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Antrim’s young guns stage fightback to clinch Ulster silverware

Antrim 0-16 - Derry 1-09

By Tomas McGurk

Antrim overcame a four-point half-time deficit to run out winners over Derry in last night’s Ulster U21 Hurling Championship final in Loughgiel.

Saul McCaughan opened the scoring with a free for Antrim before Derry’s Cormac Doherty flicked past Colin Heyden and Tom McLean’s side soon led 1-2 to 0-1. Doherty then hit a sideline cut over the bar to stretch the lead to 1-5 to 0-4 at the interval.

Antrim boss Ollie Bellew rang the changes with Christy McNaughton coming in at full-forward and Ryan McKee moving out. The industrious Maol Connolly got the Saffrons up and running with a fine score before midfielder Alex Delargy did likewise moments later.

A brace of Doherty frees maintained Derry’s advantage but Antrim gained the upper hand in an eight-minute spell midway through the half, during which they hit six unanswered points. Four came from McCaughan but Antrim had penalty claims waved away after the Ballycastle ace was hauled down.

The Saffrons were instead awarded a free, which McCaughan converted himself.

McKee robbed Meehaul McGrath to set up Connolly for another point and Antrim looked home and dry when McCaughan slotted over his ninth free with two minutes remaining.

McNaughton then popped over a rebound as Antrim claimed a hard-fought but deserved four-point win. However, a sterner test awaits in the All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday, August 20 as Bellew’s side face Munster kings Waterford.

ANTRIM: C Heyden; D McMullan, T Burns, R Diamond; G Walsh 0-1 (0-1f), P Burke, J Maskey; R Gillan, A Delargy 0-1; M Connolly 0-3, D Nugent, J O’Connell, S McCaughan 0-9 (0-9f), TT Butler, R McKee. 

Subs: C Ross 0-1)for Gillan (21mins), C McNaughton 0-1 for O’Connell (HT), E McManus for Diamond (35mins), R Delargy for Nugent (55mins). 

DERRY: S Cassidy; G Farren, P Turner, P McNeill; S McGuigan, M McGrath, R McCartney; E McGill, P Burke; T Magee, M McGuigan, D Foley 0-1 (0-1f); G McCormac 0-1, C Doherty 1-7 (0-6f, 0-1 sideline), B Cassidy. 

Subs: S Quinn for Magee (26mins), B Laverty for Burke (50mins), D Carton for Foley (54mins), T O’Kane for McCartney (58mins).  

Referee: Aiden Ferguson (Fermanagh)  

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