End of the Celtic Chal­lenge road for gallant Gold

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - SPORT - BRENDAN LAWRENCE at Ab­bot­stown

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.

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