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‘Fitzy’ fires Saffrons to second league victory

Antrim’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, who scored 2-3 for his side, solos clear of Wicklow’s Shane Mooney during Saturday’s 11-point win for the Saffrons at Corrigan Park Antrim’s Matthew Fitzpatrick, who scored 2-3 for his side, solos clear of Wicklow’s Shane Mooney during Saturday’s 11-point win for the Saffrons at Corrigan Park
By Paddy Tierney

Allianz Football League
Antrim 2-15 Wicklow 0-10
From Paddy Tierney at Corrigan Park

A BRILLIANT 2-3 haul from Matthew Fitzpatrick helped Antrim seal their second victory in Division Four as they defeated Wicklow by 11 points in Corrigan Park on Saturday.
Playing on his home turf, the St John’s ace roved between the middle third and full-forward throughout and Wicklow’s failure to track his runs proved their undoing as Fitzgerald bagged two second half goals to move the Saffrons into fifth place in the Division Four standings.
Of course, Antrim started the season with ambitions of securing a return to Division Three, yet narrow defeats to Derry, Leitrim and Waterford left them stranded at the wrong end of the table.
All in all, this was a thoroughly convincing win for the Saffrons, but it led their manager Lenny Harbinson to ponder what might have been had they played this way throughout the League campaign.
“I didn’t think the league table was a true reflection of the performances his team have put in,” said Harbinson.
“From a management point of view, we knew there was much more within this panel and this afternoon was probably the first time we’ve put a solid first half showing together with a really good, expansive display in the second half.
“There was probably a lack of confidence having lost out in three games by a point.
“I don’t like to harp on about the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘maybes’ but when you are managing, you are looking for hints at how the team are performing. We were aware of the capabilities of the team and today they delivered on their potential.”
The Saffrons played with the aid of a strong wind at the West Belfast venue, but they needed an injury-time free from Ryan Murray to give them a 0-7 to 0-6 lead at the break.
Indeed it was Wicklow who made the brighter start to the game landing points from Anthony McLoughlin and Patrick O’Connor, who were late additions to the starting 15, as well as a well-worked Conor McGraynor score to lead 0-3 to 0-1 with Murray on target for Antrim.
The home side tied the game before Wicklow kicked three clear again while Antrim were indebted to Paddy Gallagher for making a great clearance to prevent O’Connor from finding the net midway through the half.
That seemed to spur Antrim on and they finished the half on top with Fitzpatrick, Odhran Eastwood and Murray all finding the target before the Lámh Dhearg clubman edged his side in front at the break.
Antrim cut loose in the second half, scoring 1-3 inside the opening 10 minutes of the half to effectively seal the victory with Fitzpatrick beating Robert Lambert with a fine finish following a couple of excellent kick passes from Kevin Quinn and substitute Eoin Nagle.
The St Enda’s attacker also chipped in with two points in a fine showing while St John’s ace Fitzpatrick played a neat two-one with Murray to get in for his second goal.
The Garden County were forced to play the last 10 minutes with 14 men following a black card issued to midfielder Dean Healy for a foul on Martin Johnston, but they finished with a brilliant free from Lambert, who used the wind to split the posts from over 50 metres.
Wicklow boss John Evans felt his side paid the price for a series of missed chances before the break.
“I wasn’t happy at half-time to be honest because we’d left at least 1-4 behind us in the first half,” said Evans.
“Some of them were very handy chances. I didn’t think the wind would effect the game too much and both teams played very well against the wind.
“I think the scores Antrim got before half-time from our mistakes, simple passing errors, really gave them the momentum going into the second half. They came out in the second half and everything they touched turned to gold. They were running off the shoulder, supporting each other and their shots all seemed to go over for them.
“We have to dust ourselves down and go again. We’ve one more game left (against London) and we’ve to try and get to the win to restore from energy back into the team.”

ANTRIM: P Nugent; P McCormack (0-1), P Gallagher, J McAuley, N Delargy, M McCarry, D Lynch (0-1); M Fitzpatrick (2-3), M Johnston; K Quinn (0-1, S Beatty, P McBride; C Duffin, O Eastwood (0-1), R Murray (0-6, 0-5fs).
Subs: E Walsh for McCarry (26mins, E Nagle (0-2) for Eastwood (HT), F Burke for Duffin (62mins), R McCann for McBride (66mis).

WICKLOW: R Lambert (0-1, 0-1f); E Murtagh, R O’Brien, J Snell; D Devereaux, S Mooney, D Fitzgerald; D Healy, P O’Toole; D Hayden, C McGraynor (0-2, 0-1f), T Smith; M Kenny (0-1), A McLoughlin (0-3, 0-3fs), P O’Connor (0-2).
Subs: C O’Brien (0-1) for McLoughlin (55mins), G Murphy for Kenny (55mins), F O’Shea for McGraynor (66mins), S Duffy for Hayden (68mins).

REFEREE: D Mullan (Derry)

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