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Bradley blasts the bookies as Saffrons shine

By John Martin

Super sub Deaglan O’Hagan was the Antrim hero after he came off the bench to fire over a late, late winner as the Saffrons sealed a historic championship win over Galway at Casement Park.

Not only was it Antrim’s first ever championship win over the Tribesmen it was only their second defeat of Galway in all competitions.

Indeed Antrim’s only previous win against the Westerners came in a league encounter way back in 1996.

But for Antrim and manager Liam Bradley, all that matters now is that they are in the draw for round three of the SFC qualifiers.

“This is a big, big scalp for us, but there was no way were we |3-1 underdogs against Galway,” said Bradley.

“Ourselves and Sligo would be on a par and we knew if Sligo were able to turn Galway over we’d be capable of turning them over too.

“It was a travesty that we got beaten (against Monaghan in the Ulster championship) and when other guys were jumping on planes and heading off to Boston and places like that, we had 35 boys at training on the Tuesday night, so the belief was always there that we could go far in the qualifiers.

“We knew going in today that we weren't going to be far away.

“We had to take a scalp. We're knocking on the door this last three or four years, coming close against Kerry and Kildare. It was always going to come right for us and this was perfectly set up for us for a big hit.''

Bradley set up a defensive formation, bringing centre half forward Mark Sweeney back to rove between the full back and half back lines as the Saffrons sought to hit Galway on the break.

It was Bradley’s side that opened the scoring, with a Tomas McCann free edging the Saffrons ahead.

A Mark Hehir free levelled matters to set the tone for a half that ended with the visitors one point to the good, leading 0-5 to 0-4 at the break.

James Loughery levelled just after the restart and two superb efforts from Michael McCann had Antrim ahead 0-7 to 0-5, but a Hehir free and a Gary O’Donnell point from play had the game level again.

Antrim defender Kevin O’Boyle somehow stopped a Michael Meehan goalbound effort and with Galway adding points through Doherty and Padraig Joyce, it looked as if the Tribesmen had done enough.

The Saffrons still had something left in the tank though and that showed in what turned out to be a rousing finish to an absorbing game.

As the clock ticked down Antrim bounced back and trailed by the minimum when Joyce converted a close-in free, but two late points from Tomas McCann and another from O’Hagan sealed Antrim’s place in the next round of the qualifiers.

“We always knew coming here that it was going to be difficult,” said Galway boss Alan Mulholland.

“A lot of people underestimate Antrim, but we knew what we were getting ourselves into and what type of game we were going to be confronted with.

“It’s very hard to try and play football against that type of shape, but more and more teams are playing that kind of game nowadays.

“It looks like you're not getting going, but what's the alternative? To kick the ball to an Antrim lad in the full-back line?

“We have no excuses. We had our eyes open that we'd have to confront that type of game and unfortunately we weren't able to break them down.

“I have no problem with the players or how the played. We were a point up approaching injury time and if we’d won, I’d be leaving Casement Park delighted, but instead we're very disappointed with the result and now that’s the end to our summer.''

Antrim: C Kerr; A Healey, R Johnston, K O’Boyle; T Scullion, J Crozier, J Loughery (0-1); M McCann (0-2), O Gallagher (0-1); C Murray, M Sweeney, C Kelly (0-1); T McCann (0-4 2f), M Magill, M Johnston. Subs: A Gallagher (0-1) for C Kelly, M Magill for O Gallagher, M Armstrong for C Murray, D O’Hagan (0-1) for A Healey.

Galway: A Faherty; K Kelly, F Hanley, J Dunne; G Bradshaw, G O’Donnell (0-1), T Fahy; J Bergin, F O Curraoin; G Sice, S Armstrong, C Doherty (0-1); M Meehan (0-1f), P Conroy (0-1), M Hehir (0-4f). Subs: D Cummins for S Armstrong, T Flynn for J Bergin, K McGrath for T Fahy, P Joyce (0-2, 1f) for M Hehir, G Sweeney for C Doherty.

Referee: D Fahy (Longford).

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