Joe McDonagh Cup – Round 4
Saturday November 28 at 1pm
Antrim vs Meath at Pairc Tailteann, Navan
Referee: David Hughes (Carlow)
By Brendan McTaggart
Ah sure, 2020 hasn’t been a bad year so far. Unbeaten, promotion obtained and barring any disasters on Saturday, a final in Croke Park on the biggest day of the hurling calendar.
T’is grand being an Antrim supporter in this, of all years.
A brilliant display against a previously unbeaten Kerry side in this years McDonagh Cup last day out has the Saffrons with more than one foot in this years final and the Kingdom lying in wait for a potential fourth encounter of the year.
It would take a swing of 27 points over the matches at the weekend with Meath needing to beat Antrim and a Carlow win over Westmeath by an accumulative total of more than 27 points. Possible? Anything is possible. It is 2020 and the year to expect the unexpected. There’s a job to be done in Pairc Tailteann on Saturday and Antrim dare not take their eye off the ball against the Royals.
Saturday will be the second time the sides will have met this year with Antrim playing on Pairc Ui Cheallaigh for the first time. A 24 point win against a disappointing Meath side who had two men sent off before half time and a Man of the Match performance from Neil McManus. Remember him? It should be worth noting the Saffrons have got to this stage in the McDonagh Cup without the talismanic Ruairi Og man.
They had 12 different scorers under the late winter sunshine in Portglenone with goals coming from McManus (two), Eoghan Campbell, James McNaughton and Keelan Molloy. The most impressive stat of the day belongs to the tally from play. 5-23 of their 5-27 tally came from open play while conceding just 1-7.
It was a big score racked up from Darren Gleeson’s side but it’s nothing new. It’s a trend the Saffrons have continued to set throughout the year. They have an astonishing ability to create goals from nothing. An ability to break from rucks and carve open defences in the blink of an eye. It’s something that has proven fruitful this year with 12 goals so far in the McDonagh campaign. None have benefitted from this more from their style of play than Conor McCann. The Antrim Captain has scored majors in each of his last six matches, seven green flags raised in that period. An astonishing run to rival the best out there, he’ll be hoping he can keep that run going for a while yet.
A closer look at McCann’s performances and he’s truly led from the front. A powerhouse on the edge of the square, a knack of being in the right place at the right time to take the plaudits but it’s his ability to win primary possession in the middle third that also helps his side. If anyone would dare call McCann a poacher, they know little about the Saffrons this year. He’s relentless. He gives 100% commitment and brings 100% intensity every time. He’s a leader.
Meath have made a return to the McDonagh Cup after winning the Christy Ring last year. Their campaign thus far has been fruitless but their last two outings against Carlow and Westmeath show they are a side who shouldn’t be taken lightly. After a disappointing opening day 10 point defeat to Kerry, they pushed Carlow to the pin of their collar while it took a late goal from Luke Loughlin to give Westmeath a four point win last weekend.
The Saffrons have played Meath numerous times in the last few years. Some good memories, some not so good and some that would scare the life out of you. Those who were ‘lucky’ enough to have witnessed the Christy Ring final of 2016, both of them, will know exactly what I’m talking about. Scoreboardgate. I’ll say no more.
The other standout memory from clashes against Meath comes from Antrim’s first match in the McDonagh Cup, three years ago. Pairc Tailteann again and a dodgy start. Nigel Elliott attempting to score at the wrong posts is something you are likely to see in 2020 but it happened in 2017. The Cuchullain, now in Australia, would go on and redeem himself with 3-2 in a man of the match performance and a brilliant overall display from the Saffrons.
Something akin to that performance will do nicely on Saturday. Something akin to how the Saffrons have been playing for the vast majority of 2020 will also do nicely. Croke Park beckons, but there’s a job to do in Pairc Tailteann.
The story so far….
Sun Oct 25
Kerry 1-20 Meath 0-13
Antrim 4-25 Westmeath 1-5
Sat Oct 31
Carlow 2-25 Antrim 5-16
Sat Nov 7
Carlow 1-22 Meath 1-21
Sat Nov 14
Antrim 3-18 Kerry 2-14
Sat Nov 21
Meath 1-19 Westmeath 2-20
When they last met….
Allianz Hurling League
Antrim 5-27 Meath 1-15 – Sunday February 23, 2020
Saffrons Stroll to comfortable win
Brendan McTaggart reports from Páirc Uí Cheallaigh, Port Gleann Eoghan
Job done and the perennial banana skin avoided. Antrim made it three from three on Sunday afternoon as they swept aside the challenge of Meath in Portglenone. The Saffrons had 24 points to spare in a performance that was every bit as comfortable as it sounds. The Royals had two men sent off for double bookings at the end of the first half but Antrim were already in control with a first half where they dominated the visitors and laid the foundations for a resounding league win.
Darren Gleeson’s men had big performances all over the field in a fine team display. Matthew Donnelly at full back rarely put a foot wrong while Eoghan Campbell and Keelan Molloy’s partnership in midfield continues to grow. The Saffrons star man however was a simple call however. 2-9 over his 70 minutes work, 2-5 from play and a lung busting performance, Neil McManus was in top form for Antrim.
