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Antrim's unbeaten run is victim of lethargic start

By David Mohan

Wexford 5-19, Antrim 0-21

Antrim crashed out of the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship at O'Moore Park in Portlaoise yesterday as a nightmare start allowed Wexford to build a winning tally before the Saffrons really got started.

Two goals from Rory Jacob and another from Conor McDonald inside the opening 12 minutes gave Kevin Ryan's side a mountain to climb as they finished with 14 players following the dismissal of Eoghan Campbell with 10 minutes to play.

Antrim came into this game having won their last five games in a row and there was a suggestion they would carry that momentum into Portlaoise, but it was the Slaneysiders who settled and hit the ground running.

The Ulster side did have some fine performances, none more so than team captain Neil McManus, who finished with five points from play while wing forward Conor McCann and second half substitute Darren Hamill both chipped in with four points apiece.

Antrim's usual tactic of deploying a sweeper was abandoned and in hindsight, they really could have used one in the early stages as Jacob blasted home Wexford's first goal in the second minute when he was all alone to round goalkeeper Chrissy O'Connell after Ciaran Kenny's long delivery was missed by Conor McKinley.

Things got worse in the fifth minute when Liam Og McGovern raced through and while his shot was well saved by O'Connell, Jacob was on hand.

This left it 2-1 to 0-1 and while Antrim replied with two Paul Shiels frees and a McCann point, they were hit with 1-4 without reply over the next 10 minutes.

The goal was similar to Jacob's second in that a Jack Guiney 20-metre free was stopped on the line, but this time it was McDonald who buried the rebound.

The young Saffrons battled back well with two points from McManus and another Shiels free.

They continued to grow in confidence. Points from McManus, McCann and Shiels kept the scoreboard ticking over, but Wexford were also in fine form at the other end as Jacob, Paul Morris frees and a score from corner back Liam Ryan gave Liam Dunne's side a healthy 3-9 to 0-10 half-time lead.

Morris and Shiels traded frees before three in a row from the Model County moved them 3-14 to 0-13 ahead.

McManus replied from range to leave those three goals between the teams but the killer blow was to arrive on 48 minutes when McDonald caught Diarmuid O'Keefe's delivery on the edge of the square, turning and blasting to the net.

However, again Antrim refused to roll over and this goal was wiped out with three points in a row from McManus, Shiels and Hamill, but Wexford's fifth major was to come soon after when McKinley again missed a dropping ball and this time it was McGovern who profited.

Things got worse for Antrim as Campbell was issued with a straight red on 60 minutes following a high tackle on Harry Kehoe.

Two Hamill points and another from McCann was Antrim's response but Wexford pulled away with Garrett Sinnott, Morris, Jacob and Ian Byrne (two).

Hamill had the final say with a score in injury time, but Wexford progress to a semi-final against Dublin while Antrim must take on the All-Ireland Qualifiers.

WEXFORD: M Fanning; L Ryan (0-1), M O'Hanlon, K Rossiter; L Chin (0-1 free), A Shore, C Kenny; D O'Keefe, H Kehoe; P Morris (0-6, 5 frees), P Doran (0-3), J Guiney (0-1); R Jacob (2-2), C McDonald (2-2), L Og McGovern (1-0). Subs: D Redmond for C Kenny (HT), PJ Nolan for D O'Keefe (58), R Kehoe for L Chin (58), I Byrne (0-2) for J Guiney (61), G Sinnott (0-1) for P Doran (66).

ANTRIM: C O'Connell; O McFadden, C McKinley, Ciaran Johnston; A Graffin, N McAuley, N McManus (0-5); E Campbell, M Bradley; C McCann (0-4), C Carson, C Clarke; Conor Johnston (0-1), P Shiels 0-6, all frees), PJ O'Connell (0-1). Subs: B McFall for Conor Johnston (41), M Donnelly for C Calrke (46), D Hamill (0-4) for O McFadden (52), S McAfee for C Carson (58).

Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway)

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