MINOR HURLING: Derry distraught as Antrim sneak into Ulster final

Derry manager John A. Mullan with his players as the match goes into extra time against Antrim during the Ulster Minor Hurling Championship semi-final played on Sunday at Owenbeg. Picture Margaret McLaughlin 26-6-16
Derry manager John A. Mullan with his players as the match goes into extra time against Antrim during the Ulster Minor Hurling Championship semi-final played on Sunday at Owenbeg. Picture Margaret McLaughlin 26-6-16

Electric Ireland Ulster Minor Hurling Championship Semi Final

Antrim 4-23, Derry 3-11 (A.E.T)

Derry's Odhran McKeever celebrates his goal against Antrim during the Ulster Minor Hurling Championship semi-final at Owenbeg. Picture Margaret McLaughlin 26-6-16

Derry's Odhran McKeever celebrates his goal against Antrim during the Ulster Minor Hurling Championship semi-final at Owenbeg. Picture Margaret McLaughlin 26-6-16

There may have been only 158 spectators at Owenbeg on Sunday but they were treated to an extraordinary game!

Midway through the first half Eoghan O’Kane picked up the ball from a mishit Brian Cassidy free - he finished with 0-9 with a superb display of accurate finishing from frees and open play - and blasted the ball to the net for 1-5 to 0-3.

Derry were 1-8 to 0-5 ahead at the break, Conal Doherty-Cunning hitting four points from frees. Indeed, in the second half when Odhran McKeever lashed the ball to the net for 2-10 to 0-6, the victory seemed assured for the Oakleafers.

But inspired by heroic displays from substitute Eoin O’Neill 2-3, Keelan Malloy 1-4 and Conal Doherty-Cunning 1-13 Antrim came back to record a sensational, if controversial victory.

In the 56th minute Eoghan O’Kane seemed to have restored order to a topsy-turvy game with a goal for 3-10 to 2-10.

But the young Saffrons fought back and Malloy pointed deep into added time to force extra time.

That period was totally dominated by Antrim, Derry’s solitary point coming from a free after Antrim had scored 1-11 without reply, Peter McCallan scoring the fourth goal midway the second period of extra time.

Antrim manager Liam Kearney was very honest in his assessment of the game.

“We are very, very, very fortunate to be where we are,” admitted the Saffrons boss, “You know I’d say Derry are sick. Probably a bit of a robbery there at the end!”

“There is never any doubt about the potential in the team and their hurling ability. There were questions at half time about their attitude and their ability to want to win the game. That’s what was massively lacking. It was a massive lack of will but when it came down to it they stood up.

“We have been concerned about having enough leaders in the team throughout the year but when the going got tough 2, 3, 4 or 5 players stood up and then our hurling ability took over.

“You’ve got to dig yourselves out of a hole as Derry were winning the battles all over the pitch and we could not have complained at the end of the game had we been beaten. Absolutely no complaints whatsoever!

“But you get the breaks and Keelan (Malloy) took a big score right at the end of normal tie to tie the scores.”

Derry manager John A Mullan took issue with the score that forced extra time, forthright in his views on what had happened!

“Very, very disappointed,” said Mullan, “I have been managing teams for a long time and I have never ever mentioned a referee but today the refereeing decisions were baffling.

“We were being penalised consistently for over-carrying and that’s fine but when we were tackling Antrim players and tackling them fairly, they were not getting blown the same way. It cost us dearly.”

“All credit to Antrim. They were fitter than us. They were better prepared than us but for the fight that we put into the match we deserved to win the match in normal time.

“They got a free out at the very end, the ball then brought forward, and had that not happened, and time was up, we would have won the game.”

Derry: M McEldowney; R McWilliams, S Higgins, E Conway; N Smyth, R Mullan, P McNicholl; J Mullan 0-1, J McGuigan 0-1; S Tracey, L Cassidy, O McKeever 1-00; R Rafferty, E O’Kane 2-00, Brian Cassidy 0-9, 6f

Subs: C McCartney for L Cassidy 53m; R Corey for R Mullan 64m; T Rankin for Conway E

Antrim: P Carlin; C Kinsella, L Gillan, C Carson; S O’Connor, C Boyd, E Smyth; D Black, K Malloy 1-4; C McLarnon 0-1, C Doherty-Cunning 1-13, 10f C McHugh; D McShane 0-1, A O’Boyle, S Shannon;

Subs: E O’Neill 2-3 for Boyd 20m; R Crummy 0-1 for McLarnon 38m; S Magill for McHugh 45m; G Óg Laverty for Black 45; P McCallan 1-0 for Shannon ET; P Lennon for O’Neill ET; C Campbell for O’Connor ET

Referee: Aidan Ferguson Fermanagh