Antrim edge U21 Decider

July 28th, 2011

Bord Gáis Ulster GAA U21 Hurling Championship Final:
Antrim 0-15 Armagh 2-7

Late scores from team captain Conor McCann and injury-time substitute Neil Cunningham saw Antrim win the Ulster Under-21 Hurling Championship for the third year in a row against unlucky Armagh in Wednesday evening’s final at Casement Park.

For most of the first half it appeared that Armagh, who were appearing in their second final in succession, were on course to make history and lift their first title at this grade. The Orchard county boys were on top in many sectors and when they went 1-4 to 0-2 clear in a low scoring first-half Antrim looked to be in trouble.

However the Saffrons rallied before the break to cut the arrears to a goal, and the introduction of substitute Ciaran Johnston (son of Armagh manager Mickey Johnston) at the start of the second-half and the switching of corner-back Terry McAllister to full-back, helped turn things in the home team’s favour.

It was still far from plain sailing for Antrim however, but Johnston’s influence at midfield certainly gave them the edge and slowly but surely they chipped away at the Armagh lead. Some excellent point taking by Conor McCann and Tony McCloskey saw Antrim edge two clear, but the handful of Antrim fans in rain swept Casement Park had to endure more drama as Armagh goaled at the other end to retake the lead with just eight minutes left to play.

Excellent approach work by right-half-forward Dessie McLean sent James Black clear for the equaliser and Ciaran Johnston hit a beauty to edge the Saffrons back in front, but Armagh responded again and the excellent Conor Corvan sent over the equaliser with just a minute of normal time left for play.

Extra time looked a distinct possibility but Conor McCann held his nerve well to send over a difficult free from sixty metres for the lead score before Cunningham sent over the insurance point with his first touch of the ball in the 62nd minute.

Antrim: E Gillan; T McAllister, A Downey, J McCouig; N McAlea, M Donnelly, K McKiernan (0-1, 1f); C Laverty, S Smyth (0-1); J Black (0-1), M Devlin, D McLean (0-1); N Elliott (0-1), C McCann (0-6, 4f) T McCloskey (0-2).
Subs: C Johnston (0-1) for Devlin (HT); C Loughran for Downey (39); N Cunningham (0-1) for Elliott (60).

Armagh: S Doherty; M Garvey, F Corvan, N Duffy; T Marley, P Heaney, JJ Hughes; K McKernan, M Lennon; M Maguire (0-1), J King, C McKee (0-1); A Mackle, C Corvan (1-4, 4f), D Nugent (0-1).
Subs: E Carvill for Mackle (19); R Lewis for N Duffy (HT); L Woods for Marley (41); T Duffy (1-0) for Lewis (50).

Referee: Eamon Hassan (Derry)