BOI Celtic Challenge
Division Two Final
Antrim 2-17 North Cork 1-12
By Brendan McTaggart
A scintillating performance from Seaan Elliott helped Antrim to All-Ireland glory in the Celtic Challenge over North Cork on Saturday and claim the Corn John Scott for the first time. The young Cuchullain scored 1-11, 1-5 from play and lead the Rebel defence a merry dance over the hour in what was a simply breath-taking display of skill from Elliott at Netwatch Dr Cullen Park. However like last week where Elliott won man of the match this was no one man show as the whole Antrim team put in a wonderful display from one to 15 plus the subs. Antrim used the elements to their advantage in the first half and withstood everything the North Cork men could throw at them in the second half. Captain Ryan McGarry and full back Conal Bohill were magnificent while facing the elements in that second half as Cork tried to force their way back into the final. However the foundation for their victory was laid in the opening 30 minutes.
Antrim had the wind at their backs and scored their first goal after six minutes – Elliott with the finish after Conor McBride did brilliantly to find him in space. McBride’s movement and pace was causing the Rebel defence all kinds of trouble in the opening exchanges as he and Eoin McMenamin tormented the North Cork defence.
North Cork hit back and scored their goal just three minutes later when brilliant midfielder Cian Crowley cut in from the left and riffled the sliotar beyond Declan McCloskey to the Antrim net both to claw back some of that early Antrim momentum. It was towards the end of the first half when Antrim really hit their straps and opened a substantial lead. In the final ten minutes, they outscored their opponents 1-7 to 0-2, the goal coming from a magnificent piece of bravery and ingenuity from midfielder Oisin McAuley. A side line from Callum Scullion dropped into Josh Shanahan in the Cork goals. McAuley followed in and blocked the sliotar but found himself on the wrong side of the ball. Undeterred, McAuley flicked the ball between his legs while surrounded by Cork defenders to squeeze the sliotar over the line with the last attack of the first half. At the short whistle, Antrim lead 2-13 to 1-6.
Would ten points be enough
Ten points didn’t seem like a massive lead with the strength of the wind but McAuley’s goal on the stroke of half time left North Cork demoralised. Their mood wasn’t helped much when Elliott scored the first point of the second half to take his tally to 1-8 for just over 30 minutes of hurling. A trio of points from the dangerous Tómas Howard, Cian Toumy and Jake Madigan kept their challenge alive but the Antrim defence held firs with Eoin McMenamin and Anton McGrath dropping into deeper positions to help starve the North Cork forwards of any time and space.
Despite playing with the wind, the Rebels seemed reluctant to take any shots from distance and with McGarry and Bohill on top of their game in the centre of the Antrim defence, they weren’t getting any change from the the young Saffrons.
North Cork were reduced to 14 men with ten minutes remaining, Adam Barrett collecting a second yellow card for a cynical foul on Elliott changing their uphill task into mission impossible.
The score line could have been even sweeter for the young Antrim men, Conor McBride bringing the best out of North Cork ‘keeper Josh Shanaghan in the closing stages with the Ulster lads looking impressive on the counter attack.
Eight points separated the sides at the full time whistle and it was the least that the young Saffrons deserved. A brilliant display on the All-Ireland stage, congratulations to everyone involved, especially Sean McManus and his management team who have worked tirelessly with this squad for the past three months
Declan McCloskey; Cormac McFadden; Conal Bohill; Eoin McParland; Caolan O’Connor; Ryan McGarry ( c ); Aaron Crawford; Oisin McAuley; Niall McCormick; Anton McGrath; Eoin McMenamin; Seaan Elliott; Oisin Donnelly; Callum Scullion; Conor McBride
Subs – Senan Black, Conor McPartland, Daire Stevenson, Dannan McKeogh, Sean McKey, Michael McGarry, Ciaran Crawford, Cormac Donnelly, Dermot Maguire
Seaan Elliott 1-11 (0-6 frees)
Conor McBride 0-3
Oisin McAuley 1-00
Eoin McMenamin 0-2
Michael McGarry 0-1