Celtic Challenge Under 17 Hurling
Antrim 2-20 Offaly 2-12
A magnificent display by man of the match Seaan Elliott which yielded 2 goals and 9 points helped steer Antrim to victory over Offaly in Saturday’s Celtic Challenge semi-final at Abbottstown, Dublin. Eight points separated the sides at the end but in truth the gap should have been much wider so dominant was the Antrim display and goals at the end of each half from twenty metre frees rescued the Leinster side from an even bigger beating gave the scoreline a somewhat deceptive look.
Elliott was a constant thorn in the side of the Offaly defence right from the opening minute when he cut in along the endline and flicked the ball to the net. He grabbed his second midway through the first half with a fantastic left-sided strike after leaving three defenders in his wake and he added points from all distances and angles as ably assisted by corner forward Conor McBride the tore through the Offaly rearguard.
The led by 2-8 to 1-9 at half time really pushed on in the second period to book a place in next week’s final in Carlow.
Elliott’s goal inside thirty seconds gave Antrim the perfect start and despite the fact that himself and Conor McBride played as a two-man full forward line they chances kept on coming. Elliott punished any Offaly discretions with a series of excellently taken frees but Offaly kept in touch as midfielder Cathal Kielty hit some impressive long range frees at the other end. Elliott’s second goal came on nineteen minutes when a diagonal ball out of defence found the Dunloy man in the right corner. There was still a lot of work to do but he cut inside past three defenders before firing a left sided shot to the Offaly net. The goal lifted Antrim and after Nial McCormick won the puck out and put it back between the posts Elliott won a ball in the right corner and sent centre half forward Eoghan McMenimin clear for a simple tap over score. Elliott then hit a peach of a point from a free seventy metres out on the right touchline to put the Ulster side in firm control. However they careless tackling in defence presented Offaly with a chance of getting back in the game and after O’Brien hit a lovely score from play Kielty fired one over from a free and with half time approaching he drilled a twenty metre free thought a packed goal line to cut the game back to four by half time.
Antrim must have been dissapointed that their first half dominance hadn’t give them a bigger half time cushion but they started the second half in positive fashion as Conor McBride and Eogan McMenamin pointed to stretch the lead to four. Offaly had a great goal chance minutes later when full forward Tom Leahy cut in from the left wing but as he prepared to ‘pull the trigger’ centre back Ryan McGarry got back to ‘hook’ his shot and the Offaly man’s shot went wide of the target and to make matters worse Leahy was booked for showing descent.
Full forward Callum Scullion who was kept in a sweeper role despite Antrim having the breeze at their backs, hit a fine score from 65 mettres to further increase the Antrim lead and Offaly’s task became even harder a minute later when Leaghy received a second yellow, and subsequent red, which left his team down to fourteen men. The scores kept on coming for the young Saffrons and they stretched their lead to eleven with time almost up, but just as he had done in the first half Cathal Kielty found a way through a packed goalmouth from a twenty metre free to give the scoreboard a somewhat decptive look
Antrim scorers – Seaán Elliott 2-9 (8 frees); Eoghan McMenamin 0-4; Conor McBride 0-3; Nial McCormick, Michael McGarry, Calum Scullion, Conor McParland 0-1 apiece.
Declan McCloskey, Cormac McFadden, Conal Bohill, Eoin McParland, Caolan O’Connor, Ryan McGarry, Aaron Carwford, Oisin McAuley, Nial McCormack, Michael McGarry, Eoghan McMenain, Seaán Elliott, Oisin Donnelly, Calum Scullion, Conor McBride
Subs – Senan Black, Danan McKeogh, Ciarán Crawford, Conall McParland, Sean McKay, Cormac Donnelly, Dáire Stevenson, Dermot Maguire, Dominic McEnhill