Free kicks worth it for bringing Antrim semi-final to places that have no reason to care 2 years ago

Free kicks worth it for bringing Antrim semi-final to places that have no reason to care

'Go live'

For Antrim people who weren't at the Dub, that was the story of the night.

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The Antrim SFC semi-final replay between Lámh Dearg and Roger Casement's Portglenone. The first day was heart-stopping. You know what you're going to get here. At least you think you know.

An 8.00 Thursday night throw-in, where else would you be?

From 7.00 on they streamed in. By a quarter to, the stands were full and come 8.00 you couldn't even get a place by the fence. Queen's was lit of a Thursday night and the prospect of Kremlin had nothing to do with it.

Lámh Dhearg v Portenglone. Fierce rivals. Serious competitors. If this didn't deliver what would? This was the place to be.

And by God did the warriors of those clubs deliver.

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Never mind your 1 hour 15 and out the door job. There will be plenty of bleary eyes in Belfast this morning. But they'll have a school-night story to tell. A story that beats all.

They were there. Almost an hour and a half of flat out football and it couldn't do a thing for them. A club semi-final of a Thursday evening that finished with over three thousand people streaming from all parts of the country, and from all parts of the world.

This was the GAA at its mighty, large-living and uncontrollable best. Thank God for technology and thank God the Antrim GAA PRO.

70 minutes of normal time. Dead-locked. No deal. The show must go on. 0-12 to 1-9.

We thought Paddy Cunningham's points were good. The best was yet to come.

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Video by Jerome Quinn Media.

Into extra-time they went and the legs were getting weary but the tension and the heart-in-mouth excitement were only getting bigger. The stand was like Aintree on Grand National day.

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Lámh Dhearg they take over in the first period. Two points up. Two points is a big lead when there's this much done. Portglenone are pure steel though. The Casements level it up and even take the lead in the next series.

By now, these heavyweights have been flailing punches for the guts of three hours. This is a replay, remember? That man Paddy Cunningham has nerves of steel.

Free bloody kicks. GO LIVE.

Antrim GAA's Twitter does not disappoint.

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Yes, this would be a cruel way to finish it but sport is cruel by its very nature. We love when the stakes are so high that one mistake is going to break hearts and make a parish. This is what it's all about.

This was much bigger than Antrim now. From clubs and counties that have no reason to care they watched on enchanted. They felt as if they had a stake in it.

No-one looked like slipping. Two rounds of free-kicks and it was 10.30 in Belfast, but there was still no winner. It would have been a good time to rob a house in Belfast.

And that's when Chairman Ciaran McAvana stepped in. As round three was about to go off, he called Paddy Cunningham back.

He broke the rules - this was supposed to finish on the night - "to look after the players."

"Whoever wins this epic battle in the third game, maith sibh."

Maith sibh is right.

Up next round 4. Croke Park is hardly free?