Derry U21s hurl county into spotlight
By John Campbell
Antrim 1-16(After extra time)DERRY footballers may be out in the cold but their Under 21 hurlers are certainly hot stuff.
As the squad begin preparations today for their assault on the All Ireland title, the significance of their memorable victory over Antrim in last nightÕs Ulster final replay at Slaughtneil is beginning to sink in.
ÒThis is a massive boost for hurling in our county,Ó confirms Derry PRO Gerry Donnelly, ÒIt is the product of much hard work on the part of dedicated mentors and a very committed squad of players.ÓDerry have now beaten both Down and Antrim en route to the provincial title and the feeling is that they can improve even further.
ÒThe fact that we are now provincial champions will boost confidence and IÕve no doubt that the fans will get behind the lads when they compete in the All Ireland series,Ó adds Gerry Donnelly.
This timely tonic will go some way towards soothing the acute disappointment felt within Derry since the county lost to Cavan in the senior football final at the week-end.
DerryÕs superb victory was highlighted by some outstanding individual displays particularly from goalkeeper Kieran Stevenson, centre half back Sean Martin Lockhart, scorer- in-chief Dermmot Doherty and the inspirational Gary Biggs.
DohertyÕs free-taking was a revelation _ in difficult circumstances he flighted over sixteen points to lay the foundations for success.
At half-time Derry had a narrow 0-7 to 0-6 lead but when Paud McMullan tucked away the only goal of the match in the second half it looked as if he had tipped the pendulum in AntrimÕs favour.
And Chris Hamill showed that Dermot Doherty was not the only one who could capitalise on frees _ he knocked over a dozen points that helped to keep Antrim in the hunt right to the end of an absorbing match.
Derry forced the game into extra time and when Eoin Farren pointed twice, the home crowd sensed victory. This hope gave way to reality when in a stirring climax the Oak Leaf side held on to achieve a notable triumph.
Derry scorers _ Dermot Doherty (0-16), E. Farren (0-2), G. Biggs (0-2), Darren Doherty, D. Lockhart (0-1 each).
Antrim scorers _ C. Hamill (0-12), P. McMullan (1-0), J.Tosh (0-2), M. Molloy (0- 1), Ryan McNaughton (0-1).
DERRY:K. Stevenson, B. McEldowney; G. Brunton, M. McGlade, P. McCluskey, S. Lockhart, P. McKeague, M. Conway, D. Lockhart, Dermot Doherty, R. OÕHagan, E. Farren, G. Biggs, Darren Doherty, D. McGrellis,Subs _ K. Hinphey for OÕHagan; U. McCloskey for Hinphey; E. Murray for McGrellis.
ANTRIM: B. Mahoney; P. McMullan, Ruairi McNaughton, M. Currie, S. McGuinness (Jnr), M. Molloy, K. Kelly, C. Cunning, K. McKay, C. Hamill, L. Richmond, S. Kelly, A. Delargey, S. McGarry, J. Tosh.
Subs _ Ryan McNaughton for McGarry; K. Stewart for McKay.
Referee _ J.A. Gribben (Down