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Young Saffrons win #TheCelticChallenge

2nd July 2019

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Celtic Challenge Hurling

Antrim 1-15 Kildare Cadets 0-14

Report via #TheSaffronGael

Saturday saw the Antrim Celtic challenge squad travel to O’Connor Park, Tullamore for the final of the Michael Feery Cup vs Kildare cadets. The Saffrons were down a few key players due to injury, holiday and the unavailability of any u16 or u17 who had played in this season’s Leinster championship. Undeterred, the boys headed off early on Saturday morning from Ballycastle picking up en route through the county towards the faithful county.

After arriving at the stadium in good time and having a good warm up, joint team captain Aidan Scullion stepped up and won the first of many duels – the referee’s toss, meaning Antrim played with the wind at their back in the opening half.

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The game began with an immediate attack from Kildare which Jimmy Joe Burns did well in the Antrim nets to retrieve and send into the half forward line. After the initial scare Antrim made the most of the wind as they notched over a trio of points from Ciaran Magill, who worked tirelessly to turnover ball and score throughout the game. The midfield partnership of Callum Kilgore and Conleith McKinley ran the centre field area to provide plenty of quick ball for the forwards to work with. Pearse McKeegan was a constant threat to the Lily white’s as he won primary possession and created chance after chance that at times Kildare couldn’t stop. Kildare weren’t done though as they fought back in particular through the players up the spine of their team. Antrim’s full back James McAllister was helped ably by corner backs Michael Walsh and Patrick McAllister who were put under severe pressure as Kildare looked to claw their way back. Seanie McIntosh and Oscar Smith never stopped moving to win ball and create scores throughout the first half, but it was when Caolan O’Connor and Magill switched positions giving Antrim a better balance, that the game began to swing in their favour. Had it not been for the superb goalkeeping from the Kildare number one when it looked certain Magill would score a goal, Antrim may have been out of sight. Half time score was Antrim 0 – 10 Kildare 0 – 5.

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The second half began with a bang as Kildare punished a mistake in midfield by Antrim by pointing, leaving three points between the teams. They say the sign of a good team is how they respond to an opposition score, particularly after a mistake. Quick thinking by Burns with the puck out picked out Kilgore in midfield who fed Centre half back Conal McGlynn with a smart hand pass who immediately launched the ball into the heart of the Kildare defence. Magill won the battle of strength with the Kildare number three, leaving him to somehow finish into the net as the goalkeeper swarmed to prevent the green flag. Marcus Toner became more involved as the game progressed as did Ciaran McShane after replacing Oscar Smith at half time. Toner and McKeegan began to win a lot of possession as the dropped deeper in protection of the valuable lead Antrim had worked hard to achieve. Kildare pushed hard to create chances but the half backs Jack McGowan, McGlynn and Scullion were immense in the dying stages of the game. Antrim again looked like they could be home and hosed as Caolan O’Connor, now changed back to full forward, was denied what looked like a certain goal when the Kildare stopper pulled off a worldie of a save. Luke Toner provided a bit of well needed energy to Midfield as he replaced Kilgore who had run himself into the ground in a selfless performance. The final whistle was a welcome relief to the travelling Antrim players, management and supporters as it meant the Corn Michael Feery would be travelling North this year. The final score of Antrim 1 15 Kildare 0 – 14 was a fair reflection of the game and certainly made the long journey back to Ballycastle more enjoyable.

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Joint Captains Shane McKenna (injured) and Aidan Scullion lifted the trophy before offering three cheers to…Offaly, before correcting to Kildare to the amusement of the rest of the lads!

Credit to all the players who have played throughout the group and knockout stages of the Celtic Challenge, the families and clubs for their support also. The experience will be a great platform for next year, well done to everyone!

ANTRIM: Jimmy Joe Burns, Michael Walsh, James McAlister, Patrick McAllister, Jack McGowan, Conall McGlynn, Aidan Scullion, Callum Kilgore, Conleith McKinley, Oscar Smyth, Ciaran Magill, Marcus Toner, Seanie McIntosh, Caolan O’Connor, Pearse McKeegan.

Subs – Ciaran McShane, Shane McKenna, Eoin Boylan, Luke Mullan, Luke O’Connor, Sean Og Fay, Louis Boyd, Dara Maguire

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