ANTRIM 2 – 3 PORTRUSH
Taking a break from league hockey Antrim entertained Portrush in the last of their pre qualifying matches of the Irish Challenge Cup competition at the Paddy Marks Arena on Saturday. Missing three key players the 12 man squad was under strength for this game and with the Seconds having no game it is difficult to understand why a few more weren’t called in to help out. In the very first minute Nial Black broke down the right and laid the ball off for Johnny McMeekin to drive it into the goalmouth where it flew harmlessly into the net just out of reach of the onrushing forwards. Almost immediately the ball lobbed into the Antrim circle was missed by a defender, only somehow to be cleared by goalkeeper Andy Heatley in the ensuing scramble. For the next few minutes there was little between the teams as they both struggled to get the upper hand. From Antrim’s first penalty corner in the 12th minute the ball was played right for Alex McBride to return it into the goalmouth where Sammy Clyde slammed it into the net to give his team the 1-0 lead. In the next attack two minutes later McMeekin played the ball into the circle from the right and the unmarked Steve Gammon fired it sweetly into the net past the helpless Portrush goalkeeper for the 2-0 lead. Just before the end of the first quarter a left wing Black cross was stopped by Wilson in the goalmouth but the goalkeeper somehow got his foot to the ball and cleared it away, before he could shoot. The second quarter was only two minutes old when from the visitor’s first penalty corner the ball was switched right and crashed into the net by A Scott to get his team back into the game. This goal raised the Portrush spirits as the game progressed and was very much helped by the poor marking, tackling and passing of the Antrim team. Even when Portrush has two players in the sin bin it didn’t make any difference. Nothing was going right for the Antrim forwards as they always seemed to be in the wrong place or made a mess of almost every pass they made. They won a penalty corner in the last minute of the half but the ball was scooped wide of the post. The second half continued as the first with the Antrim team seemingly content to defend in numbers without having at least one player forward. A 36th minute Portrush penalty corner was saved by Heatley and the ball cleared away. As the Portrush confidence increased Antrim defender Alan Mullan, Black, McMeekin, Jason Roe, Clyde and Jack Kirkpatrick were under constant pressure but the forwards were making little or no impression on the visitors defence. Then from a left wing Portrush attack the winger was given the space to get in a shot. The ball hit the post and rebounded into the goalmouth where Mullan attempting to clear the ball, clashed sticks with an onrushing forward only to see the umpire award Portrush a penalty stroke. Up stepped Michael Conway to fire the ball, off the unlucky Heatley’s glove, into the roof of the net for the 43rd minute equaliser. The sloppy slow Antrim play continued and they struggled to string even a few decent passes together. A Chris Wilson shot just flew wide of the Portrush post in the 48th minute and just before the end of the third quarter they won several more penalty corners but they all came to nothing. The last quarter was a very scrappy affair as both teams looked for the winner. Portrush won several penalty corners which were successfully cleared. In an accidental clash Kirkpatrick was hurt and had to be substituted before the Portrush winger was allowed the space to cross the ball from the left where the unmarked G McCreevy swept the ball into the net to give his team the 3-2 lead in the 60th minute. Antrim threw everyone forward to try and get a goal but despite winning several more penalty corners the Portrush team held out to grab this narrow but deserved victory. Both teams have qualified for the semi final of this competition with Antrim’s opponents being Limerick to be played in Dublin on Saturday 7th March. This Saturday it’s back to league action with a home game against Down with a 1pm start.
Antrim Squad :- A Heatley, A Mullan, J McMeekin, S Clyde, J Kirkpatrick, J Roe, N Murdoch, N Black, A McBride, M Watt, S Gammon and C Wilson.
ANTRIM THIRDS 0 – 2 HARLEQUINS THIRDS
Antrim Thirds met Harlequins Thirds at the Paddy Marks Arena on Saturday in the first round of the Minor Cup. The visitors won their first penalty corner in the 8th minute and goalkeeper Ben Kennedy saved the strong shot, deflecting the ball over the bar to concede a long corner. The ball was played into the circle but the goalbound shot cannoned off the post and was somehow cleared away. Already Antrim’s light weight forward line was struggling against the slightly older and experienced Harlequins defence as the first quarter came to an end. The second quarter continued as the first with the visitors pressing the Antrim defence so much that even the forwards were forced back to try and help out. Then in the 22nd minute the pressure told when the ball from a penalty corner shot was crashed past the helpless Kennedy to give Harlequins the 1-0 lead. The Antrim team seemed content to defend in numbers without any effort to push forward to mount any serious attacks. A 25th minute penalty corner shot from Stuart Kernaghan was well saved by the Harlequins goalkeeper followed by another but this time the ball was driven wide. Poor passing and tackling from the Antrim team made things a lot easier for the opposition who in turn put extra pressure on hard pressed defenders Nathan Murdock, Josh Lavery, Nathan McCready and Jamie Kernaghan who defended well until half time arrived. Straight from the restart the visitors pressed forward and in the 40th minute they won another penalty corner and the same player repeated the dose when his fierce shot rattled off the backboards to give his team the 2-0 lead. As the game continued it was difficult to understand why the Antrim forwards didn’t make enough effort to push forward to put any pressure on the Harlequins defence. This made defending very easy for the visitors and they comfortable held on to the end of the third quarter. The last quarter continued in a similar vein with Antrim’s team, despite being behind, were unable to push enough men forward to mount any more than sporadic attacks. But from one of those rare attacks the ball from a Stu Kernaghan free, taken from outside the twenty five and driven into the circle, was swept high into the net by Chris Roe to reduce the arrears. Unfortunately that was the end of the Antrim threat and Harlequins were happy just to play out the remaining time to clinch this easy 2-1 victory. Team thanks go to Nial Black, Chris Wilson and Andy Heatley for braving the bad weather conditions to share in umpiring this game in a fair and competent manner. This Saturday the Thirds are listed to play Ballymena Seconds at home in their next league game with a 2.30pm start. On Saturday the Seconds will travel to Belfast to play Annadale Fourths in their next league match with a 1pm start.
Thirds Squad :- D Kennedy, J Kernaghan, M Watt, T Monahan, S Kernaghan, J Lavery, M Patterson, C Roe, J Irwin, M McCooke, A Clarke, S Gammon, N Murdock and N McCready.