Liam Dunne’s young charges were denied a much sought after morale boosting league win by a strong, skilful and confident Antrim team. Wexford started really brightly and when Eoin Quigley was on the end of a trademark run to slot the ball past the Antrim keeper, putting Wexford up 1-03 to 0-02, it looked as though Wexford were in control of the game. However the Wexford goal only seemed to spur the Safrons into life and on the 19th minute they struck for their first goal of the day moving them two points ahead of the visitors. The goal which emboldened Antrim seemed to deflate Wexford who lost their shape and purpose and as a result the evitable happened when Antrim scored a second goal.
Wexford battled hard and won a penalty but this was saved, our luck was not in! By this stage Wexford were you could feel, willing half time to arrive, but before this respite Antrim were in for their third goal of the half, Wexford were in shambles. The goals came in the main from Wexford mistakes and worryingly every time the Antrim attackers ran at us our backs parted like Moses parted the Red Sea! It was a shell shocked Wexford that trooped off at half time on a scoreline of 1-07 to 3-09.
Wexford started the second half with three changes, with Rory Jacob, Paul Morris and Jim Berry all making their entrance. Jacob in corner forward looked lively and certainly sharpened the Wexford threat and both he and Jim Berry were soon on the score sheet. Berry won a number of balls in the half forward line but his influence faded again as the game progressed. Wexford pressed hard and had Antrim on the rack for a time, and had a number of goal chances which were narrowly missed (including an 21 meter free). With 10 minutes of the game to go Wexford trailed by 1-13 to 3-15, goals were required if Wexford were to avoid defeat.
With his last throw of the dice, Liam Dunne sprung 2011 minor Jack Guiney who straight away made an impact adding some aerial threat to our attack. It was from a ball won by Guiney that Wexford’s second goal came when he cleverly passed the ball to Eoin Quigley who shot through a group of Antrim players. With the score line Wexford 2-14 to 3-16 we were in for an exciting finale. Wexford pushed as they sought another goal but Antrim were not going to buckle and at Full Time the score was Wexford 2-15 to Antrim 3-18.
A disappointing day for Wexford which clearly demonstrated the challenge that the new management team face. There are however no quick fixes, this young team will mature and needs to be given time to do so. A number of the new faces impressed including the two corner backs. Eoin Quigley who was busy, contributed two important goals and looked fresh and is certain to improve with match practice.
The big weakness was the half forward line’s inability to win primary possession, an ongoing problem for Wexford for over a decade. Richie Kehoe did add some physicality but was withdrawn at half time. Another worry was the tendency to allow Antrim run at the goal unchallenged and this could have resulted even more goals than it did.
Wexford’s next game is in two weeks time on Sunday 11th March, at home in Wexford Park to an Offaly side who won well today. Wexford have much to consider, lots to improve and build upon but Liam Dunne is surely the right man to turn this around. The attitude was good overall and bar a short period when they lost their way the team battled and fought bravely.
Lots done more to do, but youth needs to be given time. So patience is required but we are on the right track.
ANTRIM: C O’Connell; A Graffin, C Donnelly, K McGourty; N McAuley (0-1), N McManus (0-2, frees), S McCrory; K Stewart (1-3), B McFall; S McLaughlin, M Herron (0-2), C McFall; S McNaughton (1-7, 0-6 frees), K Sheerin (1-0), PJ O’Connell (0-3). Subs: KB McShane for Sheerin (52 mins).
WEXFORD: E Martin; B Kenny, M O’Hanlon, B Kehoe; D Stamp, K Rossiter, C Kenny; E Quigley (2-0), J Leacy; R Kehoe (0-1), D O’Keefe, PJ Nolan (0-1), T O’Leary (0-2), G Sinnott (0-2), G Moore (0-2, frees). Subs: P Morris (0-2, 0-1 free) for R Kehoe (half-time), J Berry (0-2, frees) for Leacy (half-time), R Jacobs (0-2) for Moore (half-time), S Murphy (0-1) for O’Leary (54 mins), J Guiney for O’Keefe (61 mins).
Referee: E Hasson (Derry).