Trip to Tullamore a day to remember

Many of the crowd who stood on the Clones terraces to applaud Antrim, long after the full time whistle travelled to Tullamore to support their heroes. Despite defeat to Tyrone in the Ulster final there was a carnival atmosphere amongst the hordes who made the journey to the Offaly venue, some daring to believe that their heroes could topple the mighty Kingdom.

Kerry 2-12 Antrim 1-10

Sunday, 26 July 2009 15:49

The big crowd who made the journey to Tullamore hoping for a giant killing performance from Antrim were certainly not disappointed by the Antrim performance if not by the result.

Kerry finally made it to the All-Ireland quarter-finals, but once they were made to battle by would be giant-killer in Antrim. Jack O’Connor and his much vaunted side were relieved to hear the final whistle as they were pushed to the wire by an Antrim side showing little regard for the reputation of the Munster side.

A superb individual first half goal from Cargin’s Tony Scullion had the Saffron hoards in raptures and a late Ciaran Close point sent Baker’s men to the dressing room leading by a point at half time.

An upset still looked on the cards as Michael McCann struck three successive frees to leave it level with ten minutes remaining but a Paul Galvin goal for the Kingdon late in the game finally swung it in favour of the Kingdom.

He will however have been encouraged by a much-improved second-half performance in Tullamore, Having struggled to get the better of Longford, Sligo and now Antrim, the Kingdom continue to struggle for form. Kerry struck a major blow in the 12th-minute when Tadhg Kennelly slipped a pass inside to Tommy Walsh, and the big Kerins O’Rahilly’s man drilled a low shot past John Finucane. Moments later, Finucane pulled off a brilliant save from Darran O’Sullivan, who got on the end of a sweeping move involving Paul Galvin and Declan O’Sullivan.

Declan O’Sullivan eased the Kingdom into a 1-02 to 0-01 lead, but Antrim responded with a well-worked goal, with James Loughrey making ground on the right before slipping the ball to fellow wing back Tony Scullion, who rounded goalkeeper Diarmuid Murphy before planting the ball in an empty net. Kerry went 17 minutes without scoring, during which both Sean O’Sullivan and Declan O’Sullivan were guilty of glaring misses from easy frees, prompting the introduction of Colm Cooper on the half-hour. Tommy Walsh brought the Munster men level, but Ciaran Close’s fisted point in stoppage time sent the Saffrons in with a 1-04 to 1-03 interval lead.

Cooper converted two frees to bring the sides level 10 minutes into the second half, and two minutes later regained the lead for Kerry. Mike McCarthy’s surging runs forced Antrim to concede the frees from which Cooper punished the Ulster side, but Michael McCann steered over three Antrim frees, and with 10 minutes to play, the sides were still deadlocked on 1-08 each. But the game took an irreversible twist in the Kingdom’s favour when Michael Quirke fetched at midfield, and Donnacha Walsh sent Galvin in to finish to the net from close range. It was all over for brave Antrim, and Kerry finished the job off with a string of points from Paul O’Connor and Galvin.

Kerry: D Murphy, M O Se, T Griffin, T O’Sullivan, K Young, M McCarthy, A O’Mahony, D O Se, S Scanlon, P Galvin (1-2), T Kennelly, Darren O’Sullivan, T Walsh (1-2), Declan O’Sullivan (0-1), S O’Sullivan (0-1, f).

Subs: C Cooper (0-4, 4f) for S O’Sullivan (30), T O Se for O’Mahony (43), D Walsh for Kennelly (43), P O’Connor (0-2, 2f) for Darran O’Sullivan (56), M Quirke for Scanlon (58)

Antrim: J Finucane, C Brady, A McClean, K O’Boyle, T Scullion (1-0), J Crozier, J Loughrey, M McCann (0-4, 3f), A Gallagher, T O’Neill, C Close (0-1), N McKeever, P Cunningham (0-3, 2f), K Niblock, T McCann (0-2).

Subs: A Douglas for O’Boyle (13), C Murray for Close (49), K Brady for O’Neill (53), S Burke for Niblock (64)

Referee: J White (Donegal)

Despite this defeat hundreds of Antrim supporters invaded the Tullamore pitch at full-time to applaud their side and many remained there to have photographs taken with their heroes. It had been a great season for Antrim football and things were to get better the following year with promotion to division 2 of the NFL.

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