Dr McKenna Cup Group C

Antrim pass Jordanstown test

By Conor McLoughlin
Antrim 1-17 -- UUJ 2-8

Antrim scored an impressive 20 points at a rain-lashed Creggan on Sunday, but the gloss was taken off an otherwise good performance with the concession of two needless goals.

The visitors from UUJ were missing a host of household names who had either opted to play for their county – such as Kieran Hughes of Monaghan – or were simply unavailable, like Armagh’s Jamie Clarke and Antrim’s Niall McKeever. That could only partly explain what was overall a disappointing performance from the college side. Antrim’s tenacity in the tackle and the speed of their attack were also massive factors in the win.

Big Paddy Kelly excelled from the half forward line and Philly Maguire also impressed on his full debut, while the three-man full forward line (who could have guessed we’d ever say that with Liam Bradley in charge?) of lefties Paddy Cunningham, Conor McGourty and Brian Neeson were always eager to shoot.

Yet the best performer on the day was Creggan’s Marty Johnston, playing at centre half back, who swept up all day and made some intelligent and important interceptions that allowed Antrim to build attacks.

Although Derry star Caolan O’Boyle got the first score for the students from a free, Antrim totally dominated the opening proceedings. Brain Neeson got out in front of another Derry player, Chrissy McKaigue, to curl over an impressive opening score for the hosts.

Two Conor McGourty frees followed before Paddy Cunningham benefitted from a Mark Sweeney forward foray to lash another point over the bar.

Neeson had a sight of goal when he burst forward at pace, leaving the UUJ defenders trailing in his wake, but a save from Mark McReynolds drew a ’45 which Portglenone’s Paddy Kelly converted.

Cunningham added two further scores from play, interrupted only by a Richard Donnelly score for the students after Antrim were caught napping at a quickly taken free.

O’Boyle was booked, rather harshly, after 22 minutes when he chased down a loose ball in the square and made contact with the advancing Antrim goalkeeper Oisin Kerr milliseconds before touching the ball, and Kerr was sent sprawling.

But the dangerous Lavey forward didn’t have long to wait to make amends when St Gall’s man Niall O’Neill sent O’Boyle clear and he tucked it away to make it a one-point game, against the run of play.

UUJ’s Karl McKaigue was fortunate to escape a black card when he hauled Paddy Cunningham to the ground, and McGourty scored the resulting free. In fairness to referee Kieran Trainor he was consistent in his use – or lack thereof – of the new black card. Antrim’s Tony Scullion was also fortunate to escape a reprimand when he appeared to trip Danny Savage early in the second half.

Mick McCann scored a great point from distance soon after he missed a goal chance when blasting wide, soccer style, just before the interval, while a Paddy Kelly score from play left Antrim four in front at the break.

The hosts seemed to take complete control in the second half when CJ McGourty tucked  a penalty away after Kelly was hauled down in the square soon after the re-start. The Portglenone man was making a real nuisance of himself, attacking the UUJ defence with power and pace, and his accuracy from the placed ball was also notable.

However, just as it seemed Antrim would deservedly pull clear, O’Boyle struck again.

Donnelly floated in a sideline ball to the far post and it seemed it wouldn’t trouble Antrim goalkeeper Kerr, but O’Boyle managed to punch  the ball past the keeper as he came from his line for an easy goal.

The goal came either side of a free from Savage and a brace of points from play from O’Boyle and suddenly the match was all square with 20 minutes left to play.

Conor McGourty scored a fine point with the outside of his boot to edge Antrim in front then two points in a row from Philip Maguire eased any nerves further.

In the closing stages Antrim did finally put some daylight between themselves and the Poly, when substitute Michael Pollock reeled off four fine points in a row in an impressive ten minute cameo.

The St Gall’s man was drifting out from the full forward line and evading the Jordanstown defence to great effect.

The Poly did have a chance to make it a grandstand finish as the rain continued to lash down on the Creggan venue when Trillick’s Richard Donnelly shot for goal but his effort was well blocked by substitute Sean McVeigh.

Tougher tests lie ahead for Antrim, not least a trip to face Down at Newry on Wednesday evening (throw-in 7.30pm), with the loser destined for the Dr McKenna Cup exit door, but this was an impressive first win for Liam Bradley in this his second spell in charge of the Saffrons.

Antrim: O Kerr, K O’Boyle, D McCann, J Crozier, T Scullion, M Johnston, M McAleese, M Sweeney, M McCann 0-1, C Murray, P Maguire 0-2, P Kelly 0-2, P Cunningham 0-3, CJ McGourty 1-4, B Neeson 0-1

Subs: N Delargy for M McAleese, M Pollock 0-4 for P Kelly, S McVeigh for D McCann, O Gallagher for M McCann, T McCann for CJ McGourty

UUJ: M McReynolds, K McKaigue, C McKaigue, D McNally, P McPolin, L Keaney, S Dooney, C Duggan, C Gough 0-1, R Donnelly 0-1, P Hughes, P Casey 0-1, D Savage 0-2, C O’Boyle 2-3, N O’Neill

Subs: T Miscalla for S Dooney

 Referee: K Trainor (Down)

 

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