Meath 2-15 Antrim 3-13
4th February 2019
McNaughton snatches victory with last gasp point
Allianz National Hurling League – Division 2
Meath 2-15 Antrim 3-13
John McIlwaine reports from Trim
A brilliant point deep into injury time by star of the show James McNaughton gave Antrim hurlers their first win in Division 2A of the National Hurling League in Trim today. When Meath’s Jack Regan fired a 20m free to the Antrim net two minutes into added time to bring his team level it appeared as if Antrim were to endure heart-breaking slip-up. However there was enough time for Antrim to reply and when the ball came in to Eoin Neill on the 45 metre line his pass found McNaughton who sprinted through on the right to fire over the winning score.
James McNaughton celebrates after getting Antrim off to a great start with a goal in the opening minute. Pic by John McIlwaine
Meath manager Nick Fitzgerald and his players were left fuming, claiming Tipperary referee Johnny Ryan had indicated that Regan’s free was the last poc of the game. Antrim on the other hand felt that time was up even before Meath got their free and that they should have had the game wrapped up long before the late drama.
The Meath manager added that “maybe that’s fairly typical of how the GAA view counties like Meath.”
To be honest Antrim fully deserved the win and it would have been an injustice if they had gone home with anything less than the two points. They held a one point lead at half time after facing a strong breeze and driving rain, three brilliantly taken goals giving them the edge. They controlled most of the second half and after being pegged back to level on a couple of occasions they went three clear ten minutes from time. They had a few good chances of hitting the insurance point but squandered them, and it looked like they were going to pay the price. However McNaughton, who had been brilliant throughout the game, sent the Saffron fans home happy after a score right out of the top drawer.
Super Sammy! Eoin O'Neill fires the ball high into the Meath net for Antrim's second goal
Antrim got off to a flier when Keelan Molloy found Ciaran Clakre with an inch perfect pass and the Ballycastle man put James McNaughton through for a brilliantly taken goal inside the first minute, but just like last week against Kerry they were nervous at the back and Meath hit back with four points on the trot to edge ahead. The second goal came on seventeen minutes when Keelan Molloy contested a high clearance from Ronan Molloy and the ball broke well for Ciaran Clarke who put Eoin O’Neill clear to fire the ball high into the Meath net.
Meath came back with points from Regan and Kelly, but Antrim struck for their third goal when Nigel Elliott cleverly flicked the ball behind him to Ciaran Clarke who rattled the rigging once again to put the visitors in command. However Meath were tough and resilient and with the wind at their backs they fought back to close the gap to a single point by half time. (0-13 to 3-5).
Meath substitute James Reagan fires the ball through the Antrim defensive wall for his team's second goal
Antrim went three clear early in the second half as McNaughton and O’Neill added points and they appeared to be gaining control but they were rocked back on their heels when Damian Healy finished off good work by Kevin Kenna by firing home his team’s first goal. Questions were now being ask of this young Antrim team, but they found the answers as James McNaughton slotted over two more frees and Matty Donnelly hit a beauty from distance to restore that three point cushion. They had chances to extend the lead but the Meath defence were giving nothing away cheaply and it looked like they were going to pay for their missed chances when Reagan fired his twenty metre free through a packed defensive wall. The hard luck stories were about to be penned as it seemed certain that a draw was going to be their lot, until McNaughton weaved his magic with the match winning score.
Nigel Elliott goes past a Meath defender to set up an Antrim score.
MEATH: S McGann; G Murphy, S Brennan, S Morris; K Keoghan, S Whitty, J Kelly; J Regan 1-4 (1-0f), S Quigley; D Healy 1-0, P O’Hanrahan 0-6 (0-4fs, 0-1 ’65), D Kelly 0-3; A Douglas, M O’Grady 0-1, K Keena 0-1.
Subs: E Ó Donnchadha for O’Grady (53mins), J McGeown for Quigley (63mins).
ANTRIM: R Elliott; S Rooney, J Dillion, P Duffin; R Molloy, M Donnelly 0-1, C McHugh; S Duffin, C Boyd; N Elliott 0-1, C McCann, J McNaughton 1-8 (0-5fs, 0-1 ’65); E O’Neill 1-2, K Molloy, C Clarke 1-1.
Subs: D McKinley for S Duffin (34mins), C Patterson for Boyd (48mins)
REFEREE: J Ryan (Tipperary)