First half Down goals kill Antrim McKenna Cup hopes

Dr McKenna Cup Section B

Down 2-17 Antrim 0-15

Antrim’s interest in the McKenna Cup ended tonight when they lost by eight points to a sharp Down side in Newry but the Saffron’s manger, Lenny Harbison will be happy enough with his side’s performance if not the overall result.

Antrim made quite a number of changes from the side who defeated Fermanagh on Sunday in Ahoghill with Creggan’s Oisin Kerr, Ronan Delargy, Casements, Mark Gardner and Eamon Fyfe of Glenravel making their county debuts.

The Saffrons matched the Mourne men for a good part of the contest but Down struck with first half goals from Barry O’Hagan and Corey Quinn to leave the visitors trailing by seven at half time. Both sides played the possession game and slow methodical build ups were the order of the night.

Aghagallon’s Ruairi McCann led the Antrim attack well as the visitors used the ‘Mark’ to good effect and Lenny Harbinson’s side were still hanging in there with nine minutes remaining when they trailed by only four points after enjoying a good spell on top.

Significantly though Down seemed to find an extra gear as the Saffrons started to tire and they hit a flurry of points to pull clear in the dying minutes with Barry O’Hagan and substitute Liam Kerr hitting some excellent scores.

Quinn turned in a Man-of-the-Match display despite only being on the pitch for 35minutes and received the Man of the Match award at the end from Paul Slevin of Bank of Ireland.

Down, like Antrim came into tonight’s game with a win over Fermanagh under their belts but the margin of Down’s win had been more impressive and they started as favourites in this winner takes all encounter.

Down had previously beaten the Ernemen 1-11 to 0-7 in Brewster Park in the first round and manager Paddy Tally made several changes to his starting 15 with only Ryan McAleenan, Pierce Laverty, captain Darren O’Hagan, Johnny Flynn, Conor Poland and Pat Havern retaining their positions.

Antrim made eight changes from the side which defeated Fermanagh and Lenny Harbinson was forced to make a further change in the opening stages when Rickey Johnston was forced off with a knee injury.

Down made the early running as they raced into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead with Barry O’Hagan and Pat Havern (0-2) on target and Paddy McBride responding from a free for the visitors.

Antrim debutant Eamon Fyfe

Full-back Ricky Johnston lasted just seven minutes after pulling up with a knee injury to be replaced by Paddy Gallagher. By that stage, the hosts led 0-3 to 0-1 after scoring three points in the first three minutes.

Down struck their opening goal in the 21st minute when O’Hagan robbed Colum Duffin and reacted quickest to push his ground shot to the net from close range as it broke favourably into his path.

Down began to find space in the Antrim defence with Corey Quinn causing problems and he hit 1-3 from play to give his side a firm grip on the game. By half time Down had moved into a 2-8 to 0-7 lead and it already looked a long way back for the Saffrons.

Both sides made changes for the second half with Quinn making way for Conor Maginn and Carryduff’s Daniel Guinness joining the fray for the second half.

Ruairi McCann got the opening score of the second half from an offensive mark but Down replied through Havern and Barry and Darren O’Hagan to move further ahead.

Antrim refused to bow the knee however and came back strongly with Paddy McBride continuing to punish defensive errors and Colm Duffin looked in for a goal in the 56th minute but his shot flew over Mark Hynes crossbar.

Adam Loughran became the fourth Antrim player to make his debut when he replaced Eamon Fyfe and marked his introduction with a point before earning a free which McBride stroked over to leave just four between the sides.

Down replied with some excellent points to pull clear with Liam Kerr, Hughes and Guinness all on target with Loughran marking a satisfactory debut for the Saffrons with a late consolation score.

Despite defeat there was plenty about this Antrim performance to please the management and these two games in the McKenna Cup will have given them the sort of run out they needed as they prepare for the opening game of their National League campaign against Wexford in Glenavy at the end of the month.

ANTRIM: O Kerr; R Delargy, R Johnston, M Gardner; D Lynch, J McAuley, P Healy; C Duffin (0-1), N Delargy; E Walsh (0-1), P McBride (0-6f), K Quinn; E Fyfe (0-1), R McCann (0-4, 2f), C Murray

Subs: P Gallagher for R Johnston (7), R McNulty for E Walsh (ht), E Nagle for C Murray (ht), C Small for N Delargy (50), A Loughran (0-2) for E Fyfe (55)

REFEREE: M McNally (Monaghan)

DOWN: M Hynes; G Collins, K McKernan, R McAleenan; P Laverty, D O’Hagan (0-2), R Carr; J Flynn, S Dornan; B O’Hagan (1-2), C Quinn (1-3), C Poland; C Harney, P Havern (0-5, 1f), R McGarry

Subs: B Gallen for R Carr (27), D Guinness (0-1) for C Poland (ht), C Maginn (0-1) for C Quinn (ht), D Hughes (0-1) for S Dornan (47), L Kerr (0-2) for P Havern (51)

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