McKernan's late strike ensures Antrim retain stranglehold on Ulster
Antrim 2-17 Derry 2-16 - ULSTER SHC FINAL
Antrim's stranglehold on the Liam Harvey Cup was so nearly broken by Derry, but Daniel McKernan's controversial injury-time winner settled the Ulster final in the Saffrons' favour yet again.
McKernan hit the winner from all of 80 yards just after Derry had been denied what would have been a winning goal in an almighty goalmouth scramble. The Sarsfields man's effort was waved over by the umpires despite suggestions that the ball had gone wide. Having been so gut-wrenchingly beaten by Offaly two weeks ago, Saffron manager Kevin Ryan admitted that it was tough to refocus his side.
"Derry were fantastic there, they gave it everything. They had nothing to lose, we had everything to lose and we had to drag ourselves up (after the Offaly game). Two weeks to do it was nearly impossible."
His Derry counterpart, Ger Rogan, a former Antrim player himself, admitted his frustration at the lack of punishment for Antrim's Jackson McGreevy in the incident which led to Derry losing Tiarnan McCloskey to a red card after 29 minutes. "I was bitterly disappointed with that decision," he said.
McCloskey became the latest victim of the new rules governing interference with a player's faceguard. McGreevy appeared to have pulled wildly while in possession, which sparked the incident, but he was unpunished.
The Oak Leafers had kept pace with Antrim despite getting off to the worst start. PJ O'Connell found space down the middle and rattled the top corner of Darrel McDermott's goal after just 22 seconds. Ruairi Convery and Paul Shiels both had their eye in on the frees and the Swatragh captain's goal sent Derry in at the break with an unlikely 1-9 to 1-8 lead.
Conor McCann burst through 10 minutes after the restart and fired home a goal that made it 2-10 to 1-12 in Antrim's favour, but Patrick McCloskey scored a superb individual goal to put Derry three up with 15 minutes to play.
Antrim reeled them in to lead by a point with a minute to play. Convery equalised, but Antrim countered and McKernan launched the winner from range.
scorers – Antrim: P Shiels 0-8 (5f); C McCann 1-2; PJ O'Connell 1-0; D McKernan 0-4; D Hamill, N McKenna, D McCloskey 0-1 each Derry: R Convery 1-10 (0-8f, 0-2 '65'); A Kelly 0-4; P McCloskey 1-0; S McGuigan, S Farren 0-1 each .
Antrim – S McToal; O McFadden, M Donnelly, A Graffin; M Bradley, C Carson, N McAuley; J McGreevy, D Hamill; C McCann, P Shiels, E Campbell; C McGuinness, PJ O'Connell, D McKernan. Subs: R McCambridge for McGreevy (h-t), Niall McKenna for McGuinness (40), Daniel McCloskey for Hamill (58).
Derry – D McDermott; A Rafferty, C Quinn, E McGuckin; P Cleary, O McCloskey, C McQuillan; K Hinphey, L Hinphey; T McCloskey, S McGuigan, A Kelly; J O'Dwyer, R Convery, P McCloskey. Subs: M Warnock for McQuillan (19), S Farren for O'Dwyer (43), J McCloskey for McGuigan (43), M Conway for P McCloskey (65).
Ref – F Horgan (Tipperary).
Who is your sportstar of the year?
Vote in the Irish Independent Sport Star Awards and you could win the ultimate sports prize.
Prizes include, tickets to Ireland's against Scotland in the Six Nations, All Ireland football and hurling final tickets and much more.