Down 1-10 Antrim 1-12
DOWN’S Dr McKenna Cup campaign ended with two defeats after losing to Antrim tonight.
Down can’t be faulted for effort but it wasn’t a great performance with Barry O’Hagan and Liam Middleton probably the pick of the players.
Antrim looked a team further on in their development while Down seemed disjointed as times, which isn’t a surprise to anyone.
Down trailed by a point at half-time and they could have been further behind had Antrim brought their shooting boots.
James McCartan made seven changes to the team that lost to Donegal on Friday, with Clonduff’s Packie O’Hagan the only debutee, while Burren’s Peter Fegan and Kevin McKernan, Downpatrick’s Caolan Mooney and Annaclone’s Benny McArdle made their first start this year.
Down got off to a dream start with Ryan O’Higgins lashing in a great goal with only four minutes on the clock. This meant Antrim moved Jamie McCann in as sweeper and he gathered plenty in the opening half as Down found it difficult to get through.
With the Sigerson competition getting underway, Down were without any of their U20 players and lacked much of their ingenuity as a result.
Five of Antrim’s first half scores came from frees, with Ruairi McCann and Pat Shivers kicking well, Odhran Eastwood pointed from a mark, while Patrick McBride and James Laverty pointed from play.
The sides were level on five occasions in the first half, including the first water-break (1-01 to 0-04), Patrick O’Hagan pointed for Down.
Kevin McKernan levelled the scores and Mooney tapped over to edge Down ahead but a brace of frees from McCann put Antrim ahead with 33 minutes played. Barry O’Hagan finished off a great sweeping move but a fourth McCann converted free gave Enda McGinley’s men the advantage at the break.
Down 1-04 Antrim 0-08
The half was just over a minute old when Jamie McCann squared a pass for Patrick McBride to punch in at the back post for a slick Antrim goal. It was a blow for James McCartan’s side but they hit back with quick points from Barry O’Hagan and Kevin McKernan.
Ross Carr continued the proud family tradition to make his senior debut for Down after replacing John McGeough at half-time. Captain Darren O’Hagan, who came off the bench in the first half closed the gap with a point.
Some last gap defending halted Antrim from bagging another goal but Michael McCann’s point ensured they got something from the attack as Down trailed 1-07 to 1-09 at the second water-break.
A brace of points from Barry O’Hagan levelled the score to ensure a grandstand final ten minutes, but a beautiful point from Conor Murray gave the Saffrons the lead and Paddy McBride tagged on another after some heart in the mouth defending from Down.
The Mourne men had three minutes of normal time to respond, but instead it was Ryan Murray who stretched Antrim’s lead.
Antrim lined their goal as Barry O’Hagan blasted his close-range free but the wall did its job and the shot deflected over the bar as time ran out. Down now focus on playing Derry in Owenbeg in the opening round of the National League on Jan 29 and they have work to do.
DOWN: R Burns, P Fegan, B McArdle, G Collins, J Connery, N McParland, J McGeough, A Doherty, Middleton, R O’Higgins (1-00), C Mooney (0-01) C O’Rawe, B O’Hagan (0-05, 0-04 frees), P O’Hagan (0-01), K McKernan (0-02)
Subs: Darren O’Hagan (0-01) for McGeough (16), R Carr for J Connery ht’, A Lynch for N McParland 41’, J Donaghy for K McKernan, C Francis for Middleton 59’.
ANTRIM: O Kerr, R Boyle, R Johnston, E McCabe, P Healy, J Laverty (0-01), J McCann, K Small, M McCann (0-01), P McBride (1-02), P Shivers (0-1, free), R McCann (0-04, all frees), J Gribbin, O Eastwood (0-01 mark), T McCann.
Subs: D McAleese for R McCann 45’, E Hynds for R Boyle 45’, R Murray (0-01) for Eastwood 48’, J McAuley for J McCann 55, C Murray (0-01) for P Shivers 55’, D McCormick for T McCann 65’, B McCormick for K Small 68’,