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Antrim in first final after shock victory

All-Ireland U21 HC semi-final

Wexford 1-16 Antrim 2-15: Antrim stunned Wexford in Saturday's Bord Gais Energy All-Ireland under-21 hurling championship semi-final.

Rank outsiders before throw-in, Kevin Ryan's charges achieved what all hurling pundits deemed impossible, to become the first Ulster team in history to reach the final of this competition.

They will now face Clare at Semple Stadium on Saturday September 14 and Ryan, along with fellow selectors Neil McManus and Barry McFall, deserve huge credit for plotting a victory that nobody saw coming.

Not even Ryan himself predicted this one as he revealed: "If you had taken a video of our training on Thursday night with just 14 lads running up and down the field you would have wondered how the hell are they preparing for an All-Ireland semi-final.

"But the training they were doing was all about playing short-ball and keeping the ball and they did that really well out there.

"They surprised me to be honest."

Wexford were 1-80 favourites, Antrim 12-1 with the bookies, and yet the Saffrons won by two points. Eoghan Campbell sat deep in a sweeper role while goalscorers Stephen McAfee and Ciaran Clarke fired the bullets up front.

Antrim led by 2-7 to 0-9 at half-time and were eight points clear with 20 minutes left.

Wexford threatened a late revival but Antrim held out and Ryan, reappointed as senior manager for another year, added: "It's a huge challenge because there will be expectations now."

Wexford opened the scoring but McAfee's goal in the third minute settled Antrim and they never looked back from there.

Antrim: G Dixon; C Morgan, M Donnelly, T Coyle; T O'Ciarain, P McNaughton, C Johnson (0-1); J McGreevey (0-2), E Campbell; N McKenna (0-2), S McAfee (1-4), S Dooey; D McKernan (0-1), C McCann, C Clarke (1-5, 0-5f).

Sub: D Kearney for McKenna (58).

Wexford: B Murphy; G Foley, C Goff, E Conroy; Andrew Kenny, S O'Gorman, D O'Leary; L Chin (0-1), Aaron Kenny; J Guiney (0-7, 6f), I Byrne (0-2f), G Moore (0-2); C McDonald (1-1), B Carton (0-1), R Clarke (0-2).

Subs: A Nolan for Byrne (36), C O'Leary for D O'Leary (43), T French for Aaron Kenny (51).

Referee: C McAllister (Cork).

Belfast Telegraph


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