Sands and O’Brien steer UU to McGurk Cup win over Antrim U20s

Conor McGurk Cup, Group A

Ulster University 2-20 Antrim 1-17

Antrim Under 20 hurlers got the new season up and running when they took on Ulster University at Jordanstown on Tuesday evening in wintry conditions in the McGurk Cup.

A slow start was to cost the young Saffrons, but they began to settle into the game and Paudie Shivers and his backroom team will be happy enough in what they saw from their young charges against a good UU team for whom Down’s Daiti Sands and Antrim’s Aodhan O’Brien were excellent, Sands finishing with an impressive 1-5 from play.

Sands, O’Brien and Loughgiel’s Paul Boyle got UU off to a good start,and there were eight minutes on the clock before Christy McGarry got Antrim on the scoreboard with a pointed free. Two more quick scores from the students had them 0-5 to 0-1 in front, but the Saffrons were starting to settle into the game and another point from ‘Bicky’ McGarry and one from Rian ‘Bubbles’ McMullan put a better look on the scoreboard. However UU were able to respond with some neat scores and they pushed on to lead by 0-9 to 0-3 at the water break.

Antrim’s Ruairi McCloskey in action against UU’s C Ferguson during the McGurk Cup game at Jordanstown.

To their credit Antrim were able to stay within striking distance through the second quarter, but Sands was always dangerous for Jordanstown and it took a smart save from Calum Mullan in the Antrim goals to deny him a goal. The Down man did add a series of good points and Cushendall’s Fred McCurry also found the target on a couple of occasions as they opened up a 0-14 to 0-8 half time lead.

Second half substitute Conleth McKinley brought Antrim right back into contention five minutes into the second half when he fired the ball to the UU net. Jordanstown responded with a quick score, but Christy McGarry and Anthony McGarrigle hit back with two fine points to close the gap to just two.

The young Saffrons were back in contention and hurling well but after an exchange of points from Seamus McAuley and UU’s Anthony McGarrigle, Sands showed his class again as he twice punished hesitancy in the Antrim defence to grab a goal and a point and restore his team’s six point cushion at the second half water break.

Christy McGarry and Seamus McAuley who led the scoring for Antrim in their McGurk Cup game with UU

A fantastic goal by Antrim man Peter McCallin, who had replaced Sands at the water break, put UU in firm control, but to their credit Antrim fought back to close the gap to six again by time referee Peter Owens sounded the full time whistle.

A useful start for the Saffons who take on Donegal on Saturday at the Dub in the next round of the competition when Shivers and his management team will get another chance to see this useful looking panel in competitive action.

Antrim manager Paudie Shivers

Ulster University – L Passmore; C Henry, D McCloskey, A Furlong; F McCurry (0-2), L Dunphy, S Black; R Davidson (0-1), A O’Brien (0-2, 1 65); D Lowry, C Ferguson (0-3 frees), D Sands (1-5); P Boyle (0-2), F McKiernan (0-3), P Doran (0-2).

Subs: P McCallin (1-0) for D Sands (52), D McKeogh for P Boyle (52), L Donnelly for R Davidson (52), C McDonald for F McKernan (52), C McAlinden for A O’Brien (60)

Antrim U20 –  C Mullan; D Maguire, R McCloskey, R McCormick; D McMullan (0-1), R Laverty, E McGarry; C Dickson, L O’Connor; C McGarry (0-6, 5 frees), A Scullion, S McAuley (0-6, 3 frees); N McGarel, R McMullan (0-1), S McIntosh (0-1).

Subs: D Mooney for D Maguire (HT), C McKinley (1-0) for R McMullan (HT), A McGarrigle (0-1) for N McGarel (HT), E McCartan (0-1) for C Dickson (41), J Bakewell for R McCloskey (41), R McCollam for C McGarry (45), F Henry for R Laverty (50), C Boyle for R McCormick (61)

REFEREE: Peter Owens

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