Saffrons Recover to Claim U20 Title

Ulster U20 Hurling Cup Final

Antrim 2-13 Derry 0-11

Saturday 11 March

Brendan McTaggart reports from Owenbeg

Antrim recovered from a poor first half at a wintry Owenbeg to take the U20 honours against Derry.  Eight points separated the sides at the end of the hour with Antrim’s majors the difference.  Aidan Scullion finding the back of the net in each half that gave the Saffrons the edge against the Oakleaf men.

Derry will look at the first half when despite taking a one point lead into the break, they really should have been further ahead.  Before Antrim’s first goal, they had held Paudie Shivers men scoreless for 15 minutes but only managed to score three points in that same period of time while firing six wides.  It felt like they had let Antrim off the hook with their lack of accuracy and it proved to be so.  Once Scullion fired the first of Antrim’s majors, Derry never dominated another period of time to effectively put the Saffrons under any score board pressure.

The Saffrons played with more intensity in the second half and Scullion’s second goal midway through the half put daylight between the sides.  The introduction of Darragh Patterson, Cormac McKeown and Jack McCloskey all proving pivotal in the second half as Antrim held Derry to just three points in that period , controlling the game and dominating the Oakleaf men.

Antrim full forward Aidan Scullion gets in among the Derry defence to steer home his team’s decisive second goal during Saturday’s Ulster Under 20 final at Owenbeg

Playing against the wind, Antrim made a bright start.  Aodhan Scullion fired over his first of four match points to open the scoring before James Friel restored parity for Derry.  Both sides were lacking precision in those opening exchanges with the elements certainly not conducive for flowing hurling.  McGarry did split the posts only for Ruairi O’Mianian to bring the sides level once again.

Niall McGarel split the uprights in the 12th minute to edge Antrim ahead once more, a tidy score that underpinned his performance in the opening quarter.  He was proving to be a handful for Derry defence and Antrim couldn’t get enough ball his way.  It would be the Saffrons last score for a quarter of the game however as Derry turned the screw in the middle of the pitch. 

Friel landed a trio of points from placed ball (1 ’65) but a number of wides from open play and frees hurt the Derry challenge.  They led by two points and were winning every second ball in the middle third with the Saffrons struggling to get out of their own half.

Antrim did finally break the rut and did so in the best possible way.  Joseph McLaughlin finding Scullion who despite being some distance out, went for goal.  His effort fizzed low and Derry ‘keeper Cathan McElhinney managed to get his hurl to the sliotar but he could only deflect it to the back of the net.

The major came against the run of play and it was most definitely needed for the Saffrons as they weren’t at the races against a barrage of Derry pressure.  They followed up Scullion’s major with another McGarel point to go two clear but Derry hit back.  Friel fired over from a ’65 and a free either side of Keelan Doherty’s point to give Derry a 0-8 to 1-4 lead at the short whistle.

Antrim full forward Aidan Scullion pulls the ball to the Derry net for the second of his two goals

Scullion’s major gave the Saffrons a lifeline for the second half.  They had the breeze at their back and had already shown in the first half their forwards were capable of causing major problems.  They needed to tighten up the middle third and the introduction of Darragh Patterson allowed them to do that.  He played at the heart of the defence as a sweeper as Antrim pegged Derry into their own half for long periods of the second half. 

Six minutes had past after the restart when they had retaken the lead.  Scullion and McGarry splitting the uprights before Joseph McLaughlin followed suit after good work by captain Eoin Trainor in the middle of the field.

Antrim too were guilty of a number passing up on a number of chances with their tally of wides growing in those opening exchanges but the first Derry score of the second half didn’t come until the 44th minute, Keelan Doherty finding the target to bring Derry to within touching distance.

It was as close as they got to the Saffrons however as Shivers’ men scored their second major soon after.  Daire McMullan’s long free wasn’t dealt with in the heart of the Derry full back line and Scullion was on hand to pull the sliotar to the back of the net. 

Jack McCloskey fired over with the next attack to put five between the sides as Antrim played with more precision and intensity in the middle of the park.

