Antrim's promotion bid ends in dire disappointment
Antrim 1-15 Westmeath 1-17
Antrim's hopes of promotion from Division 2A of the National Hurling League were ended at a windy Corrigan Park yesterday as they fell to a two-point defeat to Westmeath who have one foot in the final.
There was no masking the disappointment from those in saffron following the game as they knew they would not be returning to 1B after a disappointing loss where they hit just 1-4 from play over the 70 plus minutes.
"It's very disappointing for us," admitted manager, Neal Peden.
"We came here with great expectations as it was a massive game to stand up and be counted in regards to the National Hurling League. We had chances to push on in the second half and we didn't. When we go back and look at the stats, those are the things we will be saying."
It was a slow start to this game with both teams hitting early wides, but the pattern was soon established with James McNaughton and Alan Devine trading frees before Aonghus Clarke fired over from range.
Three McNaughton frees gave Antrim the edge as he then traded points with Devine fore Nigel Elliott finally shot Antrim's first from play on 23 minutes to make it 0-6 to 0-4, but this was to be their final score of the opening half. Westmeath drew level thanks to a Devine free and a magnificent sideline cut from Derek McNicholas before Devine gave them the lead.
It was to get even better on 34 minutes as Devine got a touch to Robbie Greville's long delivery to find the net, while McNicholas and Devine added points to make it 1-9 to 0-6 at the break.
With the swirling wind at their backs in the second period, Antrim needed a bright start and they got it with McNaughton clipping over a free and then Nigel Elliott senf Keelan Molloy in to flick to the net. McNaughton and Kevin Rice added points, but crucially, Antrim could never get ahead. The visitors rallied with the next three points and this was a lead they were to hold for the majority of the second period as the teams effectively went score-for-score.
Antrim did get to within one with Conor McCann - who had what looked like a good shout for a penalty waved away when hauled back by Tommy Doyle late on - and McNaughton hitting scores, but McNicholas -who earlier clipped over another sideline - landed a monster free. McNaughton had a free that was finally given as a wide deep in added time when it appeared over, but the goal Antrim needed wouldn't come as Westmeath held on for a crucial win.
ANTRIM: R Elliott; S Rooney, J Dillon, P Duffin; M Donnelly, S McCrory, C McHugh; C McCann (0-1), N McKeague; N Elliott (0-1), J McNaughton (0-11, all frees), K Rice (0-1); E O'Neill, K Molloy (1-0), C Clarke. Subs: N McManus (0-1) for K Rice (48), J O'Connell (48), E Campbell for P Duffin (50), D McKinley for N McKeague (52).
WESTMEATH: P Carroll; D Egerton, T Doyle, G Greville; A Craig, A Clarke (0-1), P Greville (0-1); C Boyle, S Clavin (0-2); R Greville, K Doyle (0-2, 1 free), J Boyle; A Devine (1-5, 0-4 frees), D McNicholas (0-5, 2 frees, 2 sidelines), D Clinton. Subs: N Mitchell (0-1) for D Clinton (31), S Power for C Boyle (52), C Doyle for A Devine (56), S McGovern for S Clavin (70+2).
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow).