St Kevin’s in thrilling fightback

St Kevin's full-back Chris Butler comes out with the ball during last week's Under 21 Hurling Championship quarter-final victory over St John's in Cloughmills. INBM 20-774CS
St Kevin's full-back Chris Butler comes out with the ball during last week's Under 21 Hurling Championship quarter-final victory over St John's in Cloughmills. INBM 20-774CS

Antrim Under 21 Hurling Championship

St Kevin’s 2-14 St John’s 1-14

The Armoy/Carey/Cloughmills combination St Kevin’s staged a great second-half comeback to earn victory over St John’s in a thrilling Under 21 Hurling Championship quarter-final game at Cloughmills on Monday evening (7 May) and book a semi-final slot against Cushendall Ruairi Og in two weeks time.

In a game which produced some great hurling from both teams St John’s appeared to be well in control of the match when they opened up a six point lead during the first-half, but driven on by James McQuoid and James Black in the half-back line and midfielder Conor Laverty St Kevin’s battled back to score a memorable win.

There was little to choose between the teams in the opening ten minutes with the home side just holding a slight edge with points from Stefan Smith (2) and Mickey Devlin to one apiece by Locky McCurdy and Michale Bradley by St John’s.

However a three minute spell between the thirteenth and sixteenth minutes, which saw the visitors hit 1-3 without reply, appeared to have turned the game in the Johnnies favour as they opened up a five point gap. The goal coming from Conor Johnston who capitalised on a slip by the St Kevin’s goalkeeper.

A great point by Mickey Devlin stopped the rot for St Kevin’s but St John’s hit back again and a superb point from their brilliant left-half back Conal D Morgan restored the visitors five point cushion. The Johnston brothers Ciaran and Conor both hit frees between the posts to pull their team six clear but a point from a Conor Laverty 65 just on the half-time whistle left them trailing by just five at the break.

St Kevin’s second-half response was massive and after Michael Bradley had increased the Johnnies lead to six again they turned the game on its head when they added two goals and three points without reply in the next eight minutes. Full-forward Eoin Kinney started the ball rolling with two great points, Conor Laverty added another from a narrow angle on the left before Kinney and Smith rattled the net from close range to put their side three clear.

As the excitement mounted St John’s came back with points from Jude Savage, Conal D Morgan and Conor Johnston in reply to just one from Conor Laverty to the deficit to just one, but James ‘Rocket’ Black hit a beauty from distance and substitute Paddy Butler tagged on another to restore the three point cushion.

With nine minutes left for play St John’s corner-forward Conor Johnston found an opening in the St Kevin’s defence and fired in a cracking shot at goal, but goalkeeper McKiernan atoned for his first-half error and brilliantly turned the ball around the post for a 65.

Locky McCurdy and the magnificent Morgan fired over points for the visitors to cut the gap to the minimum with five minutes left for play and set up a heart-stopping finish, but St Kevin’s held their nerve and two top class points from the tireless Conor Laverty sealed a deserved win.

St Kevin’s – Chris McKiernan, Gerard McBride, Chris Butler, Tiernan McLaughlin, James Black, James McQuoid, Rory Laverty, Conor Laverty, Michael McVeigh, Mickey Devlin, Eamon McCaughan, Stephen McGinn, Stefan Smith, Owen Kinney, James Dobbin. Subs - Paddy Butler for Dobbin

St John’s – Padraig Nugent, Conor Gallagher, Peter McMahon, Thomas Manning, Conal D Morgan, Ciaran Johnston, Donal Carson, Jude Savage, Andy McGowan, Michael Bradley, Michael Dudley, Gerard Carberry, Conor Johnston.

Referee – Owen Elliott.