Substitute Segdae Melaugh split the posts for Derry in the 50th minute to leave four between the sides, Melaugh’s introduction certainly giving Derry another option in attack and he was in the thick of the action for the Oakleaf men but the Antrim defence were well on top with Derry living off crumbs.

The scores began to come a bit more freely in the closing stages with Cormac McKeown, Ryan Mort (two), Aodhan McGarry (free) and Christy McGarry all raising a white flag in a five minute spell that saw the Saffrons add gloss to the score line but it was nothing short of what their second half showing deserved.

Ruairi O’Mianian fired over in injury time for Derry but it was too little too late as Antrim ran out comfortable winners in the end.

They now go into the Leinster championship round robin  where they will play Meath, Offaly and Westmeath.

Antrim: Eoghan Richmond; Ben McGarry, Ruairi McCormick, Dubhaltach Wilson; Daire McMullan, Eoin Trainor, Conor Boyle; Eoin McFerran, Connor Dickson; Aodhan McGarry, Joseph McLaughlin, Christy McGarry; Ryan Mort, Aidan Scullion, Niall McGarel

Subs: Darragh Patterson for C Boyle (HT); Cormac McKeown for E Trainor (41); Jack McCloskey for J McLaughlin (41); Seamie McIntosh for N McGarel (52); Ronan McCollum for A Scullion (58)

Scorers: A Scullion 2-1; A McGarry 0-4 (1f); N McGarel 0-2; R Mort 0-2; J McLaughlin 0-1; C McGarry 0-1; C McKeown 0-1; J McCloskey 0-1

Derry: Cathan McElhinney; Andy McBride, Aimon Duffin, Mark McEldowney; John McAllister, James Friel, Callum O’Kane; Ronan McNamee, Eunan Boylan; Ruairi O’Mianian, Niall McGonagle, Jack Cassidy; Conor Murtagh, Eamon Cassidy, Keelan Doherty

Subs: Segdae Melaugh for C Murtagh (HT); Ruaidhri McLaughlin for R McNamee (37); Conan Bradley for E Boylan (53)

Scorers: J Friel 0-6 (4fs 2’65s); R O’Mianian 0-2; K Doherty 0-2; S Melaugh 0-1

Referee: James Clarke (Cavan)

Antrim face Derry on their home patch, and that is a tough task for any team

Ulster Under 20 Hurling Final

Antrim v Derry at Owenbeg – Throw in 3pm

The Antrim team to play Derry in Saturday’s Ulster Under 20 Hurling Championship final at Owenbeg shows three changes from the team that started against Down in their final round robin game two weeks ago. Conor Boyle, Christy McGarry and Ryan Mort come into the starting fifteen in place of Luke O’Connor, Jack McCloskey and Seanie McIntosh. Mort came on for O’Connor in the final quarter of the Down game and has done enough to impress the selectors but there is no starting place for any of the other four subs that day, Dairmuid Rogan, Darragh Kelly, Ronan McCollum or Cormac McKeown, who scored four points from play that day.

Aodhan McGarry has been a vital member of the Antrim team all season

The win over Down was a hard fought victory with the heroics of goalkeeper Eamon Richmond going a long way towards getting the Saffrons over the line, as indeed was the first round game against Saturday’s opponents Derry, when the sides met at Dunsilly four weeks ago. The night the Oak Leaf outfit pushed Antrim all the way, and only got home with two late points, after Derry captain James Friel had missed the chance of levelling the game going into injury time.

It is clear that there is really nothing between the three main teams in Ulster, with Derry just getting over line with two late injury time points last Saturday, Friel’s brilliance from long range frees just giving them the edge at the end of a really tough contest.

Derry’s James Friel has starred for both U20 and senior teams his season

It is highly likely that Saturday’s final will be as close as any of the games to date. Both teams will know that they are both capable of clinching the title, and gaining entry into the Leinster A competition, but both will be equally aware that both sides are very evenly matched. Derry will have home advantage, which could prove vital, and it Antrim are to beat them then they will have to be at their best. Their shooting let them down against both Saturday’s opponents and Down and they will need to be more economical to through. The one thing that might be in the Saffrons favour is the quality of their bench and that could prove a decisive factor in the end.