An early goal from Keelan Molloy set the tone for the Saffrons as the crowd gathered into a sun kissed but cold Páirc Uí Cheallaigh. Despite playing into a substantial wind, Antrim showed fluency and cohesion belittling the fact it was three weeks since their last outing.
The second Antrim goal came 10 minutes in. Eoghan Campbell applying the finish and Dan McCloskey with the assist as Antrim opened a five point lead. Meath were reliant on the free taking of Padraig O’Hanrahan for the majority of the game and more so in the first half while Antrim waited until the 25th minute before scoring their first point from placed ball.
The lead was nine points when Alan Douglas saw red for a second booking as Meath grew frustrated at Antrim’s dominance. Both sides had goal chances in the moments that followed, James Toher bringing the best out of Conor McAlister while James McNaughton was denied at the other end of the pitch but an already difficult task for the Royal’s was made a mission impossible with Luke Moran seeing red for a second booking.
Both dismissals changed the complex of the game there after but the visitors couldn’t argue with any of the cards given. Antrim held a deserving 11 point lead at the interval and a firm grasp on the two league points available.
Antrim: Conor McAllister; Phelim Duffin, Matthew Donnelly, Stephen Rooney; Gerard Walsh, Paddy Burke, Joe Maskey; Eoghan Campbell, Keelan Molloy; James McNaughton, Neil McManus, Michael Bradley; Domhnall Nugent, Niall McKenna, Dan McCloskey
Scorers: Neil McManus 2-9 (2 f’s 2 ‘65’s); Eoghan Campbell 1-2; James McNaughton 1-2; Keelan Molloy 1-2; Domhnall Nugent 0-2; Niall McKenna 0-2; Aodhan O’Brien 0-2; Ronan Molloy 0-2; Gerard Walsh 0-1; Joe Maskey 0-1; Michael Bradley 0-1; Nicky McKeague 0-1
Meath: Charlie Ennis; Séan Geraghty, Shane Brennan, Stephen Morris; Keith Keoghan, James Toher, Luke Moran; Mikie Mullen, Patrick Potterton; Damien Healy, Padraig O’Hanrahan, Jack Regan; Michael Burke, Alan Douglas, Éamon Ó Donnchadha
Scorers: Padraig O’Hanrahan 0-8 (6 f’s); Nicholas Potterton 1-1; James Toher 0-2; Alan Douglas 0-1; James Kelly 0-1; Stephen Morris 0-1; Keith Keoghan 0-1
Referee: Sean Stack (Dublin)
Allianz National Hurling League – Division 2 – February 3, 2019
Meath 2-15 Antrim 3-13
McNaughton snatches victory with last gasp point
John McIlwaine reports from Trim
A brilliant point deep into injury time by star of the show James McNaughton gave Antrim hurlers their first win in Division 2A of the National Hurling League in Trim today. When Meath’s Jack Regan fired a 20m free to the Antrim net two minutes into added time to bring his team level it appeared as if Antrim were to endure heart-breaking slip-up. However there was enough time for Antrim to reply and when the ball came in to Eoin Neill on the 45 metre line his pass found McNaughton who sprinted through on the right to fire over the winning score.
Meath manager Nick Fitzgerald and his players were left fuming, claiming Tipperary referee Johnny Ryan had indicated that Regan’s free was the last poc of the game. Antrim on the other hand felt that time was up even before Meath got their free and that they should have had the game wrapped up long before the late drama.
The Meath manager added that “maybe that’s fairly typical of how the GAA view counties like Meath.”
To be honest Antrim fully deserved the win and it would have been an injustice if they had gone home with anything less than the two points. They held a one point lead at half time after facing a strong breeze and driving rain, three brilliantly taken goals giving them the edge. They controlled most of the second half and after being pegged back to level on a couple of occasions they went three clear ten minutes from time. They had a few good chances of hitting the insurance point but squandered them, and it looked like they were going to pay the price. However McNaughton, who had been brilliant throughout the game, sent the Saffron fans home happy after a score right out of the top drawer.
MEATH: S McGann; G Murphy, S Brennan, S Morris; K Keoghan, S Whitty, J Kelly; J Regan 1-4 (1-0f), S Quigley; D Healy 1-0, P O’Hanrahan 0-6 (0-4fs, 0-1 ’65), D Kelly 0-3; A Douglas, M O’Grady 0-1, K Keena 0-1.
Subs: E Ó Donnchadha for O’Grady (53mins), J McGeown for Quigley (63mins).
ANTRIM: R Elliott; S Rooney, J Dillion, P Duffin; R Molloy, M Donnelly 0-1, C McHugh; S Duffin, C Boyd; N Elliott 0-1, C McCann, J McNaughton 1-8 (0-5fs, 0-1 ’65); E O’Neill 1-2, K Molloy, C Clarke 1-1.
Subs: D McKinley for S Duffin (34mins), C Patterson for Boyd (48mins)
REFEREE: J Ryan (Tipperary)