Saffrons see off Kerry to secure Division One status

Allianz National Hurling League Division 2 final

Antrim 2-23 Kerry 2-20

Report by John Curly McIlwainePics by Brendan McTaggart

Antrim won the Division 2 Hurling League title, and with it a place in Division 1b next season, when they beat Kerry by 2-23 to 2-20 in Sunday’s final in Tullamore. The Saffrons appeared to be cruising when they lead by five points midway through the second half, but a bad mistake by goalkeeper Ryan Elliott let a long free from his own half by Kerry sharpshooter Shane Conway drop into the net and it was game-on once more. When Conway cut the gap to single point two minutes later it was squeaky bum time for the Saffron followers watching on GAAgo, but those nerves were settled a minute later when corner forward James McNaughton scored a brilliant goal at the other end. McNaughton and his fellow corner forward Conal ‘Coby’ Cunning were to share the man of the match accolades, Cunning absolutely brilliant in the opening half and McNaughton taking up the reigns in the second.

Antrim captain Conor McCann lifts the Division 2 League trophy after his team’s win over Kerry.

The Saffrons led by a point at half time, and were good value for it, their goal coming from team captain Conor McCann, after great work by substitute Dohmnal Nugent on 28 minutes. They started the second half strongly and pulled five clear but couldn’t push on as a dogged Kerry side battled hard. It was tough and uncompromising at times as they held off the Kerry challenge but McNaughton’s brilliant goal settled the nerves and they sealed the win with three to spare.

Antrim started well and Conal Cunning had them ahead in the second minute, but two points inside thirty seconds from dangerman Shane Conway had the kingdom in front by the fourth. Joe Maskey brought the Saffron level but two more from Conway, in reply to one from Niall McKenna kept the Kingdon ahead, but three great points in a row from Coby Cunning (2) and Niall McKenna put them two clear.

James McNaughton who was brilliant in the second half

A great point from play by Conway cut the gap the minimum again but on eighteen minute Paddy Burke broke forward from defence hit a superb point to restore the Saffron’s two point cushion. It stayed that way until the 25 minute mark when a high ball into the Antrim square was broken out to Kerry full forward Mickey Boyle who drilled a low shot to the net to give the Kingdom back the lead, but a few minutes later Antrim captain Conor McCann had the ball in the Kerry net after great work by substitute Dohmnal Nugent (on early in the game for the injured Neill McManus).

Michael Leane pulled one back for Kerry but two more the ever accurate Cunning, and another from McKenna, in reply to three more from Conway frees gave them the edge at the break, though it took a magnificent save by Antrim keeper Shane Elliott in first half injury time to see them hold that lead.

Conor McCann celebrates after scoring his team’s opening goal

When Antrim got the first three points of the new half through Michael Bradley, Niall McKenna and James McNaughton they appeared to be taking a grip on the game, and though Nolan pulled on back on 42 minutes, James McNaughton, who was growing into the game minute by minute, came back another top class score to give the Ulster men a four point cushion

It could have been even better as good work by the Antrim forwards saw Dohmnal Nugent through on goal, but his one handed shot under pressure was brilliantly saved by Mark Stackpool in the Kerry goal, though Coby Cunning did get a point from the free that the referee was playing advantage for.

Nial McKenna battles under the dropping ball as Eoghan Campbell awaits the outcome.

Kerry closed the gap to three again as Michael Leane and Conway added points but Conor McCann pushed the gap out to four again with a brilliant point from out on the right-hand sideline just before the second-half water break. James McNaughton put the Saffrons five clear with a massive free from distance just after the resumption and things were finally starting to look comfortable, but Antrim don’t do things the easy way and when Conway’s long free deceived Shane Elliott in the Antrim goal it was game on again.

To their credit they weathered the storm and when Eogan Campbell cut in from the wing and sent the ball across the Kerry goal, it ended up with McNaughton who fired brilliantly to the net. From here on there was a degree of comfort, though it was all hands to the pump, and substitute Doniel McCloskey earned his corn by earning two vital frees.

