Ref the main spectacle as Antrim saved by late rally

MINOR LIFT...Peadar Epsey’s (right) goal looked to have put Donegal in the driving seat, but the Saffrons stole home
The Irish News Archive

Ulster MFC first round: Antrim 1-8 Donegal 1-7

A STIRRING last quarter helped Antrim defeat Donegal for the second successive year in the Ulster minor football championship.

The closing minutes of the game was the first time the players became the dominant characters on view.

For the vast majority of the match, Cavan referee Michael Henry performed the central role.

Clearly Croke Park have placed a number of diktats on referees this year which put the already much harassed match officials under even more pressure.

At half time, Antrim led 0-5 to 0-4 with Saffrons midfielder Paddy Logan and Donegal corner forward and captain John Paul Gallagher having been the most impressive performers during the opening half-hour.

Donegal goalkeeper Gerard McCreedy produced a moment of brilliance to tip a Martin McCarry point-blank shot over the bar in the 27th minute but it was a half-hour of few highlights.

Donegal full-forward Gareth Blake equalised two minutes into the second half and Gallagher's gorgeous free from a tight angle then put the northwest county ahead seconds later.

A James Dougan score brought the sides level again but Peadar Espey's 42nd minute goal for Donegal had the appearance of the score that would ultimately prove decisive.

McCreedy confidently gathered a harmless looking delivery but instead of clearing his lines properly, gifted the ball to Antrim full-forward McCarry.

The Portglenone player seemed shocked to be afforded such an opportunity such was the time he to took to finally hammer the ball into the Donegal net. Despite the goal, Donegal were still a point ahead but Antrim were now firmly in the ascendancy.

Logan and his midfield partner Sean Paul O'Hagan dominated the closing centre-field exchanges.

Substitute Kieran McGourty hit the equaliser six minutes from time and Ruairi O'Loan's neat finish after some neat Antrim interplay proved the winner.

Antrim: J Finucane, J McKeever, M McMullan, M Clenaghan, C Anderson, K Carey, N Ward, P Logan (0-2), SP O'Hagan (0-1), R O'Loan (0-1), G Bell, J Dougan (0-1), P Murphy (0-1), M McCarry (1-1), K McCloskey.

Subs: K McGourty (0-1) for Murphy 37 mins, J McCourt for Clenaghan 43.

Donegal: G McCreedy, D Ward, M Byrne, D Ferry, G Maguire, H Cunningham, D Doherty, P O'Donnell, D Alcorn, JP Boyle, M Caulfield, K McGlynn (0-1), JP Gallagher (0-4), G Blake (0-2), P Espey (1-0).

Subs: F Heena for Caulfield 42, C O'Donnell for Boyle 56.

Referee: M Henry (Cavan)

Ulster MFC preliminary round replay: Down 0-6 Tyrone 0-12

OBVIOUSLY stung by their narrow escape in Omagh, Tyrone made no mistake the second time of asking when they crushed Down before a 5,000 crowd in Newry yesterday evening.

Only in the opening 10 minutes did the Mourne lads shape up as serious challengers.

During this period, Aidan Fegan sent over two frees and Conor McCoy worked a slick moved with Karl Oakes to put the home team into a 0-3 to 0-1 lead.

But from then on, Cormac McAnallen and Kevin Hughes took over completely at centre-field, and it was all one way traffic towards the Mourne goal.

This Tyrone victory was founded on a splendid midfield performance from Cormac McAnallen and Kevin Hughes, who shared five of Tyrone's 12 points between them. Michael McGee, Ciaran Meenagh and Darren O'Hanlon ensured that the potent Down attack never got moving, while up front the forcefulness of Stephen O'Neill and Aiden Lynch always posed problems.

Down never reached the standard of their Omagh showing.

Ciaran Sloan had an inspiring game in goals, and Brendan Kearney, Mickey Feeney, Aiden O'Prey and Anthony Devlin defended with spirit, but only a lonely PJ McAlinden up front looked like worrying the Tyrone defence.

Tyrone: P McConnell, G Devlin, M Magee, F Loughran, C Meenagh, D O'Hanlon, P O'Neill (0-1), C McAnallen (0-3), J Hughes (0-2), G Wylie, P McGuigan, S O'Neill (0-1), A Lynch (0-3), E McGinley (0-1), D Kelly (0-1)

Subs: R O'Neill for D Kelly, T McDermott for G Wylie.

Down: C Sloan, D Kearney, M Feeney, D Campbell, D Rafferty, A O'Prey, A Devlin, A Carville, C Ferris, C McCoy (0- 1), C Savage, A Fegan (0-4), L Doyle, PJ McAlinden (0-1), K Oakes

Subs: P Hanna for C Ferris, K Polly for P Hanna, M Doran for A Carville.

Referee: M Convery (Derry)

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