Niall McGarel in action against Derry in the round robin game at Dunsilly last month.

Gleeson calls for the fans to turn out in force

“Show the team that they mean something to them and this county” – Darren Gleeson

Brendan McTaggart speaks with Darren Gleeson as the Antrim manager sends out a rallying call ahead of Sunday’s huge Allianz hurling league game against Laois.

Allianz Hurling League – Division 1b

Antrim v Laois

Venue: Corrigan Park, Belfast

Throw in: 1pm

Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow)

All roads lead to Corrigan Park on Sunday afternoon as Antrim welcome Laois in a winner takes all encounter.  The permutations are simple for Darren Gleeson and his men, win and they ensure their Division 1 status for 2024.  A defeat and they will be facing a relegation play-off.

Déjà vu anyone?

Ryan McGarry was midfield when the sides met in the league two years ago in Corrigan. The Dunloy man moves back to the guard the edge of the ‘square’ at the weekend

We were in the same scenario 12 months ago when Antrim travelled to Portlaoise in the same position.  That day, an inordinate number of wides against a transformed Laois team left Antrim facing a play-off against Offaly regardless of the result against Tipperary the week after.

Antrim’s form coming into Sunday certainly gives reasons for confidence.  While they have no points to show for their efforts, they could quite conceivably be sitting with at least 4 points.  Last day out in Dungarvan, they were a match for the Deise for over an hour of that game.  The final scoreline certainly wasn’t a fair reflection on the game from a Saffron point of view and Gleeson told us his side have reacted well to the defeat: “I’m proud of their efforts against one of the top four teams in the country and they’ve reacted superbly.  They’ve got back on the horse and very much focussed on the next game.”

Going down to 14 men and the loss of key players had a massive impact on the Saffrons gameplan.  The Antrim challenge wilted late on the south coast and the Antrim manager gave us his take on it: “Playing with 14 men for maybe 50 minutes when you take in the injury time at the end of the first half along with losing Neil (McManus), Seaan (Elliott) who was having a really good game and James (McNaughton) who took a couple of really heavy blows.  One of them certainly should have been a straight red card.”

Eoghan Campbell will be badly missed at centre back this time out

Gleeson confirmed Elliott and McNaughton’s withdrawals against Waterford were down to concussion.  Both have been cleared for Sunday’s game but the news isn’t as positive for Conal Bohill who is ruled out through injury.  He continued: “They (Watrerford) were able to have an impact off the bench going into the final quarter.  We couldn’t do that with having to make changes early in the game but look I’m proud of how they performed.

“We hurled more consistently against Waterford.  In the previous matches we hurled in patches and I suppose that can be down to coming off the back of a pre-season where the lads maybe aren’t regularly together and with the Dunloy lads coming back late into the panel would have an effect on that also.”

Gleeson knows the magnitude of Sunday’s fixture and is wary of the challenge the O’Moore County will bring to Corrigan Park.  “They (Laois) are under new management now (Willie Maher) but by enlarge it’s the same group of players that we’ve seen with maybe the exception of one or two.  They have four or five high end payers and will bring an endeavour and work-rate but we’ll concentrate on ourselves and what we want to bring.  Last year there was plenty said about the game against Laois and how they targeted the game and ambushed us.  There was no ambush.  We didn’t play with the level of intensity that we showed we could through last year.  They targeted that game and we went flat out every time.”

Conal Cunninng in action during the league meeting at Corrigan in June 2021

Seamus ‘Cheddar’ Plunikett stepped down as Laois manager last June and they are now under the tutelage of Willie Maher.  Himself also a Tipperary native and led the Premier County to All-Ireland minor success in 2012.  He has Waterford hurling legend Dan Shanahan and Eamon Jackman as part of his backroom team but the 2023 season is taking a familiar journey for the O’Moore County.

