Dr McKenna: Spirited Antrim drawing comfort
Antrim 0-12 Down 0-12: A second-half comeback from Antrim earned the Saffrons a deserved draw against Down at Casement Park in last night’s McKenna Cup Group C clash.
The Mournemen looked home and hosed at the short whistle when leading by 0-9 to 0-3 but Antrim chipped away at the Down lead to edge ahead on 62 minutes when sub Mark Dougan got on the end of a long-range free to punch the ball over the bar.
However a superb Down move involving Danny Hughes, Benny Coulter and Martin Clarke ended with Aidan Carr firing over the equaliser two minutes from time.
A draw was probably a fair result on the night. Down ruled just about every area of the park in the first half, although the home side did open the scoring through a Paddy Cunningham free.
The sides were level at 0-2 apiece when Cunningham converted from the dead ball to cancel out Down points from Michael Magee and Hughes.
In the remainder of the half, Antrim would add just one more point — a third free from Cunningham — while six Down players would work their way onto the scoresheet by the short whistle.
Hughes added an excellent point on 13 minutes, with Conor Laverty and Peter Fitzpatrick making the score 0-5 to 0-2 five minutes later. Clarke stroked over a free and the former Aussie Rules star followed that a minute later with his first from play.
Antrim moved Aodhan Gallagher from full forward to midfield to stem the Down tide but Kevin McKernan stretched their lead to six when hand-passing over from distance on 25 minutes.
The Saffrons stopped the rot when Cunningham tapped over their first score but the Down men could have settled the issue just before break when Laverty put Fitzpatrick clean through on the Antrim goal.
The Ballymartin man looked set to rattle the net but a superb save from Antrim keeper Sean O’Neill kept the Saffrons alive into the second half. Clarke’s third point completed the first half scoring as Down took a 0-9 to 0-3 lead into the break.
Antrim introduced three subs at the break with Dougan, Tomas McCann and Mark Sweeney entering the fray. McCann stayed on the field just four minutes however after an off the ball exchange saw the Cargin man and Down’s James Colgan both get straight red cards.
The home side scored seven of the next eight points to level matters at 0-10 apiece. A superb Clarke point put Down ahead once more, but Cunningham and Dougan’s fisted effort had the Saffrons 0-12 to 0-11 to the good.
Carr’s second score of the night sealed the draw.