come close but Antrim qualify for Ulster Hurling Final
Senior Hurling Semi Final at Casement Park, Belfast -
Sunday 18th May 2003
Cahill's Ulster champions advanced to the provincial final
at Casement Park. All despite the concession of two second-half
goals, most notably Stephen Clarke's net bulger from a
Simon Wilson through ball, just one minute after the break.
Antrim, winners of the Division Two league final a fortnight
ago, strengthened their 0-10 to 0-5 lead at the break
with three unanswered scores. The introduction of Liam
Watson, back from a four-week ban, on 25 minutes saw an
edge develop to Antrim's play - though Down keeper Graham
Clarke brilliantly saved Brian McFall's overhead goal
attempt on 31 minutes.
With little over eight minutes remaining, Down had clawed
their way back to level pegging at 2-12 to 0-18. But rallying
scores from half-forwards McGuckian, Richmond and substitute
Aidan Delargy, also back in the squad following a suspension,
closed out a handsome advert for northern hurling.
A determined Down fightback almost caused
an Ulster upset. Favourites Antrim were coasting towards
a place against Derry in the decider for three-quarters
of the game but a strong last quarter rally by the Mournemen
almost left the Antrim men severly embarrassed. Brian
McFall was in his usual sharpshooting form from placed
balls as Antrim eased into a 0-10 to 0-5 interval lead.
Stephen Clarke kept Down in the hunt with points from
frees but points by McFall (two) and Watson in injury
time gave Antrim that five points half-time cushion.
Antrim started the second half as they
finished the first and added another four point to the
socre board within 10 minutes. As thunder rattled over
the ground Down stormed forward to hit a goal and two
points inside two minutes in the 52nd and 53rd minutes
- the goal struck home from an acute angle by Gary Savage.
That left the score at Antrim 0-14, Down 1-8 with the
action now being play at championship pace. From there
to the end the hurling may not have been out of the top
drawer but it was fast and furious with Down storming
forward. Points by Adair, Johnson and Stephen Clarke offset
scores by Paddy Richmond and McFall and when Johnson set
up Stephen Clarke for a 70th minute goal it was level
pegging at 0-18 to 2-12 and Down looked capable of causing
It was then that Antrim turned on the
power play for those late scores that won the day and
proved the Saffrons have the determination to hold on
to the Ulster title. If it had not been for the brilliance
of man of the match Graham Clarke between the Down posts
the game would have been wrapped up long before that.
Clarke brought off two tremendous double
saves as well as a number of other first class stops and
clearances. "I'd rather have played badly and we won the
game," reflected the young Ballygalget star after his
Antrim: B McFall 0-7 (0-6, 1 sideline), L Richmond
0-4, C McGuckian 0-3, G O'Kane, L Watson 0-2 each, P Richmond,
A Delargy, Darren Quinn 0-1 each.
Down: S Clarke 1-7 (0-7f), G Savage 1-1, G Johnson
0-2, G Adair, S Wilson (f) 0-1 each.
ANTRIM: DD Quinn; M Kettle, K
Kelly, J Campbell; M McCambridge, K McKeegan, C Herron;
C Cunning, J Connolly; P Richmond, C McGuckian, L Richmond;
G O'Kane, A Mort, B McFall.
Subs: L Watson for Mort (25 mins), A Delargy for McFall
(64), Darren Quinn for O'Kane (67).
DOWN: Graham Clarke; T Coulter,
Gabriel Clarke, E Dorrian; L Clarke, G Savage, G Adair;
B Milligan, P Monan; M Coulter, S Wilson, E Trainor; G
McGrattan, S Clarke, G Johnston.
Subs: M Braniff for Pucci (48), B Coulter for M Coulter
(48), A Dynes for Adair (66).
REF: B Kelly (Westmeath).
was Created and Designed by Diarmuid Cahill