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Ulster counties second best in weekend clashes

 

By John Campbell

Ulster hurling is usually in the hunt for a tonic but the weekend provided little in the way of encouragement on the All-Ireland front with no fewer than three counties - Antrim, Fermanagh and Cavan - tasting defeat in important matches.

At a time when the provincial stock is low there had been hopes that a ray of sunlight might infiltrate the gloom, but it was not to be.

Antrim manager Conor Gillen was forced to absorb a particularly sickening blow when his side succumbed to Carlow in the Leinster U21 championship in extra time.

The Saffrons, with Ryan Elliott, Gerard Walsh, James McNaughton, Ryan McGarry and Fergus McCambridge very much to the fore, looked to be in with a chance of advancing when they were deadlocked with their midland opponents, having scored 1-15 to Carlow's 2-12 in normal time.

But it was in extra time that Carlow engaged a much higher gear and added 1-10 to their score to finish impressive 3-22 to 1-19 winners.

They will meet Dublin in the next round, but even though Gillen's side failed to make it through, he can take encouragement from several individual displays. His team had gone into the game without the inspirational Joe Maskey, who had been hitting the high spots with the senior side until injury prematurely ended a season that had appeared to hold rich promise for him.

The Saffrons showed courage and resilience but Carlow's stamina and scoring power surfaced strongly as extra time progressed and their opponents were left trailing in their wake.

Fermanagh and Cavan, who played out a thrilling draw in Brewster Park in Enniskillen last Saturday in the curtain-raiser to the Fermanagh v Armagh Ulster senior football championship quarter-final, both suffered setbacks in the Lory Meagher Cup when they fell to Sligo and Lancashire respectively.

The Ernemen put up a stiff challenge before conceding to the Yeats county in a 0-20 to 1-13 scoreline, but Cavan suffered a much heavier defeat (2-24 to 3-9) at the hands of a Lancashire side which is in sprightly form.

Sheanon brothers Cillian and Colum each landed a goal for Cavan, with Anthony Sheridan landing their other goal, but the team's inability to take points when provided with opportunities was to cost them in the end.

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