans never got the chance to relax as the Saffrons again lost their way and points from Andy Price and Dan Carthy, followed by a fine solo goal from Cathy, put them two points in front with thirteen minutes left to play.

Antrim were in a spot of trouble, but to their credit they found a response and quick points from McManus and McNaughton had them level inside two minutes. Westmeath then shot themselves in the foot as they had two players sent off inside three minutes and they were heavenly punished as late points from McManus, James Black and Karl Stewart sealed the Antrim win.

ANTRIM – Sean Hawes, Kiearn McGourty, Stephen Shannon, Kevin Molloy, Arran Graffin, Michael Herron, James McCouaig, Simon McCrory, Shane McNaughton, Neil McManus, Karl Stewart, Michael Armstrong, Darren Hamill, Conor Carson, Barry McFall.

SUBS – James Black for McFall, Paul Shiels for Armstrong, Chris McGuinness for Hamill.