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Antrim strike back to see off Derry

Antrim 1-21 Derry 2-12

Sticking point: Antrim's Eddie McCloskey battles with Dermot O'Neill at Celtic Park
Sticking point: Antrim's Eddie McCloskey battles with Dermot O'Neill at Celtic Park

By David Mohan

Antrim opened their National Hurling League 2A campaign with a six-point win at a sunny Celtic Park yesterday, but were certainly given a scare by Derry.

The hosts led by five after dominating the opening 35 minutes, but in an archetypal 'game of two halves' PJ O'Mullan's Saffrons seized control after the break to overtake the Oak Leaf side with their forwards coming to life after a poor opening period.

The first half was dominated by the hosts and Ruairi Convery in particular who gave an exhibition of free-taking.

He opened his account with a free from inside his own half before tapping over from straight in front of the posts.

Ciaran Clarke was moved onto the frees for Antrim after Liam Watson missed a couple of early chances and he converted to open his side's account before Eddie McCloskey played an excellent ball to James Black who fired over from range to level the game on 13 minutes.

Convery then restored the Derry lead before the hosts found the net on 15 minutes when Antrim goalkeeper, Chrissy O'Connell batted down Alan Grant's shot and Gareth O'Kane profited from the mistake to whip the ball home.

This gave the Oak Leafers real belief and although Eddie McCloskey replied immediately after, the hosts always managed to find an answer.

Convery and Clarke traded frees before Derry's Shane Farren came into the game, hitting two excellent points while Convery maintained his form from frees, driving over one from his own 45. Antrim did keep in touch with Clarke hitting a free and McCloskey pointing on the run, but they were five adrift at the break with Derry holding a deserved 1-8 to 0-6 advantage.

In the second period Antrim's Conor Johnston clipped over a score from the right while McCloskey drove over his third of the day to leave just a goal between the teams.

Niall McKenna then floated over a score as Antrim continued to take a grip on proceedings and this was confirmed on 48 minutes when they hit the front with a goal from Domhnall Nugent to give Antrim a 1-9 to 1-8 advantage.

The Saffrons were now fully in control and Clarke clipped over a free before Derry finally got their first score of the second period on 51 minutes when Breandan Quigley pointed from under the stand.

However, Tom McLean's men were unable to wrest control back as Clarke replied at the other end before Kevin McKernan hit the first of his four points.

The visitors continued to pile on the scores and substitute, Saul McCaughan hit the score of the day on 63 minutes when - with his first touch as a senior, inter-county hurler - he somehow split the posts from the tightest of angles on the right.

This moved Antrim five clear and while Convery did keep Derry in touch with a free, Antrim were finding their range much better with McKernan (two) and Clarke pointing.

Convery did give Derry some hope as the game moved into stoppage time when his 20 meter free found the net despite the best efforts of O'Connell, but there was no real prospect of the hosts getting much closer as Antrim finished strong to run out six-point winners.

DERRY: D McDermott; E McGuckin, C McSorley, S McCullagh; D McCloskey, B Quigley (0-1), D O'Neill; O McCloskey, T McCloskey; J O'Dwyer, M McGuigan, G O'Kane (1-0); S Farren (0-2), R Convery (1-8, all frees), A Grant. Subs: M McGrath for C McSorley (41 mins), P Kelly for T McCloskey (52 mins), T Magee for B Quigley (56 mins), B Laverty (0-1) for G O'Kane (62 mins)

ANTRIM: C O'Connell; O McFadden, N McAuley, C McKinley; S McCrory, Ciaran Johnston, B McFall; K McKernan (0-4), J Black (0-1); E McCloskey (0-3), D Nugent (1-0), L Watson; Conor Johnston (0-2), N McKenna (0-1), C Clarke (0-8, 6 frees): Subs: J McGreevy (0-1) for J Balck (31 mins), B Graham for B McFall (33 mins), S McCaughan (0-1) for N McKenna (56 mins), S McAfee for O McFadden (67 mins)

Referee: John Keane (Galway)

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