McGurk Cup Final at QUB
Antrim 2-19 Down 0-13
Saturday January 4
Brendan McTaggart reports from The Dub Arena, Belfast
Antrim claimed their first piece of silverware for the 2020 season with a 12 point win over Down in the McGurk Cup Final at Queens Playing Fields on Saturday night. It was a more workman like performance from the Saffrons who rarely showed the attacking flair they have in recent games but they did enough to see off the dogged challenge of the men from the Ards.
Neil McManus top scored with nine points over the 70 minutes in a man of the match performance while Niall McKenna and Alex Delargy bagged the goals in each half, Delargy continuing his rich vein of goal scoring form in an Antrim shirt with his 60th minute goal,
Antrim did take some time to show any of the form they have shown. It was the 16th minute before they scored from play and they went 13 minutes in the opening quarter without registering a score but. A number of bad missed chances threatened to derail their challenge but Down weren’t fairing much better at the other end of the field in an error strewn opening.
Conor Johnston’s point in the 16th minute was the Saffrons first from play but Antrim trailed by just two points in the 19th minute. They turned that into a three point lead by the 29th minute though with a run of five unanswered points. Domhnall Nugent, Niall McKenna, Ronan Molloy, Conor Johnston and Michael Bradley all with the scores from open play and Antrim were looking more like themselves.
Their first goal came with the next attack and owed much to the strength and vision of Nugent. Collecting the sliotar, the St Johns man was surrounded but he managed to stave off the challenges before finding McKenna. The Sarsfields man had company but smartly finished to put daylight between the sides.
Half time score Antrim 1-9 Down 0-7
Antrim stretched their lead to 10 points by the 46th minute thanks to McManus (two), McKenna and an excellent point from Gerard Walsh. The Rossa man leaving his defensive berth to split the posts from distance.
Down kept the scoreboard ticking with Oisin McManus’ frees and Tim Prenter finding the required accuracy but Antrim held a nine point lead when Delargy scored their second goal in the 60th minute. On the field for barely a minute, James McNaughton danced away from two challenges before speeding clear through the Down defence. He passed to Delargy in space and the Cushendall man drilled home to quell any thoughts of a Down comeback.
Conor Boyd and McNaughton scored either side of Oisin McManus’ sixth free of the night to ensure a comfortable win for the Saffrons. With the match doubling up as the Kehoe Cup semi-final, Antrim now face Offaly next weekend in Abbottstown with more silverware on the line.
Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Gerard Walsh, Ciaran Johnston, Stephen Rooney; Paddy Burke, Eoghan Campbell, Matthews Donnelly; Ryan McCambridge, Neil McManus; Michael Bradley, Ronan Molloy, Niall McKenna; Conor Johnston, Domhnall Nugent, Alex Delargy
Subs: Dan McCloskey for Conor Johnston (HT); Aodhan O’Brien for R McCambridge (46); Conor Boyd for M Donnelly (52); James O’Connell for M Bradley (52); James McNaughton for R Molloy (60)
Scorers: Neil McManus 0-9 (6 f’s); Niall McKenna 1-2; Alex Delargy 1-00; Conor Johnston 0-2; Ronan Molloy 0-1; Michael Bradley 0-1; Domhnall Nugent 0-1; Conor Boyd 0-1; Gerard Walsh 0-1; James McNaughton 0-1
Down: Stephen Keith; John McManus, Caolan Taggart, Darragh Mallon; Liam Savage, Conor Woods, Marc Fisher; PJ Davidson, Phelim Savage; Matt Conlon, Ryan McCusker, Ronan Costello; Oisin McManus, Eoghan Sands, Tim Prenter
Subs: Chris Egan for R Costello (HT); Tom Murray for P Savage (42); Donal Og Rooney for PJ Davidson (52); __ for D Mellon (56); Niall Fitzsimmons for L Savage (68)
Scorers: Oisin McManus 0-6 (6 f’s); Tim Prenter 0-2; Conor Woods 0-2 (2 f’s); Liam Savage 0-1; Ryan McCusker 0-1; Phelim Savage
Referee: Tarlach Conway (Ballinascreen, Derry)