Antrim halt Derry odyssey
re> ANTRIM 1-19 DERRY 2-13re>
ANTRIM 1-19 DERRY 2-13
ANTRIM had to call on all their hurling know-how to hold off a determined challenge from surprise packets Derry in the Guinness Ulster hurling final at Casement Park yesterday.
Derry were making their first appearance in a provincial final since 1931, but at no stage did they look out of their depth.
With Ollie Collins leading the charge, they led by a point at the break, 1-6 to 0-8. However, a poor 15 minute spell at the start of the second half was their undoing as Antrim outscored them by eight points to one to race into a 0-16 to 1-7 lead.
Even at this stage, Derry refused to succumb and they rallied superbly to narrow the gap. And in the end, a brilliantly taken goal by Ally Elliott proved to be the difference between the sides.
Antrim were well served by Seamus McMullen, Gregory O'Kane and Kelly in the half-back line, while upfront they relied heavily on the dangerous Ally Elliott (1-4) and the accurate free-taker Gregory O'Kane (0-10) for scores.
Once again, Collins was Derry's main scorer with 0-10, but cracking goals by McGonigle and Gary Biggs at crucial stages gave Derry every hope of a first provincial crown since 1908.
Antrim raced into a four point lead in the opening ten minutes with points from O'Kane (3) and McMullan. At that stage Derry were playing with a distinct lack of confidence, but that all changed when Biggs and Collins narrowed the gap with a brace of points.
Collins then lifted the crowd with two superb long-range frees to level the score. And after Elliott had put Antrim ahead, Derry struck for the first goal of the game in the 21st minute a gem from McGonigle who doubled on a sideline cut by Collins to flash the ball into the net.
In the remaining minutes of the half, Collins and McCormack scored for Derry, while O'Kane replied with two frees to narrow the gap to one point at half-time.
Within seven minutes of the re-start Antrim had taken the lead thanks to points from O'Kane and Elliott. When Antrim raced into a seven point lead by the halfway stage in the second half, a comfortable win appeared to be on the cards. Biggs brought the game alive with a magnificent Derry goal, but Antrim replied immediately at the other end when Elliott netted.
With Derry trailing by six points in the 57th minute, Collins had a chance of a Derry goal but was tripped from behind as he raced through and had to be content with a point from a free.
With the accurate Gregory O'Kane picking off points, Antrim held on for a three point win and scores by Collins and Biggs proved too late to alter the result.
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS:
SCORERS Antrim: A Elliott 1-4, Gregory O'Kane 0-10, S McMullan, Gary O'Kane, J McIntosh, J Carson, L Richmond 0-1 each. Derry: Gary Biggs 1-1, G McGonigle 1-0, O Collins 0-10, Gregory Biggs, M McCormack 0-1 each.
ANTRIM S Elliott 8; R Donnelly 8, E Colgan 8, F McMullan 8; S McMullan 9, Gary O'Kane 9, C Kelly 8; P McKillen 7, J O'Neill 7; J Carson 6, C McGuckian 6, J McIntosh 6; A Elliott 10, Gregory O'Kane 9, L Richmond 6. Subs: K McKiernan for J O'Neill, J O'Neill for K McKiernan, J Elliott for J McIntosh.
DERRY K Stevenson 7; A Hickey 6, C Murray 6, N Mullen 7; B Ward 6, D Cassidy 8, C McGuirk 7; R McCluskey 7, O Collins 9; Gary Biggs 8, M Conway 5, M McCormack 6; P McEldowney 5, G McGonigle 7, J O'Dwyer 6. Subs: M Collins for M McCormack, A McCrystal for J O'Dwyer, Gregory Biggs 5 for M Conway.
REF P Delaney (Laois).