Winning start for #Saffs #KehoeCup
16th December 2018
Bord na Mona Kehoe Cup
Sunday December 16
Antrim 0-21 Wicklow 0-13
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Brendan McTaggart reports from the GAA’s Centre of Excellence, Abbotstown
Antrim’s 2019 hurling campaign started on Sunday at the GAA’s Centre of Excellence in Abbotstown with an eight point win over Wicklow. The timing of the fixture and the nature of a hurling match being played nine days before Christmas is a story for another day, it’s bizarre to say the least but the Saffrons had a job to do and they have their season under way once again.
Antrim full forward Kevin Rice in action during Sunday’s Kehoe Cup win over Wiclkow at Abbotstown, Dublin. Pic by John McIlwaine
To say the Antrim squad was depleted would be an understatement. From their last match against Kildare in the Joe McDonagh relegation play-off on 30th June, there were just three survivors for one reason or another. A management team trying to find their feet and establish a footing, they are off to a somewhat difficult start but on Sunday afternoon after an indifferent first half they found form to get their season off to a winning start.
It was a tight opening half with neither team establishing supremacy. Tit for tat scoring with the sides level on nine occasions during the opening 35 minutes, it was a half for Antrim to blow off the cobwebs and get used to hurling again. For some it came sooner than others, namely James McNaughton. The Loughgiel man picked up where he left off for the Shamrocks during the season and was the undoubted shining light for Antrim. 14 of Antrim’s points came from the stick of McNaughton, half of those from frees in a confident performance. A substitute during the 2018 season for the Saffrons with a starting place in the first 15 fleeting, McNaughton has quickly became the first name on the team sheet.
During the first half, the Loughgiel man hit seven of Antrim’s points with all but one coming from open play with Conor McCann (two) and John McGoldrick also adding their name to the scoresheet. Wicklow were more than a match for the Saffrons during that first half however. Seanie Gemaine, Padraic O’Duill and Seamus O’Cranlie all impressing in attack for the Garden County and on another day they could have had two majors before the short whistle. Gemaine reacted quickest to O’Cranlie’s long pass not being cleared properly before scooping the sliotar over the rushing Kurtis McGreevey in the Antrim goals only for Phelim Duffin to save the Saffrons by clearing the goal bound sliotar. The second chance came barely 40 second later with Eoin McCormack creating the space and 25 yards out his riffled effort fizzed beyond the far post when he looked certain to score what would have been a superb goal with the work he put in to create the chance.
Antrim upped their intensity levels after the restart and despite Wicklow restoring parity for a tenth time when Padraic O’Duill fired over the first of two second half frees for his side, it would be the last score the Garden County would register for 15 minutes as Antrim began to take control with the half back line in particular excelling. Simon McCrory had a solid opening half but came into his own during the second half while Joe Maskey and Eamon Smyth were excellent either side. With the Antrim defence on top, Wicklow were struggling to deal with the Antrim pressure and their indiscipline was beginning to cost them with McNaughton becoming a target, coming in for some ‘treatment’ in the second half.
Joe Maskey who answered the Antrim hurlers call against Wicklow
By the time O’Duill landed his second free in the 51st minute, Antrim had managed to open a six point lead with McNaughton scoring four frees and landing one from play along with the impressive Kevin Rice adding his name to the Saffrons scoresheet. The Creggan man put in a mountain of work throughout the 70 minutes and was more than a handful for the Wicklow defence.
O’Duill’s 51st minute was brief respite for Wicklow and Antrim continued to extend their lead. Another McNaughton free preceded points from Smyth, Maskey and the tireless Sean Duffin to open an eight point lead by the 69th minute.
Second half substitute Weir’s 70th minute point was just the second white flag conceded from play by the Saffron defence in the second half while McNaughton had the final say with his sixth free of the second half and 14th white flag overall to give Antrim a winning start to their Kehoe Cup campaign.
They advance to the semi-finals, scheduled for 13th January. Who they play will be determined the weekend before with Meath playing Wicklow. If the Garden County win, they could still make the semi’s despite being beaten twice in the competition. I’ll just leave that one there…
The Antrim team who beat Wicklow in the Kehoe Cup at Abbotstwown
Antrim: K McGreevey; P Duffin, M Donnelly, S Rooney; J Maskey, E Smyth, S McCrory; C McHugh, S Duffin; N McKeague, C McCann, J McNaughton; R McGarry, K Rice, J McGoldrick.
Scorers: James McNaughton 0-14 (7 f’s); Conor McCann 0-2; Sean Duffin 0-1; Joe Maskey 0-1; Eamon Smyth 0-1; Kevin Rice 0-1; John McGoldrick 0-1
Wicklow: C Mac an Fhaudille; M O’Brien, Liam O’Cuddihy, W O’Caomhanach; P O’Cahain, L Evans, G O’Broin; R O’Broin, S MacAndreis; S O’Duill, P O’Duill, S Gemaine; S O’Neil, E McCormack, S O’Cranile. Subs: B Kearney for P O’Cahain (12); C Moore-House for Gemaine (HT); Gearoid MacHaoide for O’Neill (44); G Weir for O’Duill (51); A Byrne for Evans (51).
Scorers: S Gemaine 0-4 (2f’s); P O’Duill 0-3 (2 f’s); E McCormack 0-2; S O’Cranlie 0-2; G Weir 0-1; W O’Caomhanach 0-1
Referee: Thomas Gleeson (Dubin)