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Aaron Graffin injury adds to sorry Antrim's woes

Westmeath 1-21 Antrim 0-07

By John Fallon

Antrim boss Kevin Ryan said his side's collapse in Mullingar was inexplicable after the high of getting their first win the previous week, with a serious injury to defender Aaron Graffin compounding matters.

The Saffrons' hopes of advancing in the Leinster SHC nosedived in the wind and rain at Cusack Park and their final pool game against Carlow will be more about avoiding relegation to the Christy Ring Cup than setting up a provincial quarter-final date.

Ryan did not offer the dreadful weather as an excuse but, in fairness, they suffered a huge blow when defender Graffin was stretchered off with a serious knee injury in the opening minutes.

"I didn't think at the time it would upset us really but it did, it knocked fellas back a bit," said Ryan.

His men recovered from the loss of Graffin and points from Eoghan Campbell and Paul Shiels make it 0-3 to 0-2 after 22 minutes.

However, Westmeath took over and with Shane Power superb in defence, Antrim didn't score again in the opening half.

And at the other end Westmeath opened their shoulders and pulled away, hitting seven points in a blistering nine-minute spell which left Antrim reeling.

But the key score came shortly before the break when Robbie Greville sent O'Brien through and he set up Devine for a fine goal.

That sent Westmeath in leading by 1-13 to 0-2 at the break and there was no way back for Antrim, even though Ciaran Clarke got the opening score after the restart.

"Everything going into it was so good. Everyone training all the week, very serious and absolutely flying and everything right up to the start and I don't know I just cannot put a finger on it.

"I thought we had turned that corner and we had to an extent, everything was good and feeling good and everyone was very serious. There was never a word of complacency or anything like it, it is just unexplainable how a lot of us didn't show up," added Ryan.

Antrim just never had the penetration to get in for the goal which might have ignited a comeback.

Ciaran Johnson looked sharp when introduced and he picked off a couple of points but Neil McManus limped off and is a doubt for the clash with Carlow.

"We don't know the extent of it, we think he twisted his knee as well," added Ryan.

"It'll be a serious blow as well if he is not right for two weeks but we don't know it's a case of seeing where that is in the morning."

Michael Ryan admitted they did not expect to have it so easy against Antrim, not least after their win over Laois.

"I suppose it was a bit easier than we thought it would be but we got off to a good start and the injury upset Antrim early on but the attitude of players here today was fantastic," said Ryan.

WESTMEATH: Shane McGovern; Shane Power, Tommy Doyle, Gary Greville; Aaron Craig, Aonghus Clarke, Alan McGrath; Eoin Price, Cormac Boyle (0-2); Niall O'Brien (0-8, 0-5f), Derek McNicholas (0-3, 0-1 sl), Robbie Greville (0-4); Alan Devine (1-3), Brendan Murtagh (0-1), Darragh Clinton. Subs: Emmett Corrigan for Clinton (52 mins), Joe Clarke for McGrath (54 mins), Joey Boyle for McNicholas (58 mins), Liam Varley for G Greville (62 mins), Michael Daly for Murtagh (63 mins).

ANTRIM: Chris O'Connell; Odhran McFadden, John Dillon, Paul Shiels (0-2, 0-1f); Simon McCrory, Conor McKinley, Arron Graffin; Michael Bradley, Neal McAuley; Ryan McCambridge, Neil McManus, Eoghan Campbell (0-1); Ciaran Clarke (0-2, 0-2f), Conor Johnson, Dessie McClean. Subs: Daniel McKieran for Graffin (13 mins), Conor Carson for McClean (22 mins), Ciaran Johnson (0-2) for Campbell (35 mins), Tomas McCann for McManus (51 mins), Matthew Donnelly for Clarke (60 mins).

Yellow cards: Westmeath - Yellow cards: A Clarke 34, D McNicholas 35, S Power 54, J Clarke 62; Antrim - C Carson 39, N McManus 44, M Bradley 69.

Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)

Attendance: 1,284

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