BELFAST HARLEQUINS 6 – 2 ANTRIM
Antrim travelled to Deramore Park to play league leaders Belfast Harlequins in their next league match last Saturday. Harlequins won their first penalty corner in the 3rd minute but Antrim’s goalkeeper Andy Heatley made two quick saves in succession to clear the danger. Back came Harlequins to win a long corner and again the ball was cleared. An Antrim forward dithered on the clearance and was penalised for trying to win the ball back. The quick free into the circle allowed Steven McGrath to turn his marker and fire the ball past the helpless Heatley for the 1-0 lead. It slowly became clear that the Antrim tactic was to defend in numbers and depend on the occasional break forward. Although they were under constant pressure with goalkeeper Heatley in action making save after save, they successfully defended until the end of the first quarter. A 21st minute Harlequins penalty corner shot was again saved by Heatley. The Antrim passing and tackling left a lot to be desired making it much easier for the home team to regain control. In a rare attack Antrim won their first penalty corner of the game in the 27th minute and a defender stopped the ball on the line with his foot. Up stepped Jason Roe to fire the ball into the roof of the net to bring the scores level. But within two minutes Harlequins had retaken the lead again when McGrath finished off a sweet move through the static Antrim defence. And they soon had the 3-1 lead when Adam Tweed was on hand to finish off an almost unopposed move through the bemused Antrim defence in the 31st minute. As the second half progressed all the Antrim team had no option but to defend in numbers with goalkeeper Heatley bearing the brunt of the constant pressure on his goalmouth against this much more skilful and fitter team. The constant pressure was taking its toll on the Antrim team and in the 48th minute Chris Gardiner added goal number four for Harlequins with a strong edge of circle shot. Antrim then decided to throw caution to the wind and began to push forward and it wasn’t long before Alex McBride latched on to a rebounding ball off the goalkeeper’s pads to slam the ball back into the net to give his team a glimmer of hope in the 51st minute. In the last quarter the frustration of some of the Antrim players began to show and unfortunately a defender was sin binned for blocking a Harlequins run into the circle. Then in the 62nd minute the Harlequins left winger was allowed to take the ball down the wing and play it across the goalmouth for the onrushing Aaron Murphy to sweep the ball under the diving Heatley into the net for the 5-2 lead. Harlequins won several more penalty corners in the dying minute and from the final one the ball was switched right for Tweed to drive it into the net to clinch this easy 6-2 victory. This Saturday Antrim are at home to Portrush in what is the semi final of the All Ireland Challenge Trophy with a 1pm start.
Antrim Squad – A Heatley, J McMeekin, S Clyde, J Kirkpatrick, D Wilson, J Roe, M Watt, A McBride, R McCrea, N Murdock, S Gammon and C Wilson.
ANTRIM THIRDS 1 – 0 PORTRUSH 2NDS
Due to the persistence and hard work of team Captain Stuart Campbell Antrim Thirds were at last able to get a full squad of 16 players out to play against league leaders Portrush Seconds at the Paddy Marks Arena last Friday evening. Most satisfying for Stuart was that ten of the squad were teenagers who have progressed up through the Club’s Junior Development system in which he plays a prominent part. Along with the experience reliable regulars this was a good balanced team to face their tough opponents. There was little between the teams as the game progressed in the first quarter until a quick burst forward saw a Portrush forward crash the ball against the post and amazingly repeat the dose with the rebound, this time against the other post. Antrim seemed content to defend in numbers and as Portrush attacked the Antrim circle goalkeeper Ben Kennedy was in action helped by full back Josh Lavery to clear away the danger time after time. Antrim midfielders Tommy Monahan, Jamie Kernaghan and Nathan Murdock were getting a good supply of passes through to their eager young forwards but they were up against a very strong Portrush back line. The second quarter saw Antrim refreshing the team with four substitutes to try and liven things up a bit. The tactic worked as the more attack minded Chris Roe and Lyle Kane pushed forward to create more danger in the visitors circle. A Monahan free, driven into the circle saw the ball deflect off Roe’s stick to fly over the crossbar. Antrim won their first penalty corner of the game in the 21st minute but the Portrush keeper saved well from a strong Kernaghan shot. Then a snap shot from Kane was blocked and cleared away by the goalkeeper, but from the next attack down the right Monahan crossed the ball into the goalmouth where the goalkeeper kicked it straight on to Kane’s stick and he instinctively deflected it back into the net to give Antrim the 1-0 lead in the 25th minute. Goalkeeper Kennedy was in action a few minutes later when he confidently saved a reverse stick pile driver from an unmarked Portrush forward. Antrim introduced new player Bradley McConnell, who has joined from Parkview, and he showed his promise in the short time he was on the pitch. Teenage newcomers Max McCooke and Nathan McCready also impressed showing fight and determination which will stand them in good stead as their future match time increases. Portrush continued to press and as some of the Antrim defenders visibly tired only the steely determination of Lavery, Monahan, Kyle Wilson and goalkeeper Kennedy kept them from scoring. Portrush won several corners at the end of the third quarter but they just couldn’t get the ball past the determined Antrim defence. The last quarter saw Antrim doggedly to hold on to their slender lead but the same old problem of holding on to the ball far too long persisted making it easier for the visitors to win it back. Then a great run by Steve Gammon from just inside his own half saw him skilfully beat several defenders only to see his effort blocked as he was about to shoot. A little surge of Antrim pressure brought several good saves by the Portrush keeper and in the dying minutes it was the visitors turn to squander several good chances from the penalty corners they won. Then in the 69th minute from a left wing attack the ball was played into the Antrim circle where an unmarked forward’s shot was brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Kennedy with the deflected ball cannoning off the goalpost and cleared away to safety. From an added time penalty corner Antrim breathed a hugh sigh of relief when the Portrush striker illegally fired the ball high into the net to bring this hard fought game to an end with a 1-0 victory. Team thanks go to Leslie Allen and Chris Wilson for their fair and efficient umpiring of this game. This Saturday the Thirds are at home to Belfast Harlequins Thirds in the first round of the Minor Cup with a 2.30pm start.
Thirds Squad :- B Kennedy, T Monahan, J Kernaghan, N Murdock, D Allen, J Lavery, N McCready, S Gammon, M McCooke, A Clark, J Irwin, C Roe, C O’Neill, M Watt, L Kane, K Wilson and B McConnell