Dubs bounce back as late Burke point steals victory from Antrim
Dublin 0-23 Antrim 0-22
And for Antrim? “Gut-wrenching,” concluded their joint-manager Dominic McKinley.
There was no masking Pat Gilroy’s delight with the outcome and, just as crucially, the selfless work ethic so beloved of the Dublin boss.
It was, after all, a guiding principle of his previous incarnation with the county footballers and something that was patently absent during their Division 1B baptism of fire, a 13-point collapse to Offaly in Croke Park.
Here’s a shorthand synopsis of how it almost unravelled for the visitors. They led by 0-14 to 0-8 at half-time, and then twice by seven points during the third quarter.
But Antrim hung tough, aided by an inspiring brace apiece from roaming corner-back Arron Graffin and live-wire sub James McNaughton.
Then they summoned up a classy finish incorporating five unanswered points, the last of which was a Neil McManus free – from all of 85 metres – as the clock hit 74 minutes.
For the Antrim metronome, it was his 16th point – an incredible haul that included 11 frees, two 65s and three from play, and looked destined to be the hero.
But referee Justin Heffernan allowed one more play beyond the four extra minutes. Liam Rushe won the puckout and drew the foul that gave Donal Burke a chance to steal back victory from just beyond the 65m line.
“It’s hugely important,” said Gilroy. “Our work-rate, particularly in the first 60 minutes, was excellent. We really worked hard. Our shooting wasn’t what it should have been, we’d far too many easy chances that we missed, but it was very satisfying to get the response from last week.
“They (Antrim) only got beaten by three points against Galway so we were expecting a massive challenge. We were very happy with the response, because last week was terrible in terms of our effort. We couldn’t fault them in that today.”
Antrim led by 0-4 to 0-1 after 10 minutes, McManus landing two huge frees from inside his own 65 on his way to scoring all eight first-half points.
Dublin had a far more democratic spread of scorers once they got going. Five of six forwards, midfielder Cian McBride and wing-back James Madden had all scored from play by the midpoint as a run of seven unanswered points took them from one down to six up.
On his league return, Danny Sutcliffe showed commendable relish for the battle, and Conal Keaney, 35 years young, was even more pivotal to Dublin’s period of dominance.
Meanwhile, after capitalising on Keaney’s clever pass for a point, Paul Ryan took on the placed-ball mantle from Burke and had 0-8 before being replaced by Rushe.
Rushe played as an inside forward rather than in his old half-back haunt. “He hasn’t got much work under his belt and, putting him anywhere else would have been unfair on him. What we were hoping he’d do when he came on, he did,” Gilroy explained.
Never more crucially than when setting up that last-gasp free.
SCORERS – Dublin: P Ryan 0-8 (6f, 1 65), D Burke 0-7 (4f), F Whitely, C Keaney, C McBride 0-2 each, J Madden, D Sutcliffe 0-1 each. Antrim: N McManus 0-16 (11f, 2 ’65s’), A Graffin, J McNaughton 0-2 each, G Walsh, D McCloskey 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: A Nolan 6; P Smyth 8, B O’Carroll 6, E O’Donnell 7; S Barrett 6, C Crummey 7, J Madden 7; C McBride 7, T Connolly 6; D Burke 8, F Whitely 7, D Sutcliffe 7; C Keaney 8, E Dillon 7, P Ryan 7.
Subs: L Rushe 7 for Ryan (51), J McCaffrey 6 for McBride (53), N McMorrow 6 for Connolly (64), P Winters for Dillon (69).
ANTRIM: C O’Connell 6; P Burke 6, J Dillon 6, A Graffin 8; J Maskey 6, M Donnelly 7, D Kearney 6; C McKinley 7, G Walsh 6; N Elliott 6, N McManus 9, J Connolly 6; D McKinley 6, C McCann 6, C Johnston 6. Subs: C Carson 6 for Connolly (inj 8), N McAuley 6 for Maskey (43), J McNaughton 8 for Walsh (45), R McCambridge 6 for McCann (53), D McCloskey 7 for Elliott (63).
REF – J Heffernan (Wexford).