Antrim’s hurlers flattered to deceive in yesterday’s Walsh Cup tie against Dublin at Parnell Park.
Leading 1-7 to 0-3 at one stage in the first-half with Deaglan Murphy’s goal having given them a psychological boost, the Saffrons were beginning to look comfortable as they controlled the exchanges for the most part.
Their slick build-ups and clever passing posed problems for the Dublin rearguard and with Ciaran Clarke particularly accurate from frees and play, the Ulster team looked set to engage an even higher gear.
Dublin had other ideas and quickly put them into practice as the second quarter of the game unfolded.
Colin Currie’s pinpoint marksmanship was to prove a considerable thorn in Antrim’s side as his penchant for scoring from long range slowly but surely trimmed the visitors’ advantage before Cian O’Sullivan further bolstered Dublin’s morale when he scored a superb goal which left Antrim with a rather more tenuous 1-13 to 1-11 lead.
When the ubiquitous Currie subsequently pounced for a 43rd-minute goal which was followed by an unanswered five points blitz Antrim had all but been brought to their knees.
Conor Johnston and Ciaran Clarke, along with the lion-hearted Murphy, did their best throughout to keep Antrim in touch, but Dublin’s ability to take scores from all angles and distances was to prove crucial.
Chris Crummey, Aidan Millett and Ronan Smith joined in helping to cement their team’s supremacy as Antrim were forced to eat humble pie after initially hinting that they were capable of dining out in style, ultimately going down 2-27 to 1-21.
There was heartache too for Ulster Junior Hurling Club champions Craobh Rua who surrendered in a penalty shoot-out to Fullen Gaels in the All-Ireland Twinning Final in Birmingham.
The Camlough outfit had looked comfortable when they led by 2-3 to 0-3 with Fionnan Burns and Ryan Lewis grabbing their goals, but when their opponents transformed this into a 2-5 to 2-4 interval lead things began to look ominous.
The sides finished level at 2-10 each after extra-time but Craobh Rua endured the heartbreak of missing crucial penalties in the shoot-out and that cost them dearly.
Armagh, meanwhile, rapped out a defiant message in the Conor McGurk Cup by beating Louth by 1-26 to 0-14.
The Orchard County led by 0-11 to 0-7 at the interval, but when Eoin McGuinness plundered the only goal of the game this proved the signal for Ryan Gaffney, Dylan McKenna and Dean Gaffney to usher the side home.
Down strengthened their role as favourites to lift the Conor McGurk Cup when they glided comfortably past Queen’s University by 2-22 to 1-14.
Having built up a 2-13 to 0-8 interval lead with their goals coming from a Marc Fisher penalty and Daithi Sands, the Mourne side closed the game out efficiently in the second-half with Oisin McManus, Barry Traainor and Owen McDermott sharing in their points haul.
The Antrim under-20 side tasted defeat for the second time in a few days in the same competition when they fell to Donegal by 5-17 to 1-9.
Donegal were quickly into their stride and with their attack carrying considerable menace, Antrim had no answer to their overall pace and finishing power.