Antrim fall to Wexford despite leading for 58 minutes
12th February 2024
LIDL National League Division 3 Round 3
Wexford 1-3 Antrim 0-5 (Referee: Justin Murphy - Cork)
With five minutes to go, this was going to be a very different match report. This was going to be a match report about how a heavily depleted Antrim side held off Division 3 and Intermediate Championship regulars Wexford for 60 minutes, leading the whole time and playing half that time with 14 players.
Indeed, that is what happened. Antrim had led from the first minute when Maria O’Neill, back in Saffron for the first time this year pointed to put the visitors in front. Lara Dahunsi doubled that lead and it would be nearly 20 minutes before Wexford’s Tara Doyle would open the home side’s account.
Antrim controlled the space well inside their own 45, which forced Wexford to shoot from distance. The result was the home side registering 11 wides in the first period. When Antrim broke out they did so with pace, and they were perhaps unlucky not to stretch their lead in the first period. Dahunsi and captain Ciara Brown held the middle of the field particularly well, whilst St Brigid’s Theresa Mellon made good runs out of the defence and up the right side of the pitch.
But Mellon was not to see the second half from the pitch, as she was sent to the line just before the break.
The Ulster girls went in a point to the good at half time (0-2 to 0-1), but reduced to 14 players, with a forced substitution with Niamh McArdle having been withdrawn through injury half way through the opening period.
Antrim started the second period well with the blistering pace of Dahunsi running down the right, kicking into the wind, her shot flew off to the right of the post. Wexford’s poor shooting continued as an errant effort struck the upright and Shauna Murphy made a fine save to deny the attack.
The next ten minutes was very much the Lara Dahunsi Show, with the St Paul’s star adding two from frees and another from play. Another shot could have ended up in the back of the Wexford goal as Dahunsi’s effort fell short but Maria O’Neill just missed by inches as the ball was cleared.
Despite a number of strong tackles from Wexford, it was instead Antrim who were further reduced to 13 when Dahunsi saw yellow, effectively ending her game.
Wexford now used their numerical advantage to press, adding another point, and with just two the difference, they made the killing blow shooting past Murphy. They closed out the game for the last three minutes, retaining possession unchallenged in the middle, even soloing the ball backwards at times.
Emma Kelly’s side now find themselves at the bottom of the division having put in three outstanding performances against the odds. They welcome Down to Belfast next weekend in a game that could be crucial for both side’s survival in the division. Antrim have led at half time in all three completed fixtures this term, but games aren’t won at half time, nor as they found out yesterday at 58 minutes. A big home crowd will be needed to support the Saffron girls as the Mourne Ladies make the short trip across the Lagan.