Antrim 2-25 Westmeath 1-19: Antrim gave their fans something to shout about at Casement Park when they won a high scoring All-Ireland SHC qualifier, but the nine points margin hides the story of the clash with Westmeath.
Saffron win sets up Carlow clashTop Man: Neil McManus played starring role for AntrimBY DECLAN SMYTH
Yes, the Saffrons won reasonably comfortably in the end 2-25 to 1-19 on Saturday and booked another home date next weekend against Carlow but for long periods during the second half an upset was a distinct possibility.
The visitors stormed into the action after trailing 2-16 to 1-9 at the break to close the gap to just three points 11 minutes after the restart as they hit eight points to one from Antrim. Then came what Saffrons star man Neil McManus described as the turning point.
“At that stage it was anybody’s game but up stepped Cormac Donnelly to put over a free from more than 100 yards.
“That certainly proved to be the turning point as we never looked back from there.
“Westmeath certainly came at us but we pushed on after Cormac scored,” said McManus who cracked over 10 points.
Antrim opened the game in a hurry with Conor McCann hitting the visitors’ net on eight minutes — he got a second major six minutes from the break — as the Saffrons took control.
Westmeath’s goal came when Paul Grenville fired home an angled shot after 11 minutes.
Donnelly’s cracker gave the home side a 2-18 to 1-17 lead and Antrim rifled over another seven for a deserved victory.
ANTRIM: C O’Connell; C McGuinness, C Donnelly (0-1f), K McGourty; A Graffin (0-1), M Herron, N McAuley; P Shiels (0-3), C Herron (0-1); S McCrory (0-2), K Stewart (0-2), N McManus (0-10, 8f); C McCann (2-1), D Hamill (0-2), J Black. Subs: K Molloy for C Herron (49), C McFall (0-1f) for Black (54), B McFall (0-1) for M Herron (66), J McCouaig for McGourty (69).
WESTMEATH: C Scally; C Flanagan, D McCormack, A McGrath; E Price, A Mitchell, P Gilsenan; P Dowdall (0-3), B Smyth; C Curley (0-1), P Grenville (1-0), B Murtagh (0-10, 5f, 1SL); J Shaw (0-2), D McNicholas (0-3), D Carty. Subs: A Price for McGrath (half-time), A Devine for Carty (43), K Martin for McCormack (54).
REFEREE: T Carroll (Offaly).