Allianz FL D3: Wins for Antrim. Down, Westmeath and Clare:
Sunday 28th January
Allianz Football League Division Three Results
WESTMEATH 1-11 OFFALY 1-10
CLARE 0-9 SLIGO 1-5
DOWN 0-18 WICKLOW 0-13
ANTRIM 2-14 LIMERICK 2-7
Down, Westmeath and Antrim all picked up crucial wins on their travels while Aaron Griffin’s stoppage time winner in Ennis ensured that the Banner County eventually overcame 13-man Sligo to give Mark Fitzgerald a win in his first game in charge of the team.
It was a revamped Clare side that welcomed newly-promoted Sligo to Cusack Park, with just five of the team that started last year’s Munster football final on the pitch when Conor Lane threw in the ball.
A swirling, tricky breeze blew down the ground and eventually Clare figured out how to use it. Pat Spillane and Niall Murphy nudged Sligo a point in front after ten minutes, but Dermot Coughlan and Aaron Griffin got the best of the scores as Clare led by 0-6 to 0-2 at the interval.
Griffin’s black card and a Seán Carrabine goal put Sligo on the front foot, but a needless red card for Luke Towey stalled their momentum. Three scores in a row put them back in front, but a second red card for Paul Kilcoyne gave Clare two extra men for the closing minutes, which eventually they put to good use.
Westmeath had a very short trip down the N52 to take on Offaly, and they continued their good run in this local rivalry by picking up a four point win, meaning that the Faithful County have now just one of the last ten league and championship meetings between these sides.
Declan Kelly’s men started well enough into a diagonal breeze, moving 0-3 to 0-2 ahead, but a save from Jason Daly to deny John Furlong ushered in a spell of real Westmeath dominance, and after Senan Baker goaled on the next attack, the Lake County kicked on to lead by 1-8 to 0-5 at half time.
Jordan Hayes, Anton Sullivan and Cian Farrell were all on target as Offaly halved the gap by the midway point of the second half, but neither side finished well in the closing stages, with Offaly adding a string of bad wides while the only other score – a point from Luke Loughlin – really should have been a goal.
Arguably the best performance of the day was from table-toppers Antrim at Mick Neville Park in Rathkeale, where they dominated the first half and then came strong in the final quarter to beat a lively and dangerous Limerick side.
Dominic McEnhill’s first half penalty helped the Saffrons to an eight-point lead at the break, and at that stage Andy McEntee’s men were in complete control. It all changed after the break however, as first Iain Corbett and then Tommie Childs raised green flags for the home side.
They couldn’t quite get their noses in front however, and less than a minute after Tommie Childs’ scored, Rúairí McCann (Creggan) replied in kind. Antrim always looked that bit more potent up front, with seven different players getting on the scoresheet in total, McEnhill leading the way with a total of 1-6.
At Aughrim, Wicklow put themselves in a position where what would have been one of the biggest upsets of the weekend was very much on the table with 35 minutes played, as they trailed by just three points (0-10 to 0-7) when they turned around to play with the aid of a strong breeze.
Down were simply unstoppable for the next ten minutes however, as they effectively won the tie with four sublime points from play, a brace from Pat Havern sandwiched in between wonderful strikes from Pierce Laverty and Rory Mason.
0-14 to 0-7 became 0-17 to 0-9 before Wicklow reduced the impact of the defeat from a scoring difference perspective, firing over four of the last five scores. Oisín McConville will also take heart from a very competitive opening half, where his charges conceded the first three points and missed three goal chances, but still left themselves within punching distance.
Daniel Guinness, Odhrán Murdock and Liam Kerr all put in big showings in the crucial diamond sector, while five points from play for Pat Havern were also encouraging for the 2023 Tailteann Cup finalists.