Brace of goals see off determined Down

Peadar O’Liathain Cup Final (U-17 Leinster B Hurling Final)

Antrim 2-11-0-14 Down 

Kevin Herron reports from Corrigan Park 

Goals in each half from Niall McGarel and Jack McCloskey saw Antrim get the better of Down in an exciting U-17 Leinster B’ Hurling final at Corrigan Park on Wednesday evening. 

Both sides claimed narrow one-point victories over Carlow and Meath respectively to ensure an all-Ulster affair in the Peadar O’Liathain decider. 

It was Down who made the quickest start as they hit the opening two scores through a floated point from Michael Dorrian and a converted free from Tiarnan Connolly. 

Niall McGarel was the go-to man for Antrim in their victory over Carlow and got his side off the mark with Connor Dickson landing the equaliser from long range shortly after. 

The hosts had the chance to take the lead from the spot after referee James Connors spotted an infringement in front of the posts. But Niall McGarel saw his effort parried to safety by Down net-minder Pearse Smyth. 

Connolly angled his side back in front – though McGarel atoned for his penalty miss with a goal that gave Antrim the advantage at the first half water-break. 

On 16 minutes Aodhan McGarry got in behind the Down defence and played the ball across the face of goal – where McGarel turned the ball to the roof of the net to make it 1-02-0-03. 

Tiarnan Connolly (free) led his sides response and parity was restored for the second time when Michael Dorrian fizzed over his second point of the evening, despite a goal chance presenting itself in the first instance. 

Rory Corcoran landed a fine score from range to edge Down back in front- only for Niall McGarel to convert a free. 

Further scores were traded before the break, Finn Turpin converted a long range free with McGarel levelling the scores at the break at 1-04-0-07. 

Finn Turpin nudged his side back into the lead early in the second half from his second converted free of proceedings. 

Antrim hit back as Aodhan McGarry swung over a fantastic reply and they missed the chance to regain the lead for just the second time. Jack McCloskey closed in goal and dragged his shot across the face of goal and inches wide. 

Half time substitute Calum O’Neill converted a free to move Down back ahead for a short period until Connor Dickson quickly replied for his second of the evening. 

It was end to end stuff as Michael Dorrian landed a terrific point to bring his tally to 0-03 and give his side a 0-10-1-06 lead. 

Though on 44 minutes a second goal of the game had Antrim back in front for the second time. 

Aodhan McGarry popped the ball off to Padraig McKillop who in turn found half-time substitute Jack McCloskey and the Loughgiel corner-forward steered his low shot past Pearse Smyth and into the corner of the net. 

Substitute Jack McCloskey steers home his sides second goal to give Antrim a 2-06-0-10 lead

Down responded terrifically and levelled thanks to back-to-back converted frees from Callum O’Neill and then hit the front again. 

Despite seeing a goal chance go a-begging from Criostai McAuley’s fumble; Bryan Rice was only able to force the ball between the large posts and his side moved 0-13-2-06 ahead at the second half water-break. 

A second converted Niall McGarel free had the sides level for the seventh time over the course of the evening and the corner-forward would move his side into the lead for the final time on 55 minutes. 

Anthony McGarrigle slipped a pass into McGarel’s path and the Oisin’s forward landed his fifth point and third from play. 

The Saffrons extended their lead through a fine Daire McMullan score from range and then Jack McCloskey angled over another to make it four scores on the spin and move his side 2-10-0-13 in front. 

Four minutes of injury-time was added as Down sought scores that would bring them back into contention. 

Callum O’Neill converted his fourth free since his midway introduction but dragged another opportunity wide of the target in the last minute of added time. 

And McGarel landed a 65’ which would be the insurance point as Antrim ran out 2-11-0-14 winners at the end of a thrilling encounter at Corrigan Park. 

Antrim: C McAuley, F Henry, R McCormick, D Mooney, E McCartan, D McMullan (0-01), D Kearney, O Gillen, C Dickson (0-02), A McGarry (0-01), C McKeown, J McLaughlin, N McGarel (1-06, 0-02f, 0-01 65’), D Quinn, D Patterson. Subs: J McCloskey (1-01) for J McLaughlin (HT), A McGarrigle for C McKeown (HT), P McKillop for D Quinn (39), J Bakewell for D Patterson (55), R Mort for O Gillen (63). 

Down: P Smyth, O McGrattan, D Mallon, M Duffy, D Magee, F Turpin (0-02f), R Corcoran (0-01), F Casey, F Gilmore, M Dorrian (0-03), T Connolly (0-03, 0-01f), C Lenaghanne, M Doran, B Rice (0-01), O Birt. Subs: D Cunningham for O McGrattan (19), C O’Neill (0-04f) for C Lenaghanne (HT), A Rogan for M Dorran (39), J Roddy for F Gilmore (51), C Fowler for B Rice (55). 

Referee: James Connors (Donegal)

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