All Ireland Senior Hurling Qualifier:
Antrim 1-10 Galway 6-21
As expected, Galway breezed through ‘phase one’ of the Liam McCarthy qualifiers against Antrim at Casement Park, coming away from Belfast with a 26-point win over the Ulster champions.
All eyes were on Joe Canning as hurling’s wonder-kid made his senior championship debut, and although the Portumna star knows tougher challenges lie ahead this summer he can be satisfied with his 2-6 contribution at a rain-lashed Casement.
Galway manager Ger Loughnane however will have learnt little as to how far his side are off the All-Ireland pace after Antrim all but gave up in a painfully one-sided second half.
Galway led by 2-13 to 1-8 at the break with Canning’s first senior Championship goal arriving on 29 minutes from a 21-yard free. The teenager added his second five minutes later when he took advantage of a slip by his marker to fire home from a tight angle.
Galway looked set to live up to their favourite tags from an early stage. After the home side opened the scoring through Donal McNaughton, the Tribesmen rattled off six points without reply, Alan Kerins and Cyril Donnellan putting Galway into the lead before Canning’s first Liam McCarthy Cup score on five minutes.
The reaction of the teenager afterwards suggested he was going for goal but his frustration didn’t last long and he added the next three scores to give Galway a 0-6 to 0-1 cushion.
They weren’t going to have it all their own way however and a Karl McKeegan point from play began an Antrim revival as the Saffrons outscored their visitors by 1-6 to 0-4 over the next 15 minutes to draw level.
Michael Herron, Karl Stewart and three McNaughton frees added to Michael Magill’s goal looked set to make a game of it. Magill’s major came in the 21st minute after a McKeegan run split the Galway defence. Eddie McCloskey and Paddy Richmond both had shots blocked but when the sliothar fell to Magill, the dual star fired past James Skehill between the Galway posts.
Antrim’s joy was to be short-lived however and within a minute of McNaughton’s levelling free, Canning had found the net to set the Galway back on track.
Iarla Tannion, Fergal Healy and Damien Joyce all added points to Canning’s second goal to put Galway eight points to the good at half-time.
If the game wasn’t already over as a contest, it certainly was after 15 seconds of the second half. Hayes was put through by a superbly timed handpass by Canning to stroke past Ryan McGarry for a 3-13 to 1-8 lead.
The Antrim heads dropped and by the time Alan Kerins had virtually walked the ball to the Antrim net for Galway’s fourth goal on 57 minutes, the visitors were playing exhibition stuff.
The introduction of a number of subs did little to disrupt the Galway flow and it was one of those subs, Kerri Wade, who grabbed Galway’s fifth and sixth goals in the space of three minutes.
As the game limped towards injury time, it was fitting that Canning added the last score of the day but there was little celebration as Galway know there will be bigger fish to fry later in the summer.
Next up however is Laois next Saturday, while for Antrim another huge challenge is in store when they face Waterford.
Antrim scorers: K McKeegan (0-2, 1f), K Stewart (0-2), M Magill (1-0), M Herron (0-2), D McNaughton (0-4f)
Galway scorers: J Canning (2-6, 1-2f), D Joyce (0-1), A Cullinane (0-2), F Healy (0-2), A Kerins (1-1), C Donnellan (0-3), I Tannian (0-3), D Hayes (1-2), E Cloonan (0-1), K Wade (2-0)
Antrim: R McGarry; A Graffin, J McKeague, M Kettle; C Herron, K McKeegan, J Campbell; K Stewart, M Magill; M Herron, E McCloskey, D McNaughton; P Richmond, C Donnelly, P Shiels
Subs: M McCanbridge for M Kettle, PJ O’Connell for D McNaughton, S McNaughton for K Stewart, S McCrory for M Magill
Galway: J Skehill; D Joyce, F Moore, O Canning; S Kavanagh, J Lee, D Forde; A Cullinane, F Healy; A Kerins, C Donnellan, I Tannion; D Hayes, E Cloonan, J Canning
Subs: N Healy for D Forde, A Callanan for I Tannion, K Wade for E Cloonan, C Callanan for J Skehill, M Kerins for C Donnellan
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary)