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Antrim defeat Westmeath in Leinster SHC opener

Two goals from Neil McManus pushed the Saffrons past the preliminary round in Leinster

Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Antrim 3-18

Westmeath 2-13

TWO GOALS FROM Neil McManus proved the difference for Antrim in in the year’s first Championship match in either code.

The Saffrons romped home with a 3-15 to 2-12 win over 14-man Westmeath in the preliminary round of the Leinster SHC in Cusack Park.

And had it not been for a Tommy Doyle goal with two minutes to play the Ulster county’s winning margin could well have been in double figures.

With a slight breeze against them in the first half, Antrim flew out of the traps and had four points on the board to Westmeath’s one before Niall O’Brien leveled the game with a well taken goal for the Lake County.

The visitors hit back almost instantly, with McManus on target to make the score 1-4 to 1-2 in favour of the Ulster county before Westmeath found scoring form with three unanswered points to give them the lead.

In a close fought half, Derek McNicholas’ points came at a vital time for the hosts as Antrim struggled to regain parit and they had to settle for a 1-9 to 1-7 half time scoreline in the midlands side’s favour.

Against the wind, Westmeath blazed out of the traps and extended their lead. It could even have been doubled had a smart save not turned a fierce shot over the bar instead of into the net.

Turning point

That moment proved a turning point as Antrim went straight up the other end and won a penalty which McManus converted with a thunderous finish.

Once Jackson McGreevy leveled the tie at 2-8 to 1-11 all the momentum seemed to belong to Antrim and they duly provided the game’s next four points before Conor Carson’s goal and a second yellow for Westmeath’s McNicholas looked to put the result beyond doubt.

The hosts refused to give up and managed to stem the flow before narrowing the gap with Doyle’s goal. However, the Saffrons were able to pick off their scores in response to keep on course for a meeting with Laois in the Leinster SHC first round proper on Saturday 18 May.

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Sean Farrell

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