Sensational scenes in Belfast as Antrim edge out Clare in a thriller 5 months ago

Sensational scenes in Belfast as Antrim edge out Clare in a thriller

Antrim 1-21 Clare 0-22

If you think Antrim are here in Division One of the National Hurling League, happy enough just to make up a few numbers, then you've got another thing coming.

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Just ask Brian Lohan and Clare, who travelled to Belfast hoping to hit the ground running and left with their heads in a spin.

Antrim are Joe McDonagh Cup champions, they are a rising force with an abundance of talented young hurlers and on Sunday in Corrigan Park, they made an announcement that will turn heads from Ballycastle all the way down to Waterford.

This right here, is hurling country.

Go to Ballycastle, go to Dunloy or to Loughgiel and you couldn't drive a mile without seeing a hurl or a sliotar and when you think about it, it was a shame that these proud hurling people have been down for so long. With their club game as strong as anywhere and with an enthusiastic young manager leading the charge, it was only a matter of time before they made their way back up thought and this, a seismic victory in Round One of the National Hurling League, is just another step on that journey.

Ever since he took over back in 2019, Tipperary's Darren Gleeson has had the Glens dancing and even though this is their first big scalp, there's something about the enthusiasm and the confidence up there that tells you it won't be their last.

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At the heart of this Sunday's movement was the man who drove them to Joe McDonagh Cup glory last year, in the Ballycastle bullet Ciaran Clarke. The corner forward scored all around him last year and it was the same story here, as his first half goal and late point sealed the deal on a thrilling and rip-roaring victory which means that since Darren Gleeson took over, Antrim have yet to be beaten.

It was far from a one-man job for the Saffs though, with the sharpshooting Keelan Molloy and talented Eoghan Campbell taking the game to Clare the whole way through. Fitting too, that the county's greatest stalwart of recent times played his part, Neil McManus nailing the injury time point that gave them the lead.

As for the Banner, their over-reliance on Tony Kelly was to the fore yet again here. By half-time, the Ballyea man had 0-8 (0-5 frees) to his name but one man can't win a game and for the men of Munster, it will be a long journey home.

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But there's no doubt about it, this was Antrim's day.