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Antrim Kevin Ryan comes under fire after departure

Antrim 1-08 Wexford 1-20

By Jackie Cahill

Departing Antrim manager Kevin Ryan had predicted a "massive hiding" for his charges ahead of Saturday's All-Ireland U21 hurling semi-final.

It never truly materialised but he was accused of negativity in the wake of the 12-point defeat to Wexford at Semple Stadium.

Operating in containment mode, Antrim deployed wing-forwards Maoi Connolly and Michael Dudley as sweepers.

It meant they were never going to win the game but on the flipside, they wouldn't be massively disgraced either - and Slaneyside boss JJ Doyle wasn't impressed by what he witnessed

Doyle remarked: "It was probably the most negative game I have ever seen. We knew it would be defensive, but we didn't think it would be that defensive.

"We were playing ball down the middle when we had spoken about not doing that. They are young, they will learn. They are not overly happy which is a great sign after winning an All-Ireland semi-final by 12 points."

Two years ago, Antrim stunned Wexford in the All-Ireland U21 semi-final but the respective paths of the two counties have since veered in different directions.

The Saffrons trailed by 0-3 to 0-8 at half-time before Conor McDonald's magnificent reverse hand pass opened up the Antrim defence and allowed Conor Devitt to score a 34th-minute goal.

From there until the finish, this game was a procession but Christy McNaughton, who, to his credit, kept plugging away, nipped in for an Antrim goal with nine minutes left.

It may have been token resistance but the Saffrons refused to wave the white flag and be annihilated, even though there was always the feeling that Wexford were operating in second gear.

There was, however, another sting for Antrim late on when Damon McMullan was dismissed for a second bookable offence.

ANTRIM: C Heyden; T Ó'Ciaráin, T Burns, D O'Hara; G Walsh, E Campbell (0-2), R McCambridge (0-1); J Connolly, D McMullan (0-1); M Connolly (0-1), C McNaughton (1-2, 0-2f), M Dudley; P McBride, S McCaughan (0-1f), J O'Connell. Subs: C Ross for J Connolly (43), D Traynor for McBride (47), D Murphy for O'Connell (50).

WEXFORD: O O'Leary; S Donohoe, L Ryan, E Conroy; J White, P Foley (0-1), J O'Connor; C Devitt (1-2), T French (0-3); A Kenny (0-2), K Foley (0-2), J Cash; C Dunbar (0-2), C McDonald (0-7, 4f, 1 65, 1 sl), P Sutton. Subs: J Firman for Cash (49), S Murphy for Sutton (49), S Kelly for A Kenny (53), L McDonald for O'Connor (53), S Kenny (0-1) for K Foley (60).

Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny).

Belfast Telegraph


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