UUJ 2-09 Antrim 1-15: A goal from Antrim captain Kevin O’Boyle and 15 points shared amongst nine players ensured that new manager Frank Dawson left Casement Park with a smile on his face yesterday after watching his side see off the challenge of UUJ in the McKenna Cup’s Section C opener.
The students were just three points in arrears at the final whistle, thanks to two goals from Declan Lynch and the industry of Aaron Devlin, Gregory McGovern and Ruairi Corrigan in particular, but both managers left the Belfast venue with plenty to work on as they set their sights on more pressing engagements.
For UUJ manager Adrian McGuckin, that is the Sigerson Cup clash against UCC at the end of the month, while Dawson will want to settle on his panel ahead of the Allianz League Division Three campaign which begins with the visit of Cavan in four weeks’ time.
Michael McCann scored the first competitive point of Dawson’s tenure after just 24 seconds, sparking a period of Antrim dominance.
The home side were 0-4 to no score to the good after nine minutes with Kevin O’Boyle and Michael Pollock adding scores from play and Paddy Cunningham slotting over a free.
UUJ finally got on the scoresheet after 11 minutes through Emmet McGuckin, and Colm Duffin then cancelled out Cunningham’s reply.
For all Antrim’s early dominance they found themselves on level terms after 18 minutes when Declan Lynch raised the game’s first green flag, but when O’Boyle palmed to the UUJ net 10 minutes later, Antrim were back in control.
Number two O’Boyle took advantage of corner forward Corrigan’s regular trips upfield to help out his defence to finish from close range, and McCann, Kieran Close and full back Sean McVeigh all added scores to give Antrim a 1-10 to 1-3 lead at the break.
In a game played at typical January pace under the Casement lights, the students began the brighter after the restart with Corrigan and Aaron Devlin cutting the deficit, and keeper Mark McReynolds kept them in contention, saving well from Pollock.
A second Lynch goal midway through the second half cut the gap to four points and a goal separated the sides on 54 minutes when McGuckin slotted over from play.
McReynolds was again forced into action on 63 minutes. Tony Scullion probably should have tried his luck himself when bearing down on the UUJ goal, but instead laid the ball off to Michael Herron who found no way past the Edendork clubman from close range.
Impressive sub Colm Fleming converted the resultant ‘45’ before the same player added a second point on 65 minutes to make the score 1-15 to 2-7.
Late UUJ scores from Gregory McGovern and Richard Donnelly put a slightly flattering look on the scoreboard for the students.
Antrim host Tyrone at Casement Park in the second group game on Sunday, while UUJ travel to Celtic Park to face Derry.
Antrim: C Kerr; K O’Boyle (1-1), S McVeigh (0-1), J Lavery; T Scullion, J Crozier, N Delargy; M McCann (0-2), P Doherty; C Murray, K Niblock (0-1), B Herron (0-1); P Cunningham (0-4f), M Pollock (0-1), K Close (0-1)
Subs: M Herron (0-1) for M Pollock, R Johnson for S McVeigh, C Fleming (0-2, 0-1 ‘45’) for C Murray, S Finch for K O’Boyle, J Carron for M McCann
UUJ: M McReynolds; K McKaigue, D Lavery, D Quinn; E Wade, G McCartan, E Deeney; G Rennicks, C Duffin (0-1); R Donnelly (0-1f), A Devlin (0-2), G McGovern (0-1); R Corrigan (0-1), E McGuckin (0-3), D Lynch (2-0)
Subs: E Kivelahan for D Lavery, G O’Neill for R Corrigan, M Carson for G Rennicks
Referee: C Reynolds (Down).