Clare to meet Antrim in U21 hurling final

Concern for Banner County after Aaron Cunningham sustained hamstring injury in win over Galway

Sat, Aug 24, 2013, 20:28

Clare and Antrim will contest the Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21 hurling championship final at Semple Stadium on September 14th.

Antrim stunned Wexford by 2-15 to 1-16 in the first of this afternoon’s semi-finals in Thurles, before holders Clare romped to a 1-16 to 0-7 victory over Galway.

Clare’s victory came at a cost as senior panellist Aaron Cunningham limped off with a serious hamstring injury in the second minute of first half stoppage time.

The nature of the problem was confirmed by Clare’s joint-manager Donal Moloney after the game and Cunningham’s participation in the Banner County’s forthcoming senior and U21 deciders is now in doubt.

Clare have given themselves the chance to win two All-Ireland finals in the space of a week.

On Sunday, September 8th, they will face Cork in the senior decider, with the U21 final against Antrim down for decision six days later.

They fielded four of the players who started last Sunday’s senior semi-final victory over Limerick this evening, with 12 senior panellists in the starting line-up.

They made short work of a desperately disappointing Galway team, playing in their first U21 championship match of the season.

At half-time, Clare led by 0-5 to 0-3, having registered eight first half wides. But after Cathal O’Connell, scorer of 1-5, netted a 34th minute goal, they romped to a 12-point victory.

They had the benefit of a dodgy call, too, in the 36th minute when Shane O’Donnell’s ‘point’, which was clearly wide, was signalled as a score.

The story of the day, however, was Antrim’s shock victory over Wexford.

In the process, the Saffrons became the first ever team from Ulster to reach an U21 decider.

Wexford led just the once, when they opened the scoring, before Antrim’s magnificent centre forward Stephen McAfee scored a fortuitous goal in the third minute.

McAfee’s speculative effort slipped through Wexford goalkeeper Brian Murphy’s hand and into the net.

Antrim struck for a second goal through Ciarán Clarke and between them, McAfee (1-4) and Clarke (1-5), would finish with 2-9 between them.

Antrim led by 2-7 to 0-9 at half-time and they were eight points clear with 20 minutes remaining.

Wexford threatened a revival which brought them to within two points at the finish, with Conor McDonald raising a green flag in the 59th minute. But Antrim defended heroically, with Eoghan Campbell playing brilliantly in a ‘sweeper’ role, and Kevin Ryan’s men held out for a deserved win.