Antrim triumph Close run affair
Antrim 3-7 Derry 0-15
Ciaran Close's second half goal kept Antrim on course for a hard-earned but deserved victory at Casement Park yesterday.
In a Barrett Sports Lighting Dr McKenna Cup that ebbed and flowed from start to finish Antrim's ability to strike for goals at crucial stages proved decisive.
The victory was Antrim's first over the Oak Leaf county in 15 years and was especially sweet for Antrim manager Liam Bradley, whose son Eoin lined out with Derry.
“We're all delighted. It's a long time since Antrim last beat Derry and I feel we deserved it,” said Bradley Snr.
“It was a wee bit strange standing along the line in opposition to my own county, but we're thrilled to bits to have got a result.
“We know it's pre-season — it's the McKenna Cup and both sides were experimental.Derry are renowned for having a very mean defence so to score three goals was something of a bonus.
“The McKenna Cup has become congested because of the postponements last week.
“It's easy to forget that we've to train as well as play matches and that has been complicated by a few injuries we picked up here, so it's hard to know what kind of team we will put out against Down on Wednesday night.”
As for the experimental rules that were on display here, Bradley agrees it's too soon to be passing judgement.
“There were only two occasions in the match when players were penalised for using the handpass. One was a handpass but the second was a fisted pass,” he said.
“Yet we were penalised when we were right in on goal.
“I don't want to be critical of referees, but when you hear the crowd roaring that says it all.”
Down referee Leo Smyth has had better days, often struggling to enforce the ordinary rules, never mind the experimental ones.
Derry with both former minor star Declan Mullan and Eoin Bradley picking off scores at will threatened to have the game won by half time.
But a Michael McCann goal midway through the half instigated the Antrim revival and when Michael Magill added a second just before half time the Saffrons were back on level terms 2-4 to 0-10.
Excellent points from Darren Edwards, Eoin O'Neill and Paddy Cunningham on the restart put Antrim three points clear only for Derry to level the match.
Close then responded with a third Antrim goal and two late Derry points from Raymond Wilkinson were too little too late.
Antrim: J. Finnucane; A. Douglas, P. Doherty, D. Gault; T. Scullion, K. McQuillan, J. Loughrey; B. Hasson, N. O’Connell; M. McCann (1-0), E. O’Neill (0-1), B. Herron; P. Cunningham (0-5, 0-3 frees), M. Magill (1-0), G. O’Boyle. Subs: D. Edwards (0-1) for N. O’Connell; K. Brady for B. Hasson; C. Close (1-0) for E. O’Neill; OP. Carey for K. McQuillan.
Derry: M. Dunne; J. O’Kane, G. McLaughlin, B. McGuigan; L. Hinphey, G. O’Kane, C. Kielt; F. Doherty (0-1), Patsy Bradley; A. McCartney, R. Wilkinson (0-3), K. O’Neill (0-1); E. Bradley (0-7, 0-3 frees), D. Mullan (0-2), Paul Bradley (0-1 free). Subs: B. Mullan for A. McCartney; M. McGoldrick for B. McGuigan; E. Lynn for D. Mullan; J. Diver for K. O’Neill; S. Bradley for Paul Bradley.
Referee: L. Smyth (Down).