Peadar Ó Liathain Cup, Leinster MHC ‘B’ final
Antrim v Down (Wednesday, 7pm, Corrigan Park)
ANTRIM'S minor hurlers will bid to end their Championship campaign by claiming the Peadar Ó Liathain Cup at the expense of Ulster rivals Down at Corrigan Park on Wednesday night.
The sides met in Portaferry at the end of last month in the preliminary round of the Leinster Championship with Antrim earning a hard-fought 2-17 to 2-11 win to progress to the ‘A’ side of the draw with the Ardsmen moving into the Peadar Ó Liathain ‘B’ section.
However, the Saffrons were forced to concede to Meath, despite appeals, after an outbreak of Covid in the squad. Two Antrim players tested positive and the Antrim management, led by Paul Donnelly, felt it prudent and responsible to call the game off.
Antrim returned to action last Wednesday night in Abbotstown and they edged past Carlow 1-14 to 1-13 after extra-time to progress to the ‘B’ Championship final with Down defeating Meath, who lost to Dublin in the ‘A’ quarter-final, 1-13 to 0-15 in an equally tight semi-final.
Donnelly admits his side are hurting given the manner of their demotion from the ‘A’ competition.
“I think there is a bit of disappointment certainly,” stated Donnelly.
“Covid is in all of our communities and we had two players who tested positive. We felt the best thing to do was to make the powers that be aware of that and take the steps necessary to make sure the players, their families and their communities were safe.
“We felt we’ve been punished for that as we were then disqualified from the ‘A’ competition. That’s behind us now and we are focused solely on Wednesday night’s game.
“The last game against Down was a fantastic game. We got a great start and had something like 2-2 on the board inside the first 10 minutes.
“Down settled into it and really put it up to us. We made two or three substitutions towards the end of the game and they worked for us.
“We ran out six-point winners, but it was a really good game and we are really looking forward to tomorrow night’s match. It is a home game for us at Corrigan Park but, going on the last game, it is going to be very competitive.”
Sarsfield’s clubman Jack McCloskey plundered those two early goals for the Saffrons in last month’s win over Down.
Antrim led by nine at half-time, but a stirring comeback from Down edged them ahead inside the final 10 minutes before Donnelly’s men responded in fine style by scoring the final seven points of the contest.
Their resolve was tested again against Carlow last week as 0-9 from Glenariffe’s Niall McGarel helped them defeat the Barrowsiders by the minimum after extra-time.
Donnelly feels that ending their campaign with silverware would be a fitting tribute to those who have helped the players along their journey in what has been a testing time for many people.
“As a management team, we are so proud of these young lads,” added the Antrim minor boss.
“They worked so hard and they deserve something from this year.
“It has been an extremely challenging 16-18 months for these young lads – not just in Antrim, but also for Down. This gives these players an opportunity to shine.
“The attitude and application from every single player for the last 24 weeks has been outstanding - we’ve 11 clubs represented which is fantastic.
“It doesn’t happen by chance and we’ve a great backroom team in Arron Graffin (Cushendall), Paudie Shivers (Dunloy), Kieran Killyleagh (St Paul’s), Eamon McGarrigle (Sarsfield’s) as well as a brilliant support team of physios, performance and analysis, Simon Doherty (goalkeeping coach) - we’ve left nothing to chance.
“I’d also like to thank the club and school’s coaches who met with us in February and bought into what we were trying to achieve this year and also to the parents for their unrelenting cooperation this year.
“A lot of people have supported what we are doing, the likes of Paul Graham from Cushendun, Tony Shivers, Neil McManus and our director of hurling Neal Peden, who has delivered everything we’ve asked over the last number of weeks.”