Promotion still the target for Baker, despite loss

By Staff Reporter

BY David Mohan

in Ahoghill

ANTRIM manager Liam Bradley bemoaned the concession of two second half goals as his side slipped to a second defeat in as many games to leave their hopes for promotion from Division Four hanging by a thread.

Leading by four points after 50 minutes, Antrim lost their way somewhat with the introduction of towering full-forward James Stafford who caused havoc – the Rathnew man bagging one goal while he was hauled down for a penalty soon after by Tony Scullion that was dispatched to the net by Leighton Glynn.

That swung momentum in favour of the Garden County who were always able to keep their noses in front to run out winners, but Bradley was left scratching his head as to how his team lost a game they had dominated for the most part despite suffering a nightmare start.

“At half-time we had left ourselves in a position to win the game,” said a bitterly disappointed ‘Baker’ after the game.

“We played very well in the first-half – albeit after a bad start. We went 1-3 to no score down playing into a gale-force wind before we got on the scoreboard.

“Going in at half-time we were quite happy at 1-4 to five points (down) and pushed on in the second half, got a couple of points and were four points up at one stage. But you can’t concede goals at this level like we did with those two at the tail end there. The second they got started in our half-forward line.

“I told them at half-time that if we could target 1-10 then we would win the game. We had five points at half-time and ended up with 1-13 but lost the bloody game because of two bad goals. There lies our downfall and that’s why we were beaten.”

Despite the defeat, Antrim actually had some excellent performances on the day, with Kevin O’Boyle and Niall Delargy putting in good shifts in defence, Mark Sweeney and Mark McAleese putting their bodies on the line countless times to force turnovers and dispossess opponents while in attack, Micky Pollock, Philip Maguire and Tomás McCann showed well – the latter especially who chipped in with 1-2 including a magnificent goal.

However, the star on show was undoubtedly CJ McGourty. The St Gall’s man finished with seven points – six from play – in an almost flawless performance. The only dark spot was his second-half penalty that was saved by Robert Lambert in what was one of several breaks the visitors benefitted from in the closing stages.

“I couldn’t fault the effort of any man – they played the shirt off their back,” offered Bradley.

“People have talked about our forwards before, well we had four different scorers out there today – Tomás McCann, CJ McGourty, Micky Pollock and Niall McKeever. Ryan Murray came on and got a point as well, so we certainly have decent enough forwards. The problem today was the goals conceded.

“Probably the turning point in the game was when we got our penalty. The ‘keeper made a save from CJ when nine times out of 10, he puts them away.

“At the end, every break seemed to bounce for Wicklow. Maybe we were trying too hard to get a couple of points but that’s the way it goes. We are disappointed, but we know there is more to come from that team.”

The National Football League does not resume for Antrim now until March 2 when Waterford are the visitors, so this gives the Saffrons plenty of time to work on what has gone wrong as-well-as allowing injuries to some key players including Sean McVeigh to clear up.

With two draws in the other Division Four games at the weekend (Carlow v London was postponed), there is still a glimmer of hope for Antrim, but they know nothing less than five wins from five will do if Antrim are to have any chance of winning promotion.

“Now I suppose you are depending on teams beating each other,” admitted Bradley.

“All we can do is to keep going, keep working and keep fighting. We showed there today that we have the nucleus of a half-decent team and there is still a lot of boys to come into that side.

“We knew at the start of the year it was going to be hard to get out of this division, because there are some very decent teams in there. If you take the top five or six teams in the country, the rest can beat each other on their day no matter what division they are in.”

 

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