Good start and good finish gives Antrim victory over Down

Leinster Under 17 Hurling Championship

Down 2-11 Antrim 2-17

Paul McIntyre was in Portaferry.

A fast start and a storming finish helped Antrim to a Leinster minor hurling round two clash against either Westmeath or Meath following a great championship battle with neighbours and rivals Down on Wednesday evening in Portaferry.

Six points separated the sides at the final whistle but just nine minutes previously, it had all looked so different as Down were enjoying their best spell of the game and a one point lead. But the young Saffron’s dug deep, and helped by some fresh impetus from the bench, claimed the final seven scores to cap off a drama packed second half.

Afterwards manager Paul Donnelly was quick to praise the resolve and the squad effort of his side. “I just said to the team it takes twenty players boys, and more to get a good performance and today we used twenty players and everyone came on and done the business for us.”

“We made a good start with young Jack McCloskey scoring a couple of goals fantastic player, fantastic talent and I think our work rate dropped a little bit. Fair play to Down, they came back into the game, showed resolve showed resilience and a very competitive game in the end. And I’m glad to say we made three or four substitutions who made a big difference.”

After seeing an eight point lead turn into a one point deficit, before claiming the final seven scores Donnelly commented “That’s what we are looking for. There is obviously a number of things we are looking for. It’s work rate, its attitude, it’s application. I think today over the course of the entire game we got that.”

Antrim started the game with intent and purpose and following Ronan McCollum’s opening point, Jack McCloskey blasted past Pearse Smyth in the Down goal for a four point lead with barely four minutes on the clock.

Down responded with a free from Finn Turpin and a score from Michael Dorrian but Antrim kept the pressure up on the home defence with quick ball to the inside forward line proving too much for the home defence.

Niall McGarel and McCollum added to Antrim’s total before McCloskey raised a green flag for the second time in the game on 16 minutes.

Wing back Daniel Kearney claimed a Down puck out following a McCloskey point and he immediately sent the ball back to from where it came from and the Sarsfields marksman showed composure belying his young years to pick out the top corner of Smyth’s net.

Down came back into the contest after the waterbreak with two points from Dorrian but McGarel and Kearney made sure Down had plenty to do as we approached half time.

On the stroke of the short whistle, Donal Magee’s 65 was adjudged to have gone the wrong side of the post and at half time Antrim thought they held an eight point lead, but after deliberating with his team of officials, Magee’s effort was given as a score and the scoreboard read Down 0-5, Antrim 2-6 at the break.

Antrim stilled looked very much in control at the start of the second half as they lead by eight points but the game was turned on its head in the 36th minute with the awarding of a penalty to Down.

Full back Ruairi McCormick fouled Bryan Rice and to make matters worse, was also forced to sit out the next ten minutes due to a black card. Smyth came up from the Down goals to blast past Críostaí McAuley and Down were now back in the contest.  

Down were maybe lacking some self-belief in the first half but that had all changed now Fergal Gilmore, Odhran Birt and Deaglan Mallon made it a one score game before McCollum settled Antrim nerves with a much needed score to restore a four point lead.

That was a lead that didn’t last long as Adam Rogan’s attempt at a point ended up in the Antrim net. Two minutes later Mallon pointed his third placed ball of the game to give the Mournemen the lead for the first time.

But with McCormick returning from the sin-bin and the Antrim bench making an instant impact, the Saffrons found another gear. Joe McLaughlin was very instrumental in the closing stages as he kick started the revival with two points while McCormick atoned for his earlier foul with a monster point which from near half way after cutting out a Down attack.

Half back Daire McMullan pointed a free before assisting McLaughlin for his third of the evening before McGarel capped off a ruthless Antrim spell with the final score of an enthralling contest.

Teams & Scorers:

Down: Pearse Smyth (1-0 Pen), Sean Mageean, Deaglan Mallon (0-3 2F 1 65), Matthew Duffy, Donal Magee, Finn Turpin (0-2 1F), Rory Corcoran, Seán O’Neill, Calum Fowler, John Ruddy, Michael Dorrian (0-3), Cormac Blaney, Odhran Birt (0-1), Bryan Rice (0-1), Oran McMeel.

Subs: Fergal Gilmore for O’Neill (HT), Oisin McGrattan for Mageean (HT), Tiernan Connolly for Blaney (40), Adam Rogan (1-0) for Corcoran (44).

Antrim: Críostaí McAuley, Finn Henry, Ruairi McCormick (0-1), Deaglán Mooney, Enda McCartan, Daire McMullan (0-1f), Daniel Kearney (0-1), Odhrán Gillen, Connor Dickson, Aodhán McGarry (0-2), Anthony McGarrigle, Caoimhín Killyleagh, Niall McGarel (0-3 1 f 1 65), Ronan McCollum (0-3), Jack McCloskey (2-3 0-1f).

Subs: Declan Quinn for Dickson (HT), Joe McLaughlin (0-3) for Killyleagh (HT), Darragh Patterson for McCartan (43), James Bakewell for McGarrigle (53), Cormac McKeown for McCollum (57).

Referee: Mr Aiden McAleer (Donegal)

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