In the lead up to the Joe McDonagh Cup win we carried reports of other National titles Antrim had won, like the Intermediate final and Division 2 title in 1970, plus the Division 2 league title in 2003. However the 2006 Christy Ring Cup final against Carlow has largely been forgotten, even though it has equal status with the other wins, as the Christy Ring Cup was the second tier competiton at the time. Dinny Cahill had departed after a very good spell for the Saffrons, which saw us run Tipperary and Wexford close in the All Ireland quarter finals of 2002 and 2003, plus that league final win over Kerry in 03. 2004 saw them suffer a heavy defeat to Cork in the quarter final and the following year 2005 they conceded big scores against Galway and Limerick, and though they ran Laois to just two points in the round robin section, they ended up getting well beaten by the same opposition in the relegation final in Navan.
After Dinny departed in 2006 Paul ‘Humpy’ McKillen and Jingo McKernan took over the reins and got away to a flier by beating Galway and Laois in their first two games, which secured their Division 1 status. The also added the Ulster title when they beat Down in the semi-final at Casement Park before beating New York in a unique final at Canton Park, Boston.
The Christy Ring campaign did not get off to the best of starts when Down beat Antrim’out the gate’ in their opening game at McKenna Park, Ballycran, the Ards men running out winners by 1-23 to 1-7. Down went on to top the group with full points but Antrim joined them in the semi-final with wins over Roscommon, Meath and London in their remaining games
The semi-final draw saw Antrim play Kildare and Down take on Carlow with both games set as a triple-header in Mullingar. Antrim played Galway in the minor semi-final in the curtain raiser, Joe Canning captaining Galway and Neil McManus Antrim.
Things seemed to be set for and all Ulster final when Antrim beat the Lillywhites in the first game, but Carlow caused a bit of a shock when they beat hitherto unbeaten Down in the second game to set up a final meeting with the Saffrons.
This set up a first ever championship meeting between Antrim and Carlow, though they would become very familiar with each other in the years to follow.
Christy Ring Cup Final
Antrim 5-13 Carlow 0-7
Antrim got off to a flying start with a flurry of goals putting them 3-6 to no score clear. Goals from Joey Scullion (13 minutes), Johnny McIntosh (15) and Kieran Pinky Kelly (17) gave them an early lead, while Carlow waited 27-and-a-half minutes before Damien Roberts opened their account with a point. They matched Antrim for the remainder of the half – with Roberts and team captain Robbie Foley swapping points with Paddy Richmond and Brian McFall to cut the gap to 14 points by half-time.
Carlow raised the tempo for the second half. Pat Coady landed a free and two ’65’s to help his side pare back the difference to 3-8 to 0-6 by the 53rd minute. Carlow hit four of the second half’s opening five points with substitute Seanie McMahon firing over the best of the lot from a tight angle on the left. Antrim steadied themselves on 56 minutes when Barney McAuley dangled a ball deep into Carlow territory and McIntosh latched onto it to thump home goal number four off the ground. A Coady free was then batted off the Antrim line before Foley notched his second point for a 4-8 to 0-7 score line. More Antrim points followed before a strong 66th minute run from Malachy Molloy ended with McFall netting the fifth goal. Foley scored a penalty for Carlow, however, the difference in standard was apparent and Antrim powered to an 18-point victory.
|Antrim scorers – J McIntosh (2-04 (4f)), B McFall (1-02), K Kelly (1-01), J Scullion (1-00), M Molloy (0-02 (2 ’65’)), P Richmond (0-02), P Magill (0-01), B Delargy (0-01).|
Carlow scoers – F Foley (1-00 (1-00 pen)), P Coady (0-03 (1f, 2 ’65’)), R Foley (0-02), D Roberts (0-01), S McMahon (0-01).