CIVIL SERVICE 3 – ANTRIM 3
At last Antrim’s real hockey season has got underway when the team travelled to Stormont to play Civil Service in their first league match of the year. Relegated from the Premier League with Civil Service and Belfast Harlequins last season, this would be Antrim’s first real test on how they might fare in the matches to come. Antrim had the early pressure from a Dean Wilson, Sammy Clyde and Jason Roe combination move to win a long corner. The ball was played into the circle and hit a defender’s foot to earn a penalty corner. From the Roe hit and Alan Mullan stop Dean Wilson moved the ball left and found the space to smash the ball, on the reverse, into the corner of the net to give Antrim the early fifth minute lead. Play was end to end and in the 10th minute from a Civil Service attack down the right wing, a couple of missed tackles allowed the ball to be played into the circle where the dangerous Chris Barns made room to sweep it into the backboards to level up the scores. This goal boosted the home team’s moral and they started to put pressure on the Antrim defence and in their next attack goalkeeper Andy Heatley just beat the onrushing forward to kick the ball away. Led by Mullan, Johnny McMeekin, Sammy Clyde and Nial Black the Antrim defence held firm. Civil Service won their first penalty corner in the 17th minute but their feared penalty taking expert Chris Barnes fired the ball wide to bring the first quarter to an end. Straight from the restart goalkeeper Heatley blocked a strong shot from Barnes. Then in the 20th minute an Antrim defender’s hesitation proved fatal allowing the onrushing Steve Armstrong that little bit of extra space to break through and fire the ball under the onrushing Heatley into the net to give the home team the 2-1 lead. Good work by midfielders Jack Kirkpatrick, Jason Roe and Dean Wilson in the 25th minute saw Alex McBride’s right wing cross hit a defender’s foot in the circle and from the resultant penalty corner Chris Wilson scored with a perfect strong drag flick high into the net to bring the scores level at 2-2. Civil Service won a penalty corner in the 28th minute but Barnes’s shot was blocked and the ball quickly cleared upfield to Curtis Murray who took it across the left hand touchline and played it against a defender’s foot to win a penalty corner. The goalkeeper saved Chris Wilson’s shot and at least twice more in the ensuing goalmouth scramble before the ball was cleared. The play was end to end and Civil Service won another penalty corner in the 31st minute but Barnes was off target firing the ball over the crossbar. In the dying seconds of the first half play switched to the other end and Antrim won another penalty corner and this time it was Dean Wilson who scooped the ball high into the net to give his team the 3-2 half time lead. The third quarter was a struggle for supremacy with Antrim forwards Ryan McCrea, Alex McBride and Chris Wilson working hard to attack the stubborn Civil Service defence. Two determined teams fighting for a victory with no quarter given was somewhat spoiled by rather fussy umpires issuing unnecessary disciplinary cards. Pressure from Civil Service at the end of the third quarter saw them win several corners and from an intercepted bad Antrim pass they conceded another in the 50th minute and this time Barnes swept the ball high into the net for the equalising goal. The final quarter was a rather tense affair with both teams searching for a winning goal. A 56th minute Antrim penalty corner shot from Dean Wilson was brilliantly saved by the home keeper and they almost scored again when Jason Roe broke from the half way line to beat four players only to be stopped by a defender’s foot just inside the Civil Service circle to win another penalty corner which was squandered. At the other end goalkeeper Heatley made a brilliant interception as the ball was batted goalwards by a determined forward. Another Antrim penalty corner shot from Dean Wilson was superbly saved by the home keeper and as the ball cleared away the game ended in a 3-3 draw. Satisfied with this result and the team performance against possibly the toughest team they will meet all year, Antrim should have the confidence of playing well against any other opposition in this league this season. This week they travel to play Downpatrick in their next league match.
