McKenna Cup: Antrim 1-12 Down 1-10
Antrim claimed a hard-fought and fully-merited two-point win over Down in the Dr McKenna Cup in Newry last night.
A goal early in the second half from the impressive Paddy McBride gave Antrim the platform to withstand a late rally from the hosts.
Cormac O’Rawe’s goal had given Down the early advantage, but James McCartan’s men failed to match the hunger and desire of their opponents.
The Mournemen were edged out in their McKenna Cup opener last Friday as Donegal claimed a 1-13 to 2-8 victory in Ballybofey.
However, with more players available for last night’s clash with the Saffrons, McCartan made wholesale changes with just seven players retaining their places from the Donegal game.
Experienced trio Gerard Collins, Caolan Mooney and Kevin McKernan were drafted into the first 15 with Antrim manager Enda McGinley able to field 10 players who featured in last summer’s Ulster SFC loss to Armagh at the Athletic Grounds.
Yet, Antrim got off to the worst possible start when they conceded a goal after just four minutes when Cormac O’Rawe fired home following an excellent off-load from Niall McParland.
McCann was off target with a handful of early frees, but he soon found his range and a fine point from play from Paddy McBride had Antrim back on level terms.
Pat Shivers (free) and Caolan Mooney exchanged points just before the water break, but Down lost wing-back John McGeough to injury midway through the first half.
Antrim took the lead for the first time when centre-back James Laverty split the posts following good build-up play from Odhran Eastwood, Tomas McCann and McBride.
The game was tit-for-tat for the final 10 minutes, but a stoppage-time free from McCann following a foul on corner-back Ronan Boyle gave Antrim a slender 0-8 to 1-4 lead at the break.
If Antrim made a poor start to the first half, they made amends at the start of the second as Paddy McBride palmed in a goal after Jamie McCann unselfishly passed the ball across the face of goal.
McGinley’s men failed to push on and Down came rallying back to level the contest with 11 minutes remaining.
Antrim showed great grit and determination in the closing stages to move ahead once more with points from substitutes Ryan and Conor Murray along with another from man-of-the-match McBride. It was backs against the wall stuff late on and Barry O’Hagan had to settle for a point when he drilled a free at the Antrim goal, but Antrim were deserved victors on the night.
DOWN: R Burns; P Fegan, B McArdle, G Collins; J Connery, N McParland, J McGeough, A Doherty, L Middletown; R O’Higgins, C Mooney (0-1), C O’Rawe (1-0); B O’Hagan (0-5, 0-3fs, 0-1m), P O’Hagan, K McKernan (0-2).
Subs: D O’Hagan (0-1) for McGeough (19), R Carr for Connery (HT), A Lynch for McParland (44), C Poland for McArdle (55), J Donaghy for McKernan (55), C Francis for Middletown (58).
ANTRIM: O Kerr; R Boyle, R Johnston, E McCabe; P Healy, J Laverty (0-1), J McCann; K Small, M McCann (0-1); P McBride (1-2), P Shivers (0-1, 0-1f), R McCann (0-4, 0-4fs); J Gribbin, O Eastwood (0-1, 0-1m), T McCann.
Subs: D McAleese for R McCann (46), P McCormick for Boyle (46), R Murray (0-1) for Eastwood (49), J McAuley for J McCann (55), C Murray (0-1) for Shivers (55), D McCormick for T McCann (63), B McCormick for Small (68).
REFEREE: M Farrelly (Cavan).