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Antrim 1-16 London 0-17

5th March 2019

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Allianz National Hurling League Division 2A

Antrim 1-16 London 0-17

By John McIlwaine

A goal by team captain Conor McCann thirteen minutes into the second half was the vital score that got Antrim over the line against London in Sunday’s NHL Division 2A game at Corrigan Park, Belfast. Trailing by three at the break (0-7 to 0-10) Antrim appeared to be getting a grip on the game when they started the second half in a more positive manner. They had drawn level with four points from James McNaughton (2), Conor McCann and Ciaran Clarke and when McCann was put clear by Clarke for a brilliant goal the Saffrons finally looked like they were getting a grip on the game. However they failed to push on, and though they never really looked like losing the game they never had full control of matters on a day when they lacked any real spark.


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Left half back Conor McHugh looks for a team mate as London's Stephen Logan challenges. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine

Left half back Conor McHugh looks for a team mate as London's Stephen Logan challenges. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine

London will feel aggrieved at not taking anything out of the game. They were on top for most of the first half and despite having corner forward Lee Murphy sent off, they had the chances to be further ahead at the break. However they relied too much on their free taker Aaron Sheehan who accounted for all but one of his team’s 17 points. The Cork man was in superb form from placed balls, sending scores over from all distances and angles and really did not deserve to be on the losing side. He was the main threat throughout the game and had it not been for his team mate inadvertently blocking a goal bound shot on the edge of the Antrim square then the story of the day could have been very different.

It was clear from the throw-in that Antrim were not at the level we have seen in some of their previous games, but they still managed to take an early lead as Ryan McCambridge and James McNaughton sent over early points. Sheehan got the first of his haul of points in the seventh minute from a free and they could have been level but for some wayward shooting. The closed the gap to a single point on fourteen minutes when Sheehan again split the Antrim posts from a free. James McNaughton ended a ten minute scoreless spell for the home team with a pointed free in the seventeenth minute, but London were getting on top and three more Sheehan points from frees put the Exiles in front by the 22nd minute. A fine solo score from Neil McManus, and another from a James McNaughton free, briefly gave Antrim back the lead, but final ten minutes of the half belonged to the visitors and four more Sheehan points and one from half-back Sean Conlon helped them to a 0-10 to 0-07 half time lead, despite having corner back Lee Murphy somewhat surprisingly sent for what apparently was an off the ball incident.


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Neil McManus wins possession as London's Jessie Kennedy challenges. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine

Neil McManus wins possession as London's Jessie Kennedy challenges. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine

London stretched their lead to four when Sheehan got his first point from play early in the second half, but Antrim responded well as James McNaughon, Conor McCann, substitute Ciaran Clarke and McNaughton again sent over to tie the game up by the 47th minute. Sheehan edged London back in front with another pointed free and was very unlucky to see his ground shot for goal hitting team mate Tadhg Healy on the back on the edge of the Antrim ‘square’. Antrim needed a lift and they got it soon afterwards when Ciaran Clarke popped out a neat little hand-pass to send Conor McCann clear a minute later and the Creggan man made no mistake as he fired in the only goal of the game.


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Antrim's James O'Connell in action against London's Christopher McAlinden. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine

Antrim's James O'Connell in action against London's Christopher McAlinden. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine

When Nicky McKeague sent over a long range free to put Antrim three clear they finally appeared to be gaining a bit of control, but the visitors resistance stayed strong and two more Sheehan points from frees closed the gap to a single point by the sixtieth minute. Second half substitute Sean Duffin proved his worth with two top class points to ease the pressure, but Sheehan kept the scoreboard operator busy as he hit two more from placed balls though they never created any of the goal chances they needed to steal a late victory.


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London's Aaron Sheehan who scored 15 of his team's 17 points in their defeat to Antrim at Corrigan Park. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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Antrim's Eoin O'Neill is challenged by London's Feargal Collins. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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Conor Patterson, who started in place of regular full back John Dillon, clears from the Antrim defence. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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Antrim midfielder Donal McKinley is challenged by London's Garrett Lenighan. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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Neil McManus keeps his eye on the ball during Antrim's win over London at Corrigan Park. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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A major moment in the game as London's Lee Murphy gets a straight red card from match referee Justin Heffernan late in the first half. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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Aaron Shanahan's shot at goal hits the back on his team mate Tadgh Healy an incident which proved a real let-off for Antrim. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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Ciaran Clarke holds off the challenge of two London opponents as Matthew Donnelly lends his support. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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Ciaran Clarke pops a clever hand-pass out to Conor McCann to set the Creggan man up for what turned out to be the match winning goal. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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Conor Boyd comes out of defence with the ball as London's Tadhg Healy challenges. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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Antrim's Conor Boyd in action against London's Tadhg Healy


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Antrim's Nicky McKeague in action against London's Garrett Lenihan. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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Ciaran Clarke wins possession as London's Christopher McAlinden closes in. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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Substitute Sean Duffin fires over a late point to keep Antrim's noses in front. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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Antrim's Eoin O'Neill. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine


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London's Jessie Kennedy is closed down by Conor McCann and Eoin O'Neill. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine

SCORERS – Antrim: J McNaughton 0-5, 4f, C McCann 1-1, R McCambridge, S Duffin, C Clarke, 0-2 each, N McKeague (f), N McManus, E O’Neill, J Dillon 0-1 each. London: A Sheehan 0-16, 14f, 0-1 ‘65’, S Conlon 0-1.

TEAMS – Antrim: R Elliott; S Rooney, C Patterson, P Duffin; C Boyd, M Donnelly, C McHugh; D McKinley, N McKeague; N McManus, J McNaughton, R McCambridge, E O’Neill, C McCann, J O’Connell

Subs: C Clarke for J O’Connell (ht), D Kearney for C McHugh (45), J Dillon for D McKinley (52), S Duffin for J McNaughton (62), C Laverty for R McCambridge (74)

London: M Burke; C McAlinden, P Muldoon, L Murphy; T Healy, G Lenehin, B Hickey; F Collins, J Kennedy; S Lohan, C Nelson, M O’Dwyer; A Sheehan, S Lawless, S Conlon

Subs: A Curtin for C Nelson (67)


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