Under 21 Hurling Championship
Antrim progressed to a landmark berth in the Leinster Under 21 Hurling Championship following a feisty encounter with Down in Lurgan on Saturday. In a game that could of boiled over on a couple of occasions on a difficult surface, Antrim managed to finally get scores in extra time despite a series of missed chances throughout the 80 minutes.
Down were quickest out of the blocks with Daithi Sands and Jordan Doran causing the Saffrons some concern and this increased when a long free from Mark Fisher evaded Ryan Elliott in the Antrim goal. James McNaughton was the man to take the fight to the Ardsmen with a mix of placed balls and quality scores from play. A goal from Conal Cunning put Antrim 5 points clear in the first half before a strong run from Sands resulted in a Conor McCrickard goal to leave Antrim going in with a two point lead on a scoreline of 1-11 to 2-06.
McNaughton added another score at the beginning of the first half before a baron spell for Conor Gillan’s side. Fisher and Sands were combining nicely for Down who were content to keep knocking points over and Down found themselves in lead with under 10 minutes to go. When James McNaughton missed two relatively simple frees for Antrim the pressure was on. The lively Cunning then found Daniel Black who blasted wide with only two minutes remaining however a late score from Eoin O’Neill took the game to extra time after scoring only three points in 30 minutes- (Antrim 1-14 Down 2-11).
Antrim made up for their wayward shooting in extra time as points from Daniel Black, McNaughton, Ed McQuillan (two) and Ryan McKee put them in a strong position with Gerard Hughes and Conor McCrickard replying for Down. The superb Fisher denied Dunloy man Conal Cunning a goal with a fantastic last ditch tackle early in the second period of time as Down fought back again before Ruairi McCrickard scored Down’s third goal with a free late in the game. With Fergus McCambridge proving great support for the Antrim defence they managed to hold firm with McNaughton and Cunning adding a brace each along with a great score from Antrim sub Aodhan O’Brien. Antrim now face Carlow in the Leinster Championship in May with Ronan Sheehan’s Down side entering the All-Ireland Under 21 B competition.
Antrim- Ryan Elliott, Conor Carson, Aaron Crawford, Conor Boyd, Joe Maskey, Eamon Smyth, Ryan McGarry, Fergus McCambridge (0-1), Gerard Walsh (0-1), Sean Duffin, James McNaughton (0-12, 0-08F), Ryan McKee (0-1), Eoin O’Neill (0-2), Ed McQuillan (0-2), Conal Cunning (1-2). Subs Used, Daniel Black (0-1), Aodhan O’Brien (0-1), Callum Scullion, Conor McHugh
Down- Huw Flynn, Matthew Mee, Eoin Coulter, Tom Murray, Declan McCartney, Mark Fisher (1-03F), Paddy Brannigan, Ruairi McCrickard (1-00 F), PJ Davidson, Donal Rooney( 0-01), Daithi Sands (0-03) , Jordan Doran, Cormac Coulter (0-01F) , Conor McCrickard (1-05, 0-04f), Gerard Hughes (0-01). Subs Used, Philip Miskimmin, Adrian Mee, Niall Lennon