U16 National Hurling Blitz, Cashel, Tipperary, August 30th , 2014
The Antrim U16 hurling squad travelled to Cashel, Tipperary on Friday August 29thto take part in the U16 National hurling blitz. The young U16 Saffron’s were drawn in-group 1 along with the hurling powerhouse counties of Kilkenny and Limerick but acquitted themselves well. The first game against Kilkenny was at 10.30 am on the Saturday morning which turned out to be a real stormier of a game. The Saffron forward’s harried and hounded the Kilkenny backs, hooking and blocking, resulting in many a turn over that resulted in Saffron scores. The Saffron backs, Cathail McMullan, Odhran McKenna, Conor Carson, Donal McKeran, C J McKenna and Cathal McDonnell were immense at snuffing out many a dangerous Kilkenny attack. The sides traded point for point, with Saffron centre-half forward John Darragh, converting all of Antrim’s frees, half back Donal McKernan a long range score from his own half and mid-fielder’s Geoffrey Og Laverty and Aidan McMahon contributing scores. The Saffron’s edged in front just before half time with a well worked goal that full-forward Lorcan Heenan duly dispatched to the Kilkenny net. The second half was a very close affair. Kilkenny scored a goal to level the tie and then went a point ahead. But the young Saffron’s responded well and the sides traded point for point throughout the second half with forwards Peter McCallin and Shea Shannon contributing scores. In the dying seconds of the match, with the sides level, the Saffron’s were unlucky not to win the game as a 70-yard free from John Darragh drifted narrowly wide and the game ended in a draw, on a score line of 1:8 a piece. This was truly a sterling performance by the young U16 Saffron’s.
The second game of the group stages followed at 12 noon between Limerick and Kilkenny, which turned out to be a game of two half. Limerick raced into the 4-point lead in the first half and held this until the break. The second half Kilkenny and then drew level and eventually ran out winners on the narrowest of margins. This left the Saffron the challenge of beating Limerick by more than a point in the final game of the group stages in order to progress to the semi-finals of the competition.
The game against Limerick was in the afternoon at 1:30 pm and saw the young U16 Saffron’s once again respond to the challenge and continue the sterling work of hooking and blocking and closing down players that was displayed against Kilkenny. Limerick, with the breeze in their favour were unable to edge ahead converting most of their scores from distance. Free conversions and a goal from John Darragh saw the sides level at the half on a score line of 1:4 to 0:7. After the break, the Saffron’s upped their game and a goal from Lorcan Heenan resulting from the long-range puck out of goalkeeper Emmet Laverty. Additional scores from forwards, Peter McCallin and Shea Shannon and frees from John Darragh saw off the Limerick challenge and the young Saffron’s ran out winners on a score line of 2:10 to 0:10
The semi-final of the competition then followed at 3.15 pm, and saw the Saffron’s take on Clare, who were truly up for the challenge. Clare raced into a commanding lead and had 1:3 on the board before the Saffron’s registered a score from play. At the half Clare had a commanding lead of 1:5 to 0:3. After the restart the Saffron responded well and started to try and claw back into the Clare lead. The young Saffron’s peppered the Clare goal line but Clare withstood the challenge. Some truly brave and spectacular goal keeping by Emmet Laverty throughout the game kept the Saffron’s within contention. However, Clare ran out eventual winners on a score line of 1:9 to 1:5. The young Saffron’s were very disappointed at not reaching the final, which their performance over the day deserved. This tournament was a great experience for these young U16 Saffron hurlers and showed they are on a power with the southern counterparts and a credit to their county. Perhaps lack of match speed at the moment, which can only be gained by more tournaments and challenge match’s was the difference.
Antrim U16 hurling panel, Cashel, Tipperary, August 30th 2014:
Back row left to right: Patrick Friel, Joseph Clifford, Nathan Gibson, Michael Hanna, Conor Carson, John Darragh, Odhran O’Callaghan, Emmet Laverty, Peter McCallin, Lorcan Heenan, Niall McCann, Shea Shannon and Harry Kilgore.
Front row left to right: Darren Grego, Cathail McMullan, Ciaran Rice, Ciaran Neeson, Odhran McKenna, Geoffrey Og Laverty, Aidan McMahon, Ciaran J McKenna, Donal McKernan and Cathal McDonnell.