Posted by Shane Stapleton
Monday 10 June 2013
On another day, the likes of Christopher McGuinness, Conor McManus and Paul Finlay will find their range more easily, and they’ll find out this weekend whether that’s going to be against Cavan or Fermanagh in the Ulster semi-finals. How would you predict it?
That the Farney men also came through the game despite Neil McAdam being sent off for an innocuous-looking second-yellow-card offence in the 39th minute also shows their mettle, though Antrim’s decision to continue playing with Mark Sweeney as a sweeper might have contributed to amassing just 0-6 to 0-11.
The wonder is that some of the country’s “expert” pundits didn’t again call for a manager’s head because of this, with Saffrons boss Frank Dawson making his championship debut on the line. Though he must have feared a repeat of his side’s 3-16 to 0-13 loss in Clones during Division 3 of the league in April.
"We spent the last nine weeks trying to turn around what everyone was telling us was the dismal state of Antrim football," Dawson said after. "People thought we'd get beat by 20 points. Some people wondered why the Ulster Council were even bothering to have a game today."
As for a public outcry, the game wasn’t appealing enough to make Irish TV and so this one was packed away as an “X-rated horror show” by Pat Spillane. That it was but we’ll afford the sides a little slack because of the conditions.
One aspect of football that often irks us, however, is the decision by players to take points when goals are on, particularly because these chances are so often at a premium. Kevin Niblock had a fantastic chance right at the outset to get a goal when he got on the end of a superb pass from Paddy Cunningham but he blasted over.
A three-pointer does so much for a team, and usually it’s exactly what an underdog needs to beat the favourites. All the same, losing Niblock to injury in the first half was a massive blow to the Saffrons.
Looking at the wider picture, Monaghan v Cavan/Fermanagh is on one side of the Ulster draw while Donegal v Down is on the other. The latter feels like it could already be the de facto final, unless one of the trio can find the net with regularity, which is more easily said than done.
One man who knows exactly where he goals are is Wexford’s Ciaran Lyng. He blasted in a beauty from the 20-metre line against Louth to the bottom corner; his decision to even go for it felt like a throwback to some good old days that might never actually have existed.
Wexford’s Ben Brosnan missed nine frees when they played against Dublin at Croke Park last year but the blond bomber was excellent from placed balls in Drogheda, which was hosting its first championship match since 1998.
Speaking of the venue, it was also the last place at which the Model County secured a competitive win, in the league on March 10, when also scoring 2-13.
Louth finished above Wexford in Division 2 of the league, with the latter being relegated, but the formbook went out the window and recent championship form came into the reckoning. During Jason Ryan’s years in charge of the county, the Models have consistently been pushing the big boys in the province while Louth’s 2010 Leinster final run has rarely looked like being matched.
Aidan O’Brien’s side will fancy their chances against Meath or Wicklow in the semi-final, and who could forget the amazing turnaround win over the Royals back in 2008.
Special mention must go to Wexford dual player Lee Chin who made a 400km round trip to play in a Leinster SHC match against Dublin on Saturday evening at 7pm and for the footballers in the Wee County at 3:30pm. Chin played 42 minutes of the drawn hurling clash and 63 of the footballers’ win — not a bad weekend overall.
In an age where dual players such as Eoin Cadogan eventually decide to throw in their lot with one team or the other, it will be interesting to see how long the Model man can keep it up.
With a hurling replay to come this weekend, not to mention a favourable draw if they do fall into the qualifiers (Dublin/Wexford/Antrim v Carlow), and such classy forwards in the football team, it could be a long and hard road for Chin in 2013. More power to him.
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