Last year, they seemed to target the Antrim game as a means to staying in the top flight.  They certainly performed much better that day in Portlaoise than at any time in their previous outings in 2022.  Seeing off the Antrim challenge with late scores from PJ Scully and Cha Dwyer, despite playing with 14 men for

The likes of Paddy Purcell, Cha Dwyer and PJ Scully are names those who follow Antrim around the country will be familiar with while Tom Phelan’s goal last day out against Kilkenny coming off the bench may give Willie Maher and his backroom team food for thought when they are finalising their 15 for Sunday.

Sunday represents Antrim’s biggest game of 2023.  There’s no doubt about it.  It’s a must win game and Gleeson wants to see a huge crowd in Corrigan to get behind his side: “Sunday’s massive.  I would love for a big crowd to get out and get behind these lads.  Show the team that they mean something to them and this county.”

Antrim have brought back Ryan Elliott to between the sticks.  Gleeson called this a massive call by him but did say the Dunloy netminder has been superb in training since.  Gleeson also told us that Paul Boyle is unlucky to miss out but how he has been impressed with the injection of young talent into the squad this year.  “I’m delighted with how the younger lads have handled themselves” said Gleeson, “they’ll continue to be given a chance so long as this management team are together.”  Eoin Trainor and Christy McGarry will be involved with the U20s on Saturday while Seamy McAuley and Rian McMullan will both be part of the match day squad as will Domhnal Nugent.  The St John’s man has been out for nine month but the Antrim manager said he’s been putting in a mountain of work and will be an option if needed against Laois.

The game is being shown on the BBC iPlayer but if ever there was a time to use the old GAA adage of “Nothing beats being there” it’s now.  Forget about the snow and the ice, the iPlayers.  Corrigan Park is the place to be on Sunday.  Lets get behind our county and provide the 16th man.

Gerard Walsh in action in the 2021 League meeting with Laois at Corrigan Park

When they last met….

Laois 1-20 Antrim 1-19

6th March 2022

Antrim’s chances of remaining in Division 1B are hanging by a thread after Sunday’s narrow defeat by Laois in Sunday’s crucial Division 1B game in O’Moore Park, Portaloise. When Paddy Burke’s brilliant point put Antrim ahead as the game entered injury time, it looked like the Saffrons had pulled it out of the fire, despite an awful first half display. However their failure to take the chances that came their way were to cost them badly, and the home team rallied to level through a PJ Scully free before a late, late point from play by Cha Walsh sealed the win and left the Saffron rueing their 18 wides overall.

Despite a greats start which saw Neil McManus, Michael Bradley and Conal Cunning put them 0-3 to 0-0 ahead after just two minutes there was a slackness to Antrim’s play that lacked the intensity we have seen in other games in this campaign….

Laois: Enda Rowland (0-01, 1f); Diarmuid Conway, Sean Downey, Podge Delaney; Liam O’Connell, Ryan Mullaney, Mark Dowling; Jack Kelly, Fiachra C Fennell; Paddy Purcell (1-01), James Keyes (0-02), Ross King; Willie Dunphy (0-02), Cha Dwyer (0-04), Stephen Maher (0-08; 4f, 2 ‘65)

Subs: PJ Scully (0-02, 1f) for Dowling (50); Aidan Corby for King (56); Stephen Bergin for Maher (71)

Antrim: Ryan Elliott; David Kearney (0-01), Gerard Walsh (0-01), Stephen Rooney; Paddy Burke (0-02), Eoghan Campbel (0-01)l, Ryan McGarry; Keelan Molloy, Daniel McKernan; Michael Bradley (0-02), Domhnall Nugent, Conal Cunning (0-02); Seann Elliott (0-01), Neil McManus (1-07; 7f), Ciaran Clarke (0-02)

Subs: Conor McCann for Elliott, James McNaughton for Nugent (HT); Conor Johnston for Kearney (59); Eoin O’Neill for Molloy (62); Ryan McCambridge for Bradley (69)

Starting 15 for Sunday’s game with Laois..