Big Dohmnal Nugent shows he can still hurl with one arm, just as he did in the coutny semi-final. There was no goals this time but the big man set up a goal for Conor McCann and put in a great shift after replacing the injured Neal McManus

ANTRIM

Ryan Elliott, Phelim Duffin, Matthew Donnelly, Stephen Rooney, Gerard Walsh, Paddy Burke, Joe Maskey, Eoghan Campbell, Keelan Molloy, Niall McKenna, Neil McManus, Michael Bradley, Conal Cunning, Conor McCann, James McNaughton

Subs –Domhnall Nugent for Neil McManus (4), Ciaran Clarke for Keelan Molloy (42), Aodhán O’Brien for Niall McKenna (55), Dan McCloskey for Michael Bradley (61), Ciaran Johnston for D Nugent (66). Blood sub: Eoin O’Neill for Ciaran Clarke (70+4, not reversed).

Scorers: Conal Cunning 0-10 (0-7f), James McNaughton 1-5 (0-2f), Conor McCann 1-1, Niall McKenna 0-3, Paddy Burke 0-1, Joe Maskey 0-1, Michael Bradley 0-1, Domhnall Nugent 0-1.

KERRY

Martin Stackpool, James O’Connor, Bryan Murphy, Tómas O’Connor, Conor O’Keefe, Jason Diggins, Fionnan Mackessy, Brendan O’Leary, Shane Nolan, Shane Conway, Michael O’Leary, Michael Leane, John Buckley, Mickey Boyle, Brandon Barrett.

Subs: Eric Leane for Conor O’Keefe (27), Colum Harty for John Buckley (52), Michael Slattery for Brendan O’Leary (59), Dan Goggin for Brandon Barrett (62).

Shane Conway 1-14 (1-9f, 0-2 65s), Mikey Boyle 1-1, Michael Leane 0-3, Michael O’Leary 0-1, Shane Nolan 0-1.

Kildare too strong for Antrim minors

Leinster Minor Hurling Championship

Kildare 1-13 Antrim 0-7

Antrim made their exit from the Leinster Minor Hurling Championship at Abbotstown on Saturday when they were beaten by Kildare , who had nine points to spare at the end. Despite losing a man to a straight red card after 19 minutes Antrim fought back well to trail by just two points at half time, but Kildare took control in the second half and added a goal and four points between the 42nd and 56th minutes to take the game away from the young Saffrons and book their place in the quarter finals against Offaly.  

Early points from Conn Kehoe and Conor Treacy gave Kildare and early cushion before Padraig McKillop opened Antrim’s account with a pointed free on five minutes. Two more from Kehoe frees and another from play by Treacy put the Lillywhites 5-1 clear but Antrim full forward Fintan McQuillan closed the gap to three just before the first half water break.

Midfielder Kehoe had just restored Kildare’s four point cushion on 19 minutes when disaster struck for Antrim when they lost centre forward McKillop to a red card, and when Killian Harrington increased the Kildare lead to five the Saffrons were in trouble. However they showed great character in the closing ten minutes of the first half when points from Fintan McQuillan, Anthony McGarrigle and Aidan Scullion left them just two in arrears at the short whistle.

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The gap remained at two for the first ten minutes of the new half as Kehoe and McQuillan exchanged points from play but Kildare then took a real grip on the game as the Antrim challenge faded. Kehoe added two more from frees, centre back Cian Boran and right half forward Fionn Maher tagged on two from play before corner forward Charlie Sherridan delivered the killer blow with a  goal from play in the 56th minute. Antrim pulled a point back through a McQuillan free on 58 minutes but it was to prove their final score as Kildare cruised to victory.

ANTRIM – Colm McKeegan, Shane McKenna, Ben McAuley, Dubhaltach Wilson, Pearse Shortt, Eoin Trainor, Conor Boyle, Ruairi McCormick, Eoin McFerran, Aidan Scullion, Padriag McKillop, Ruairi Murray, Darragh Turley, Fintan McQuillan, Anthony McGarrigle.

KILDARE – Ben Loughlin, Stephen Moran, Liam O’Reilly, Daniel O’Meara, Fionn Cooke, Cian Boran, Darragh Guerin, Ciaran Flanagan, Conn Kehoe, Conor Treacy, Niall Doran, Fionn Maher, Charlie Sherridan, Alan Goss, Killian Harrington.

