GAA Football

Antrim minors do it the hard way to shock Ulster holders Donegal

Tiarnan McAteer takes on Donegal's Paul Murphy during Antrim's MFC win in Ballybofey
Picture by Seamus Loughran
From Kenny Archer at Ballybofey

Ulster MFC quarter-final: Donegal 2-14 Antrim 0-21 (after extra-time)

“IT’S a quarter-final, lads”, said Antrim forward Liam Quinn, with a semi-exasperated smile, but his team-mates’ exuberant celebrations were entirely understandable after they downed title-holders Donegal in dramatic fashion.

The young Saffrons had given away a terrible goal in the first half, somehow let Donegal force extra-time, and then shipped another goal during that – but still they battled back to earn a well-deserved victory.

Creggan’s Tiernan McAteer kicked his fourth point from play to win it as extra-time neared an end but the famous name of Brolly also played a significant part.

Ruairi Brolly, son of former Derry star and RTE pundit Joe, kicked two excellent points early in the second period of extra time to draw Antrim level and allow McAteer to make the difference in the end.

Brolly father and son were hugging and jumping, while Antrim boss Hugh McGettigan was jumped on and hugged himself, then briefly popped away mid-interview for a photograph.

McGettigan put plenty of praise elsewhere, lauding the team effort, the rest of his management team, and the coaches at clubs, commenting:

“We really, really worked hard, we had to dig in – it’s just an amazing performance, against the Ulster champions. It’s really outstanding, a great lift for our seniors here today and for Antrim in the future.

“To score 21 points in a Championship game is just outstanding – this group of lads really are top class…

“We knew the crowd was going to come in and create excitement, but we couldn’t prepare for lads going down with cramp in extra time – but we really have heart in that team, lads playing on no matter what, and begging to come back on.”

In truth, Antrim should probably have won this game without the need for all the drama, but the manner of their victory will have made it all the more enjoyable.

Quinn, who scored the free that earned extra-time, was the star of an impressive first half from Antrim, even though it did not begin well for them.

Donegal opened the scoring inside 15 seconds, through Aaron Doherty, and should have added a goal in that opening minute, but full-forward Oisin Gallen’s casual close range shot was blocked by goalkeeper Michael Byrne.

Antrim responded in some style, reeling off the next six points, with their half-forwards all getting their names on the scoresheet, before Quinn announced himself, although arguably the best score of all came from distance from wing-back John McCaffrey.

Donegal had another great goal chance during that Saffrons scoring spree but again keeper Byrne did well, plunging to his right to push a Peadar Mogan shot round the post.

Although Conor O’Donnell did end Donegal’s scoring drought in the 12th minute, Antrim remained on top and Quinn really came to the fore.

The nippy little corner-forward repeatedly got out in front of his marker and had the skill to finish off the possession he received. Even when a Dermot McErlaine free dropped short Quinn was quickest to react and point the loose ball.

Donegal got a much-needed lift when Byrne mis-judged a free from Donegal captain Mogan, seeming to think it was going over the bar – instead it dropped down and bounced over the line.

The hosts were boosted, adding two more points before the break, but Antrim heads didn’t drop and they scored twice themselves, to leave it 1-5 to 0-12 at the interval.

Donegal had much the better of the second half, though, seeming to revel in the heavy rain that began pouring down, and good scores from sub Thomas McGowan, Gallen, and Conor O’Donnell helped them narrow the gap.

Three late scores then overturned Antrim’s lead, Donegal subs Shay Doherty (twice) and Lanty Molloy pointing to put them ahead for the first time since the opening minute – but Quinn forced extra time from a free awarded for a hand-trip by Donegal centre-back Jack McKelvey, making it 1-12 to 0-15.

Donegal seemed to have taken a decisive advantage early in extra time when Gallen netted the rebound after Byrne had saved an Aaron Doherty shot, but Antrim kept going, their skipper Eoin Nagle scoring another good point.

The Saffrons still trailed by two when the teams turned around, but as the day dried up so did Donegal’s scoring and Antrim were saved by a Brolly and McAteer.

Donegal: C Randels; L Gavigan, A Deeney, C McGlynn; C McFadden (0-1), J McKelvey, P Murphy; R Doherty, C O’Donnell (0-2); P Dolan (0-1), A Doherty (0-2), B O’Donnell; P Mogan (capt.) (1-2, 1-1 frees), O Gallen (1-2), C McGroddy

Substitutes: T McGowan (0-1) for B O’Donnell (26); S Doherty (0-2) for Dolan (46); L Molloy (0-1) for McGroddy (50); J McSharry for C O’Donnell (61); M McGroary for McKelvey (black card, 62).

Black card: McKelvey (62, second half)

Antrim: M Byrne; E Kelly, J Toner, A Mulholland; J Gribbin, E McCabe, J McCaffrey (0-1); E Gibson, J Maybin; E Nagle (capt.) (0-2), D McErlaine (0-1 free), T McAteer (0-4); L Quinn (0-7, 0-4 frees), D McEnhill, R Kelly (0-3, 0-1 free)

Substitutes: M Doherty (0-1) for McCaffrey (41); J Lenehan for Maybin (46); R Brolly (0-2) for R Kelly (52); K McCann for Gibson (57); P Henvey for McEnhill (57); J McCann for McErlaine (black card, 64); D Smyth for McCann (66, 1st period extra time)

Black cards: McErlaine (64, second half); K McCann (65, 1st period extra time)

Referee: Steven Campbell (Tyrone)

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