Late fightback not enough as Derry book final place

Derry v Antrim 2

Derry’s man of the match Cormac O’Doherty makes a brilliant high catch in the closing stages of his team’s win over Antrim in Wednesday evening’s Ulster Under 21 Hurling Championship semi-final at Owenbeg. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine

Ulster Under 21 Hurling Championship semi-final

Derry v  Antrim at Owenbeg

By John McIlwaine

Antrim’s interest in the 2017 Ulster Under 21 Hurling Championship came to  an  abrupt end at Owenbeg on Wednesday evening when they were beaten by 2-11 to 3-7 by Derry. Two late goals from frees by Eamon Smyth and Christy McNaughton added a bit of gloss to the Antrim scoreline but in truth they didn’t deserve to be anywhere near the Oak Leaf boys. Brilliantly led by full forward Cormac O’Doherty the Derry side were well ahead of the Saffrons throughout the field. The Slaughtneill man ended with 2-5 to his name, 2-2 of them from placed balls, in a man of the match performance.  The Derry defence were totally on top of a strangely off colour Antrim attack who just could not get going, and though they hit a late flurry of scores it would have been an injustice of they had clawed it back.

Behind by 0-3 to 1-4 at half time the second half saw the home side pull further clear as O’Doherty hit his second goal from a penalty to see his team through to an Ulster final in a week’s time.

Derry opened the scoring when centre forward Sean Cassidy burst through the middle and sent over from forty metres after a lovely flick from his namesake Brian Cassidy and they went two clear on eleven minutes when Corey Riley added one from fifty metres out on the right. Antrim were struggling for possession up front and apart from a wide from Christy McNaughton in the sixth minute they did little to disturb the umpires.

It was all of eighteen minutes before Antrim raised their first flag through Christy McNaughton but Derry were soon two ahead again when Darragh Cartin pointed from the left, and the gap was out to three a minute later when Derry full forward Cormac O’Doherty sent over a beauty from out on the right hand sideline. James McNaughton cut the gap to two on twenty minutes when he sent over a free from fifty metres but Derry went straight up the field and when they were awarded a penalty after Brian Cassidy was deemed to be fouled in the square. O’Doherty made no mistake as he stepped up and  drove it low to the Antrim net to put the home side five clear. Antrim were struggling to make any inroads but just before the break they cut the gap back to four points as the half time whistle sounded when James McNaughton grabbed his point of the game from a free.

Derry squandered a great chance of stretching their lead early in the second half when O’Doherty was wide from a free but the full forward made no mistake a minute later when he split the posts from fifty metres out, and when the Slaughtneill player added two quick scores from play within a minute his team 1-9 to 0-4 clear.

Antrim substitute Domhnall Nugent went for a goal from a twenty metre free on 47 minutes but it was turned around for a 65, which James McNaughton pointed, but Derry went straight up the field and when they were awarded their second penalty of the game O’Doherty again found the net to all but seal the win.

James McNaughton pulled another point back from a free on twenty minutes but Derry were totally dominant and  they should have had their third goal second later when they cut through the Antrim defence but the ball came back off the crossbar. However Sean Cassidy added a point, and though James McNaughton pulled a goal back for Antrim with a brilliant strike, Derry came straight back with a great point from centre back Ciaran Steele.

Things went from bad to worse for Antrim when substitute Johnny McErlain was red carded seconds after coming on the field in what seemed a harsh decision but things then swung the other way for the Saffrons when an Eamon Smyth free from distance appeared to go all the way to the Derry net, though on close examination of the photos of the incident Conal Cunning may well have got the final touch. Unbelievably Antrim got back to within two in injury time when a Christy McNaughton twenty metre free went all the way to the Derry net but it truth it put a false reflection on the scoreline as Derry were much the better team and should have won by more.

Derry
1 – Francis McEldowney
2 – Seamus Higgins
3 – Paddy Turner
4 – Paul McNeill
5 – Ruairi McCartney
6 – Cairan Steele
7 – Shane McQuigan
8 – Conor McAllister
9 – John Mullan
10 – Eamon McGill
11 – Sean Cassidy (0-2)
12 – Corey Riley (0-1)
13 – Darragh Cartin (0-1)
14 – Cormac O’Doherty (2-5)
15 – Brian Cassidy (0-1)

Antrim
1 – Aidan Burke
2 – Hugh Pat McNeill
3 – Cathal McMullan
4 – Jack Daniels
5 – Conor Carson (0-1)
6 – Eamon Smyth (1-0)
7 – Gérard Walsh
8 – Ryan McKee
9 – Eoin O’Neill
10 – James McNaughton (1-4)
11 – Joe Maskey
12 – Deaglan Murphy
13 – Shan McGrath
14 – Christy McNaughton (1-1)
15 – Conal Cunning

Subs – Johnny McErlain , Domnhall Nugent , Cormac McClafferty, CJ McKenna

 

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