End of the Celtic Challenge road for gallant Gold
ANTRIM 6-16 WICKLOW GOLD 2-9
THE Wicklow Gold adventure came to an end at the Celtic Challenge quarter-final stage on Saturday afternoon last at the hands of a very capable Antrim outfit who put a brave Garden County squad to the sword with a devastating second-half showing in Abbotstown.
Wicklow Gold looked in dire trouble in the opening exhanges with the Antrim side, made up of the Saffron County’s under-16 ‘A’ and Minor team panellists, racing out to a 0-5 to 0-1 lead.
But a very healthy Celtic Challenge campaign has bonded this Gold side and they have plenty of quality hurlers within their ranks and points from Fionn Doogan, Oscar Harty, Bill O’Brien (free) and Tom Moran left them trailing Antrim by a single score at 0-6 to 0-5 and with things looking altogether more promising at the superb facility close to Blanchardstown.
However, where the Gold team enjoyed time and space against sides such as Longford in the group stages, they were closed down much quicker by a wellcoached Antrim outfit and they really had to work for their passes and scores over the course of this game that will serve to improve them hugely in their hurling no doubt.
A sweet Tom Moran point was followed by a mini purple patch for Antrim as they opened up a 1-9 to 0-6 lead, the goal coming from Marcus Toner after an impressive move up the field.
Massive credit to the Gold players, they rallied and closed to within two points at the break after fine points from Bill O’Brien (free), Eoin Byrne (free) and a rasping goal from full-forward Charlie Cruise from a free that caught the Antrim defence asleep. Half-time score was 1-10 to 1-8 with plenty of positives for Wicklow Gold to consider.
An early exchange of goals brought real excitement to the early stages of the second half. Brian Nessbit accounted for Wicklow’s second major while the hugely impressive Callin O’Connor found a way past Daniel O’Reilly in the Wicklow goal.
It was all Antrim from here, however. A rapid 1-5 sickened the Wicklow Gold challenge before a Tom Moran point stopped the rot but Antrim weren’t going to be stopped once they found another gear and they pushed on to win by 6-16 to 2-9 and bring to a close a very entertaining journey for a Wicklow Gold side who will hopefully learn plenty from their exploits in the Garden County jersey.
WICKLOW GOLD: Daniel O’Reilly; Aaron O’Rourke, Dylan Byrne, Cormac Redmond; Ciaran Harmon, Tommy Collins, Shane Arthur; Jack Byrne, Jamie Ryan; Tom O’Brien, Fionn Doogan, Oscar Harty; Bill O’Brien, Charlie Cruise, Brian Nesbitt. Subs: Matt Curran, Tadgh McCarthy, TJ O’Neill, John McElhinny, Casey Doyle, Seosamh Kelly, Rian MacMaolan, Luan Ruddy, Eoin Byrne, Neill Browne, Tom Moran, Luke Dorgan.
ANTRIM: Jimmy Joe Burns; Shane McKenna, Daire Maguire, Ben McAuley; Aaron Carey, Aidan Scullion, Conall McGlynn; Callum Kilgore, Conleith McKinley; Ciaran McGill, Cailin O’Connor, Marcus Toner; Conor Boyle, Pierce McKeegan, Ciaran McShane.
REFEREE: Brian Brady (Louth)
Wicklow Gold’s Tom Moran heads for the Antrim goal.