Sunday 17 November 2019

Ulster hurling 'light years behind', laments McIntosh

Clare 4-24 Antrim 0-8

Antrim manager Johnny McIntosh wants a radical change in the way the county develops hurlers after the Ulster champions suffered another devastating defeat at this grade at Semple Stadium on Saturday.

Antrim have never won an All-Ireland U-21 semi-final in 33 attempts, and the margins of defeat each year show no sign of reducing.

This 28-point loss was the same gulf they lost by to Tipperary two years ago, while last year Dublin breezed past them with 26 points to spare.

"We are just gutted. I am personally gutted," said McIntosh after Saturday's clash. What's more frustrating for us is that's an U-21 team that we have put an amount of work into, and to come down like that... we are just light years behind them physically.

"We can talk what we like about developing the game of hurling in Antrim and in Ulster, but physically we are light years behind. Our fastest players on the field were made look slow and that was our problem.

"I have had a good chance to speak with the chairman and the county secretary, and maybe we will try and table some new ideas going forward. It is not about that bunch of players, it is not their fault.

"It is about a structure that needs to be put into place so we can breed bigger, stronger, more physical and faster players with hurling ability so we can compete.

"I can't blame any of the players or anything that they haven't done, it is just simply something that needs to be done to benefit Antrim hurling."

Antrim were never in contention against a Clare side who were allowed far too much time on the ball and who would have won by even more were it not for the brilliance of Saffrons goalkeeper James O'Mullan.

Clare joint manager Donal Moloney admitted that this facile victory was of little value to the Banner as they prepare for a shot at their second ever All-Ireland U-21 title.

"We knew it was going to be no good, we came down here and we never considered this was going to be adequate preparation for a final," he said.

The game was over as a contest by the end of the first quarter after Clare built up a lead of 0-10 to 0-1 despite playing against the breeze.

Even O'Mullan could do little to deny Cathal McInerney a goal after 19 minutes, and with Cathal O'Connell hitting 0-6 in the opening half, Clare continued to pull away.

On the stroke of half-time, captain Conor McGrath became the sixth forward to score when he fired home a goal to leave Clare ahead by 2-14 to 0-3.

Kevin McKiernan, who hit a couple of points, was the only real threat up front for Antrim, but Clare did not relent after the restart, with captain McGrath -- who along with wing-back Pat O'Connor was on the All-Ireland winning squad three years ago -- fired home the third goal after 37 minutes.

Sub Niall Arthur got his side's fourth goal -- he scored 1-2 after being introduced -- as the Munster champions coasted home.

Scorers -- Clare: C O'Connell 0-7 (2f), C McGrath 2-0, N Arthur 1-2 (1f), C McInerney 1-0, T Kelly 0-4 (3 '65'), A Cunningham, P Collins, S Morey 0-2 each, S Golden, P O'Connor, D O'Halloran, P Duggan, C Malone 0-1 each. Antrim: K McKiernan, M Devlin (1f) 0-2 each, C Laverty, E McAlonan, J Black, D McKiley 0-1 each.

Clare -- R Taaffe 6; P Flanagan 7, D McInerney 7, K Ryan 7; S Morey 8, C Ryan 6, P O'Connor 8; C Galvin 7, S Golden 7; A Cunningham 8, P Collins 7, T Kelly 7; C McInerney 7, C McGrath 8, C O'Connell 9. Subs: C Malone 6 for Galvin (37), P Duggan 6 for Cunningham (37), N Arthur 8 for McGrath (44), D O'Halloran 7 for O'Connell (44), S O'Halloran 6 for O'Connor (44).

Antrim -- J O'Mullan 8; R McCloskey 6, R Gillan 6, C Morgan 6; F Donnellan 6, M Donnelly 6, J McCoaig 6; A McKeown 5, J Black 7; M Devlin 7, S Dobbin 7, K McKiernan 8; N Elliot 6, C McCann 6, D McCloskey 6. Subs: E McAlonan 7 for McKeon (18), C Laverty 7 for Donnellan (32), C Murray 6 for McCoaig (40), D McKinley 6 for Dobbin (45), N McFadden 6 for McCann (52).

Ref -- A Stapleton (Laois)

Irish Independent

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