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O'Mullan makes no excuses for sorry Saffrons

London 1-21 - Antrim 1-19

By Jamie Casey

Antrim finished their Allianz National Hurling League Division 2A campaign with their third defeat in as many games after going down 1-21 to 1-19 to London in Ruislip yesterday.

The Saffrons were still missing players from All-Ireland Club finalists Ruairi Og Cushendall, but boss PJ O'Mullan refused to use that as an excuse.

"We've been going all season without some of our best players, but we'd only be making excuses and painting over things," he said.

"We had 15 men out there and we used plenty of subs who were good enough to win that game, it just didn't work out for them."

Knowing promotion was already beyond them, the Saffrons could have leapfrogged the Exiles into third place.

With London still having a final spot to play for, it made for an entertaining first-half with the sides level at seven points apiece after 20 minutes.

Each of Antrim's first seven scores came from play, but they started to lose their accuracy in the remaining 15 minutes of the opening period, shooting four wides in that short time frame.

It allowed London to take control as a fine pair of scores from play by Kevin O'Loughlin, who scored five points in an influential first-half, opened a gap.

Exiles goalkeeper Eoin Kelly then produced an almighty free from distance before Bill Walsh stretched their lead to four, with the half-time score 0-15 to 0-11.

As the temperature dropped for the restart, so too did the pace and quality of the game. It took Shane O'Donnell's goal on 45 minutes to breathe fresh life into the contest, the forward pulling on a loose sliotar following a goalmouth scramble.

From there, London kept the visitors at bay until Niall McKenna wriggled through the London full-back line and netted an Antrim goal with six minutes remaining, which heaped pressure on Fergus McMahon's men.

Eddie McCloskey, who scored three from play for Antrim in the second-half, reduced London's lead to just two in the closing minutes.

The hosts held their nerve, though, with Brian Regan leading by example at centre-half back as London saw out the game for a two-point victory.

Unfortunately for the Exiles, it wasn't enough for a final spot, as Carlow's win over Westmeath means those two will meet in the promotion decider.

London: E Kelly (0-1, free); C Hickey, L Gaule, C McAlinden; T Lawrence (0-1), B Regan (0-1), O Gately (0-1); N McDonnell, D Browne; M O'Dwyer (0-1), K Reid (0-4), B Walsh; K O'Loughlin (0-8, 0-3 frees, 0-2 '65s), M Duggan (0-2), S O'Donnell (1-2)

Subs: H Vaughan on for D Browne (blood sub, 34), D Roberts on for K Reid (48), G Mahon on for O Gately (51), M Murphy on for N McDonnell (58)

Antrim: G McTaggart; S McCrory, C McGuinness, O McFadden; F Donnelly, D Nugent (0-1), C McKinley; J McGreevy, D Hamill (0-1); E McCloskey (0-4), C Johnston (0-6, 0-3 frees), B McFall; J Connolly (0-2), S Beatty (0-2), C Clarke (0-2, 0-1 free),

Subs: B Graham on for C McGuiness (16), K McKernan (0-1) on for C Clarke (HT), N McKenna (1-0) on for S Beatty (56), S McAfee on for D Hamill (56), Black on for B McFall (62)Yellow cards: O Gately (48mins)

Referee: Eamonn Hassan (Derry)

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