Battling Antrim push champions all the way

EirGrid Ulster U20 Football Championship semi-final

Tyrone 0-11

Antrim 0-9

Reigning Ulster U20 champions Tyrone were pressed all the way by a battling Antrim in this Ergrid Ulster U20 football championship semi-final in dreadful conditions in Lavey today. The pitch in Gulladuff was in good condition given the amount of rain that had fallen in the week leading up to today’s game but a strong swirling wind and falling sleet made things extremely difficult for both sides.

Despite the conditions, both teams kicked some wonderful scores, but Tyrone’s greater firepower and efficiency won out on the day.

Tyrone played against a strong wind in the first half, but trailed by just two points at the break and lost midfielder Joe Oguz to a black card midway through the first half.

Pat Shivers led the way for the Saffrons, kicking some excellent frees as Antrim led 0-4 to 0-2 at the break but their failure to make better use of the elements cost them in the end.

A long-range free from Tyrone goalkeeper Lorcan Quinn got his side off the mark before Dominic McEnhill replied with a fine point from play.

Quinn and Shivers exchanged further frees before an excellent strike from near the touchline from Shivers moved Antrim into the lead for the first time.

Scores were proving extremely hard to come by as the sleet turned to heavy snow but a Shivers free on 28 minutes was to prove the final score of the half as the Saffrons took a 0-4 to 0-2 lead into the break.

Tyrone came flying out of the starting blocks on the resumption of play and were on level terms within two minute with Tiarnán Quinn and Ethan Jordan hitting back-to-back points.

Quinn then put Tyrone into the lead before Shivers replied for the Saffrons to serve notice that they were not about to throw in the towel.

The Saffron support raised their collective voice in approval as corner-back Eamon Kelly made a great interception before placing Rory Brolly who converted from a difficult angle as Antrim moved ahead once more, but it would be a further 20 minutes before they would score again as Tyrone took control of proceedings.

A great point from centre-back and captain, Antoin Fox proved inspirational as the Champions moved up a gear and Darragh Canavan followed with an equally impressive effort as Tyrone moved 0-7 to 0-6 ahead after 40 minutes.

Cavanan added another as Tyrone threatened to take complete control before substitute Ryan Jones edged Tyrone three ahead.

It wasn’t looking good for Hugh McGettigan’s side as the impressive Quinn added another to move Tyrone 0-10 to 0-6 in front with ten minutes remaining but the Saffrons quite simply refused to throw in the towel.

Antrim went looking for the goal that might turn this game around and a bit of quick thinking from Adam Loughran almost paid off as his shot from a free bounced of a Tyrone defender and on to the crossbar but the referee brought the free back and Shivers tapped it over to leave three between the sides.

A foul on Canavan at the other end was converted by Quinn and Tyrone looked home and dry but Antrim fought back bravely and further points from McEnhill (free) and Shivers cut the gap back to two in injury-time.

However, the gallant Saffrons were unable to find a winning goal and Hugh McGettigan’s men bowed out of the provincial series with a 0-11 to 0-9 defeat but can hold their heads high.

 ANTRIM: L Mulholland; J McDonnell, J Lamont, E Kelly; P King, C McGettigan, R Gribbin; P Shivers (0-6, 0-5fs), E McMenamin; A Loughran, D McEnhill (0-2, 0-1f), C Stewart; A McNeilly, P Henvey, R Brolly (0-1).

Subs: C O’Neill for Stewart (40mins), D McAteer for Brolly (52mins), S Elliott for McNeilly (52mins), J Morgan for Kelly (54mins), E Hynds for Henvey (55mins).

TYRONE: L Quinn (0-2fs); C Quinn, C Munroe, M McCusker; N Kilpatrick, A Fox, J McCann; K Barker, J Oguz; L Gray, D Canavan (0-2), M Gallagher; E Jordan (0-1), T Donaghy, Tiarnán Quinn (0-4, 0-1f).

Subs: M Murnaghan for Gray (HT), R Jones (0-1) for Donaghy (38mins), S Garrity for Jordan (53mins), E Devlin for Oguz (59mins) Tarlach Quinn for Gallagher (59mins).

REFEREE: K Faloon (Armagh).

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