By Francis Mooney
Antrim 1-17 London 2-7
Paul Shiels shot down London to steer Antrim safely through to the Leinster SHC quarter-finals.
The Dunloy sharpshooter claimed a 1-10 tally to make it three straight wins for the Saffrons, and make sure of their involvement in the business end of the provincial championship, with a game to spare in their Qualifyign Group campaign.
But there were some anxious moments for the Ulster men, after the Exiles, reduced to 14 men, narrowed the gap to two points with less than 15 minutes to play.
Shiels knocked over an early free, but that was quickly cancelled out by Eoin Kelly, who drilled a ’65 between the posts.
The Ulster men established a platform at midfield through Eoin Campbell and Ciaran Johnston, but a misfiring attack shot a rash of wides.
And they were denied by three superb saves from London goalkeeper James Barrett, who rose to the challenge when Shiels was sent clear by Darren Hamill after 10 minutes, turning the shot around a post for a ’56, which Shiels converted.
The Dunloy man continued to hit the target, with wing back Neil McManus also floating over a quality point, as the Saffrons moved into a 0-6 to 0-2 by the 20th minute.
But London grew in confidence as the half progressed, and clawed their way bak with scores by Peter Phelan, Darren Moore and Kelly, who claimed his third.
And the damage could have have been greater, but for some sold defending from full back Conor McKinley, who averted a couple of dangerous situations.
Antrim crafted two goal chances in the closing stages of the half, but were twice denied by goalkeeper Barrett, who saved well from Shiels after he had been sent in by PJ O’Connell. Moments later the St Gabriel’s man also kept out an O’Connell effort.
After shooting 10 first half wides, Antrim held a slender 0-6 to 0-5 lead at the interval, but finally managed to get the better of Barrett with just a minute played in the second half, that man Shiels collecting Neil McAuley’s pass to drill his shot to the net.
London were reduced to 14 men in the 45th minute when defender Noel McDonald received a straight red card.
But they stunned the hosts with a Martin Duggan goal four minutes later, and in the 46th minute, slack Antrim defending was punished once again, this time Kevin Walsh getting in for a second goal.
But the final 15 minutes was a story of Antrim dominance over their depleted opponents.
Substitutes Stephen McAfee and Barry McFall made a big impact, with the former shooting a fine point.
Eoin Campbell also arrowed over a long range effort, and three more from the accurate hurl of Shiels made the victory safe.
And they came close to get ign a second goal, but once again, Barrett was the man who stood in Antrim’s way, keeping out O’Connell’s flicked effort.
C O’Connell, O McFadden, C McKinley, A Graffin, S McCrory, N McAuley, N McManus (0-1), E Campbell (0-1), C Johnston, C Carson, D Hamill, C McCann, C Clarke (0-3, 1f), P Shiels (1-10, 0-4f, 0-2 ’65), PJ O’Connell.
Subs: B McFall for McCrory, C Johnson (0-1) for Hamill, S McAfee (0-1) for McCann, T McCann for Carson, M Bradley for Campbell
J Barrett, C McAlinden, R Foy, C Hickey, E Cooney, PJ Rowe, S Fawley, D Moore (0-1), H Vaughan, P Phelan (0-1), E Kelly (0-5, 3f, 2 ’65), M Lynch, K Walsh (1-0), M Duggan (1-0), L Hands.
Subs: N McDonald for Hickey, K Killilea for Hands, P Cocoman for Phelan, D Egan for Lynch
Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow)