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McKernan delivers the killer blow for relieved Antrim

Derry 2-16 - Antrim 2-17

By Cahair O’Kane

Antrim's stranglehold on the Liam Harvey Cup was so nearly broken by Derry, but Daniel McKernan's controversial injury-time winner settled the Ulster final in the Saffrons' favour yet again.

McKernan hit the winner from all of 80 yards just after Derry had been denied what would have been a winning goal in an almighty goalmouth scramble.

The Sarsfields man's effort was waved over by the umpires despite suggestions that the ball had gone wide.

It scraped Antrim over the line. Having been so gut-wrenchingly beaten by Offaly two weeks ago, Saffrons manager Kevin Ryan admitted that it was tough to refocus his side.

"Derry were fantastic there, they gave it absolutely everything," said Ryan.

"They had nothing to lose, we had everything to lose and we had to drag ourselves up (after the Offaly game).

"Two weeks to do it was nearly impossible.

"Had we won two weeks ago, the Ulster final would have been off again.

"That's really where my thoughts are, because it was impossible to get them going out there.

"But you could see in the last 10 minutes what it did mean to them.

"Ulster does mean a lot to everyone involved.

"For us, we need to have a look at it."

His Derry counterpart Ger Rogan, a former Antrim player himself, admitted his frustration at the lack of punishment for Antrim's Jackson McGreevy in the incident which led to Derry losing Tiernan McCloskey to a red card after 29 minutes.

"I was bitterly disappointed with that decision," said Rogan.

"The rules are the rules and he probably deserved to go, but the incident leading up to that sending off was a sending off I thought as well.

"For our lads to play with 14 men for the rest of the game and give the performance that they did was just outstanding I thought."

The defeat was tough on the rank outsiders, who played the last 51 minutes with just 14 men after McCloskey became the latest victim of the new rules governing interference with a players' faceguard. McGreevy appeared to have pulled wildly while in possession, which sparked the incident, but he was still left unpunished in the fallout.

The Oak Leafers had managed to keep pace with Antrim despite getting off to the worst start imaginable.

PJ O'Connell found space down the middle and rattled the top corner of Darrel McDermott's goal after just 22 seconds to get his side off to what was clearly a blistering start.

Ruairi Convery and Paul Shiels both had their eye in on the frees and the Swatragh captain was largely responsible for keeping his side in touch for long periods. Indeed it was his goal which sent Derry in at the break with an unlikely 1-9 to 1-8 lead.

Antrim had started with a sweeper and, despite having the spare man, their forward line looked even more isolated after the break, relying on some superb long-range point-taking, though they were guilty also of some poor finishing when the chances arose.

Conor McCann burst through 10 minutes after the restart and fired home a goal that made it 2-10 to 1-12 in Antrim's favour but in a tit-for-tat half, Patrick McCloskey scored a superb individual goal to put Derry three up with 15 minutes to play and on the verge of a shock result.

Antrim, though, knuckled down and gradually reeled them in to lead by a point with a minute to play.

Convery equalised but Antrim countered and McKernan launched the winner from range, keeping the yellow and white ribbons tied to the Liam Harvey Cup yet again.

Derry: D McDermott; A Rafferty, C Quinn, E McGuckin; P Cleary, O McCloskey, C McQuillan; K Hinphey, L Hinphey; T McCloskey, S McGuigan (0-1), A Kelly (0-4); J O'Dwyer, R Convery (1-10, 0-8f, 0-2 65'), P McCloskey (1-0). Subs: M Warnock for McQuillan (19), S Farren (0-1) for O'Dwyer (43), J McCloskey for McGuigan (43), M Conway for P McCloskey (65)

Antrim: S McToal; O McFadden, M Donnelly, A Graffin; M Bradley, C Carson, N McAuley; J McGreevy, D Hamill (0-1); C McCann (1-2), P Shiels (0-8, 0-5f), E Campbell; C McGuinness, PJ O'Connell (1-0), D McKernan (0-4). Subs: R McCambridge for McGreevy (HT), Niall McKenna (0-1) for McGuinness (40), Daniel McCloskey (0-1) for Hamill (58)

Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary).

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