The Saffrons were playing their fifth game in six weeks and tired visibly in the closing stages, although the 60th minute dismissal of Eoghan Campbell on a straight red card for a reckless challenge on Keith Rossiter contributed too.
Wexford did impress though, while the game was a contest, and if they didn’t fully shake off their gritty opponents until the final quarter, their movement, directness and pace was always too much.
“Three goals in 10 or 12 minutes, it was very hard for Antrim to come back from that” agreed Wexford manager, Liam Dunne.
“Some days it goes for you, some day it doesn’t. We didn’t target their full-back line to be honest, the opportunities came for the lads and they took them. Antrim then played a sweeper which didn’t give us as many chances but you’re sort of robbing Peter to pay Paul when you do that as well.”
Antrim boss, Kevin Ryan felt that he might have adopted the tactic earlier.
“We started so poor but kept battling, kept trying to play the game, get a few scores to keep us in it. At half time we were content enough that at least we were back in the game.
“I kind of blame ourselves a little bit for not going with a sweeper from the start against the breeze but we were trying to play our own type of game. It was too late when we done it. I thought from about the 10th minute of the first half until half time, we probably won that period.”
With Wexford getting through for three-pointers so easily though, it was always going to be Dunne’s men progressing to a semi-final clash with champions, Dublin.
Wexford went goal crazy as they secured a home Leinster championship semi-final against champions Dublin.
While Dunne went with a very young side, only seven of which played in the narrow qualifier loss to Clare last year, it was veteran Rory Jacob who gave Wexford the dream start with two goals in four minutes.
The first came as he raced onto a long ball by Rossiter and gave Chris O’Connell no chance for the game’s opening score.
The second arrived two minutes later as O’Connell made a brilliant save from Liam Óg McGovern but Jacob was on hand to sweep home from close range.
Conor McDonald smashed another rebound beyond O’Connell in the 12th minute, after Jack Guiney’s 20m free had been stopped, but with Neil McManus and Conor McCann doing well from play and Paul Shiels converting four frees, Antrim remained in touch, trailing by 3-9 to 0-10 at the interval.
They had a strong wind in their favour in the second half too but McDonald and McGovern added to Wexford’s goal tally in the second-half.
McManus and McCann kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Saffrons, while substitute Darren Hamill contributed four points from play in 18 minutes of action but Wexford were always in control.
“I had an 18-year-old (Liam Ryan) who scored a point from corner-back in the first half,” said Dunne afterwards, emphasising his preference for youth this summer.
“We had two minors from last year and we’ve another two on the extended panel and only seven of the team that played against Clare last year started today so we’ve a lot of young players. But those Dublin fellas won’t mind if they’re 18 or 20.
“We have them at home....it’s going to be a great occasion in Wexford Park.”
Scorers for Wexford: C McDonald, R Jacob 2-2 each; P Morris 0-6(5fs); P Doran 0-3; L Óg McGovern 1-0; I Byrne 0-2; J Guiney, L Ryan, L Chin (f), G Sinnott 0-1 each
Scorers for Antrim: P Shiels 0-6(fs); N McManus 0-5; C McCann, D Hamill 0-4 each; Conor Johnson, PJ O’Connell 0-1 each
Subs for Wexford: D Redmond for Kenny (ht), R Kehoe for Chin (59), PJ Nolan for O’Keeffe (59), I Byrne for Guiney (61), G Sinnott for Nolan blood (63-64), Sinnott for Doran (66).
Subs for Antrim: B McFall for Conor Johnson (41), M Donnelly for Clarke (46), D Hamill for McFadden (52), S McAfee for Carson (58)
Referee: A Kelly (Galway)
Three goals in the first 12 minutes. You don’t come back from that.
How can fixture chiefs justify not giving the round-robin qualifiers a two week break before their quarter-final?
Antrim substitute Darren Hamill only entered the fray in the 52nd minute but still managed to score four points – from wing-back.
Conor McDonald was excellent at full-forward for Wexford. Neil McManus hit five points from play for Antrim.
Wexford’s directness and quick movement certainly paid dividends, while Kevin Ryan rued not adopting a sweeper tactic from the start.
Alan Kelly didn’t have much option with the red card but appeared to have backed out of sending the already-booked Lee Chin marching earlier.
A Leinster semi-final for Wexford on June 14 against Dublin at Wexford Park, while Antrim will play in the first-round qualifiers on June 28/29.