Antrim Squad :- A Heatley, A Mullan, S Clyde, J McMeekin, N Black, J Roe, D Wilson, C Murray, J Kirkpatrick, A McBride, R McCrea, C Wilson, M Watt and R Watt
SOUTH ANTRIM FOURTHS 2 – ANTRIM SECONDS 2
Antrim Seconds travelled to Lisburn on Saturday with their proverbial mix of youth and experience to play South Antrim Fourths in a league match. Antrim started slowly and their keeper, Cameron O’Neill, was in the thick of the action from early on. Nathan Murdoch, Mark Patterson, Adam Pearce and Neil McCullough were putting in some strong challenges but Antrim were guilty of either trying to dribble the ball too much or not managing to pass to one of their own players. Unsurprisingly South Antrim scored in the 8th minute with a crisp shot hitting the back of the net. At the start of the second quarter Antrim’s passing improved dramatically but by opting to try an over complicated aerial passing, possession of the ball was lost on too many occasions. Only good tackling by young Josh Irwin and David Mailey stopped the home side from doubling their lead. Stu Kernaghan, the midfield play maker, was continually being fouled in order to stop Antrim from building any rhythm. In the 25th minute a ball blasted into the Antrim goalmouth from outside the circle created total confusion. As the raised ball was not dangerous goalkeeper O’Neill opted to deflect the ball over the cross-bar. Unfortunately he got too much of his gloved hand to it and it went straight up into the air before dropping to an unmarked South Antrim forward who promptly fired it into the net from a few feet out for his team second goal. This unfortunate mishap seemed to kick start the Antrim team into playing. Danger man Lyle Kane, along with the fired up Chris Roe started to create plenty of penetrating runs into their opponents defence. Stephen Gammon was tying his opposite number in knots and crashing some dangerous reverse stick balls across the circle, but on too many occasions these great through passes were not capitalised on. Antrim’s half time team talk was hot and heavy with Captain Kane imploring his team to stop playing the aerial balls and start making more accurate ground passes. Within a few minutes of the restart Antrim scored after a fantastic sweeping move. Neil McCullough’s initial strike was well saved but he picked up the rebound to smash the ball off the back board to reduce the arrears The home side then had three decent scoring chances but goalkeeper O’Neill saved them all, with one outstanding spectacular left hand save. South Antrim were awarded a penalty corner which was quite controversial given that it was awarded by the umpire in the other half and who was a good thirty metres away from where the infringement was adjudged to have occurred . Thankfully the shot was blocked and the ball cleared up field. Adam Pearce, who was carrying an injury, along with Mailey, Roe and McCullough began to push forward in search of an equaliser. McCullough scored his and Antrim’s second with a fierce unstoppable drive after Antrim were awarded a penalty corner for a foot inside the circle. In the dying seconds both teams went close to snatching the winner but on reflection a draw was probably a fair result. Thanks to Antrim’s Jamie Kernaghan and South Antrim’s Willie Redpath who both officiated in such a fair and professional manner. Antrim’s joint ‘Man of the Match’ was shared by teenagers Cameron O’Neill and Josh Irwin who both gave it their all on the day. Also thanks to William O’Neill, Tommy Monahan, Derek Mailey and the Kane family for their unwavering and strong vocal support at the game. This week the Seconds travel to Comber to play North Down Fifths in their next league game.
Seconds Squad - C O’Neill, L Kane, N Murdoch, D Mailey, M Patterson, S Kernaghan, C Roe, N McCullough, S Gammon, A Pearce and J Irwin.
PORTRUSH SECONDS 6 – ANTRIM THIRDS 0
Antrim Thirds travelled to Coleraine on Friday evening to play Portrush Seconds in a league match. Fielding what was a very strong team the homesters soon took command and pressed the Antrim defence from the start. On the other hand Antrim, missing several of their regular players struggled to get a team together to play in this match and to their credit they did. Unfortunately veteran defender Paul Whiteside was injured very early on in the game and it was no surprise when Portrush took an early 2-0 lead. Antrim defended well with Nathan Murdock, Mark Patterson and Chris Roe backed up by goalkeeper Ben Kennedy doing their best to block the many Portrush attacks. Midfielders Brian Creighton, Lyle Kane and Steven Gammon battled hard to get the ball through to forwards Andrew Clark, Alex Mayers and Josh Irwin but the veteran home defence comfortably smothered most of their attacks. Portrush score again before half time and despite the heroics of the Antrim defence led by teenage goalkeeper Kennedy they scored three more time to finish off as 6-0 winners. This week the Thirds are at home to Bangor Fifths in their next league game.
Thirds Squad :- D Kennedy, P Whiteside, N Murdock, M Patterson, C Roe, B Creighton, L Kane, J Irwin, A Clark, S Gammon, A Mayers