Saffs book a date with the Dubs

Bord Gais Energy U20 Hurling

Leinster Championship Qualifier

Antrim 3-24 Down 2-14

Saturday October 17

Brendan McTaggart reports from McKenna Park, Ballycran

Antrim had 13 points to spare over Down on Saturday afternoon as they booked a date with Dublin in the first round of the Leinster championship.  Despite early signs of rust and cobwebs, the Saffrons cruised to victory in the second half with 3-20 of their final score coming from play.

Antrim’s Aaron Bradley in action during his team’s win over Down

Bizarrely, four of the five goals came in injury time, Antrim with the lions share.  Daire Murphy with two majors in a twenty minute cameo that will have done his chances of making the starting 15 on Wednesday evening against Dublin no harm at all while Seann Elliott took his tally to 1-6 for the match with his major just moments earlier.

Aaron Bradley shone with five points to his name over the 70 minutes while Dominic McEnhill was the main focal point for the Saffron attack.  The Rossa man excelled on the edge of the square and made life hell for the Down defence with his aerial ability and how he was able to make something from nothing. 

On another day, McEnhill would have been an automatic choice for man of the match but Ryan McGarry was hugely impressive at centre half.  His reading of the game in front of him, his positional sense and delivery of ball into the Antrim forwards was impeccable all afternoon but he had plenty of support.  Niall O’Connor was restless on the edge of his own square while Declan McCloskey was immense beside McGarry on the half back line.

Antrim’s Declan McCloskey clears from defence

Down showed plenty of spirit and passion throughout but once Antrim settled, they looked a more accomplished side.  Padraig Doran top scored for the home side with his 37th minute goal adding to his eventual tally of 1-6 with Ronan Blair, Cathal Coutler and Stuart Martin also catching the eye for the Ardsmen but they struggled to contain the Saffrons.  Once they got their noses in front, Antrim rarely looked like yielding their lead and turned the screw in the second half.

Down started brightly and had Antrim chasing shadows in the opening exchanges.  They held a two point lead at the first water-break but Antrim dominated the remainder of the second half to hold a five point lead at half time (0-12 to 0-7).

With whatever wind there was at their back for the second half, Antrim extended their lead to seven before the opening goal of the game.  Billy Campbell delivering the sliotar long into the heart of the Saffrons defence.  Antrim were caught under the dropping ball and Stuart Martin stole in behind before passing to Doran who made no mistake with a composed finish.

Antrim’s Seaan Elliott in action against Down’s Billy Campbell

The Saffron response was emphatic and game ending.  Seven points scored to just one from Down either side of the second half water-break gave them a six point lead going into the final 10 minutes and while Down looked for the scores, they were reliant on Doran’s frees to stay in touch.

Antrim’s first goal came in the last minute of normal time – Cormac McFadden sending the sliotar to McEnhill and he found Daire Murphy.  A goal made in Rossa and gave Antrim daylight.  Their second major came two minutes later with Seaan Elliott taking advantage of a stray poc out before Tim Prenter scored Down’s second goal with the next attack.  Just reward for the Down forward who was tireless throughout.  Antrim and Murphy had the final say.  McEnhill involved once again in creating the chance with Murphy’s second major the last action of the hour and adding further gloss to the score line for Antrim.

Down’s Stuart Martin wins the ball as Antrim’s Dominic McEnhill challenges.

TEAMS

Antrim: T Smith; R McCollan, N O’Connor, C McKay; C McKernan, R McGarry, D McCloskey; N McCormick (0-2), P Boyle; O Donnelly (0-1), A McGrath (0-1), C McFadden (0-2); S Elliott (1-6, 4f), D McEnhill (0-4), A Bradley (0-5)

Subs: E McCusker for C McKay (14); D Murphy (2-2) for O Donnelly (41); L Heenan for P Boyle (50); D McKeogh (0-1) for A McGrath (54)

Down: O McDermott; M McAreavy, E Maguire, R Convery; N McFarlane, C Coulter, B Campbell; C Watson, J Hughes (0-1); J Hanrahan, R Blair (0-3, 1f), S Martin (0-2); P Doran (1-6, 6f), S Campbell, T Prenter (1-2)

Subs: A Dorrian for E Maguire (HT); T Murphy for J Hughes (41); E Magee for S Campbell (54)