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Antrim's spirit is highlight for Kevin Ryan

By John Martin

Antrim 1-11 Wexford 0-15 Antrim manager Kevin Ryan remains focused on the future after his young side lost out to Wexford by a single point in yesterday's opening Allianz Hurling League Division 1B clash at Ballycastle.

Fourteen-man Wexford withstood a late Antrim rally, after the home side had trailed by seven points in the second half.

Wexford's Richie Kehoe saw red after a 33rd minute exchange with Antrim full forward Neil McManus but the Model men went on to dominate the third quarter to lead by 0-15 to 0-8 despite trailing a by a point at the break.

Paul Shiels and Conor Johnston points edged Antrim closer, and when Daniel McKernan drew a loose ball to the net on 70 minutes, just one point separated the sides. Shiels had a chance to earn a share of the spoils in injury time, but his free drifted wide of the upright.

"If you'd seen this side on paper six months ago, you'd never have said they lose to Wexford by a point," said Ryan.

"I heard one lad say on the way in that we were going to get hammered. There was a lot of 19-year-olds out there, that's where the future's at.

"There's no such thing as a moral victory, it's all a process, but the biggest thing that I will take out of the day is that they kept at it. When we were dead and buried with a quarter of an hour to go, they drove on and got back into it. I take positives from that."

Paul Morris had opened the scoring for Wexford after three minutes but four unanswered scores, shared equally between Shiels and Conor Carson, had Antrim in a 0-4 to 0-1 lead after the opening quarter hour.

By the half hour mark, Wexford had levelled matters at 0-5 apiece, with Liam Og McGovern, Jack Guiney and Diarmuid O'Keefe all on target. McGovern also saw his goalbound effort saved by Antrim keeper Chrissy O'Connell.

An off the ball incident between McManus and Kehoe saw Wexford reduced to 14 and Shiels pointed the resultant free to leave Antrim 0-6 to 0-5 ahead at the break.

Both sides struggled throughout the game on the heavy pitch, but with wind advantage in the second half, Wexford began to get into their stride and landed five of the first six points after the restart.

Both goalkeepers were called into action with Guiney choosing to go for goal from a close-in free, and Darren Hamill pulling on the ground to test Mark Fanning.

The accuracy of Guiney from the placed ball proved decisive for Wexford midway through the second half with the Rathnure clubman adding four unanswered scores to put his side into a 0-13 to 0-8 lead on the 60 minute mark.

Rory Jacob came off the bench to score with his first touch and when McGovern added his second for a seven-point cushion, Wexford looked home and hosed. Antrim then sprung back to life. A Shiels free marked the home side's first score in 13 minutes, and the same player added from play moments later.

Sub Conor Johnston cut the gap to four, and McKernan's ground strike flew past Fanning to cut the gap to the minimum on the stroke of full time. Shiels, who had been accurate from placed balls throughout the game, pulled a last minute free wide.

Wexford host Offaly next week, while Antrim face a tough trip to Limerick to try and garner their first points of the 2014 campaign.

Antrim: C O'Connell; Ciaran Johnston, C McKinley, M Bradley; S McCrory, N McAuley, O McFadden; P Shiels (0-7, 5f), J McGreevy; D Hamill, C Carson (0-2), N McKenna (0-1); D McKernan (1-0), N McManus, C Clarke

Subs: M Donnelly for C Clarke, S McAfee for N McManus, S McAfee for J McGreevy, Conor Johnston (0-1) for D Hamill, N McManus for M Donnelly

Wexford: M Fanning; K Rossiter, M O'Hanlon, B Kenny; R Kehoe, L Chin, C Kenny; D O'Keeffe (0-2), A Shore (0-1); S Tomkins, J Guiney (0-5, 4f, 0-1 '65'), I Byrne (0-1); P Morris (0-3), R Clarke, L Og McGovern (0-2). Subs: H Kehoe for R Clarke, G Moore for S Tomkins, R Jacob (0-1) for I Byrne, E Martin for A Shore

Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).

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