  1. Ryan Elliott
  2. Paddy Burke
  3. Ryan McGarry
  4. Stephen Rooney
  5. Joe Maskey
  6. Gerard Walsh
  7. Niall O’Connor
  8. Michael Bradley
  9. James McNaughton
  10. Keelan Molloy
  11. Niall McKenna
  12. Nigel Elliott
  13. Conal Cunning
  14. Neil McManus
  15. Conor Johnston

Antrim Senior Hurling Golf Classic 2023

The Antrim Senior Hurling Team, in partnership with Balmoral Golf Club, is proud to present the upcoming Antrim Senior Hurling Golf Classic on Friday 14th April 2023 at Balmoral Golf Club in Belfast. This event has seen great success in the past, and we look forward to another exciting tournament this year.

A team of four players (four ball) can enter the Antrim Senior Hurling Golf Classic for £200, which will cover the round of golf, entry to win great prizes, and a meal afterwards in the clubhouse restaurant.

Antrim Senior Hurlers would be delighted to have you or your business on board as a sponsor of the event. For a cost of £100, your name or business logo will be showcased on the first hole as players begin to play and get photos throughout the entire day.

Cash donations are acceptable and please make any cheques payable to Antrim GAA.

Space is limited, call Stephen on 077 1045 9829 or email now to book.

Antrim Senior Hurlers Conall Bohill, Dan McKernan and Niall O'Connor stand side by side with the PGA Professional Lee McKenna at Balmoral Golf Club, Belfast
Antrim Senior Hurlers Conall Bohill, Dan McKernan and Niall O’Connor stand side by side with the PGA Professional Lee McKenna at Balmoral Golf Club, Belfast

Antrim get the better of Down, but only just

Ulster Under 20 Hurling Championship – round robin 2

Down 0-18 Antrim 1-17

Antrim made it two wins out of two in the Ulster Under 20 Hurling Championship when they got the better of Down at Portaferry on Saturday in a game that was tense and tight from start to finish. In face the only time there was any daylight between the two teams was in the opening five minute when the boys from the Ards took a 0-3 to 0-0 lead, and in the end it took a goal from Antrim’s Joe McLaughlin and two outstanding saves from goalkeeper Eoghan Richmond, and four points from play by substitute Cormac McKeown to get the Saffrons across the line with their noses in front.

The first half turned out to be a shoot-out between Down’s ace marksman Tom McGrattan and Antrim’s Aodhan McGarry, both players showing great accuracy from placed balls. McGrattan accounted for seven of his team’s nine points, the other two coming from Fionn Turpin and Michael Dorrian, while McGarry got six for Antrim with Aidan Scullion, Niall McGarrel and Joe McLaughlin getting the others.

Level at 0-9 apiece at the interval, Goalkeeper Richmond was called upon soon after the change of ends when he pulled off a great double save. They were still level seven minutes into the second half when the introduction of substitute Cormac McKeown starred to see Antirm edge ahead, the Glenravel teenager hitting four from play, between there and the end, three of them coming in the last ten minutes. Joe McLaughlin struck a vital goal after a good flowing move and netminder Richmond denied McGrattan from a penalty to get Antrim home by the shin of their teeth.  


Eoghan Richmond, Ben McGarry, Ruairi McCormick, Dubaltach Wilson, Daire McMullan, Eoin Trainor, Conor Dickson, Eoin McFerran, Aodhan McGarry (0-6), Joseph McLaughlin (1-0), Seanie McIntosh (0-1), Luke O’Connor, Niall McGrrell (0-4), Aidan Scullion (0-1), Jack MCloskey (0-2)

Subs –

Cormac McKeown (0-04) for Aidan Scullion HT

Ryan Mort for Luke O’Connor 43 Mins

Diarmaid Rogan for Joseph McLaughlin
55 mins

Darragh Kelly for Seanie McIntosh
55 mins

Ronan McCollum for Niall McGarel
59 mins


Cathal Laverty, James Higgins, Declan Mallon, Eoin Pucci, Ciaran Milligan, Ciaran Savage, Finn McFall, Ryan O’Neill, Finn Turpin, Ehtan Bell, James Duggan, Sean Milligan, Michael Dorrian, Tom McGrattan, Oisin Coulter.