93rd-minute winning point seals it for Meath against Antrim

Ultra-experienced Meath attacker Steven Clynch decided a quite incredible Christy Ring Cup final replay with a 93rd minute winning point to seal a first ever title for the Royal County.

93rd-minute winning point seals it for Meath against Antrim

Meath 4-21 Antrim 5-17

By Paul Keane

Ultra-experienced Meath attacker Steven Clynch decided a quite incredible Christy Ring Cup final replay with a 93rd minute winning point to seal a first ever title for the Royal County.

The sides were back at Croke Park three weeks after their controversial draw when Meath were initially awarded the cup before being told days later the match actually ended in a draw.

Meath trailed by eight points at half-time in this game and looked to be down and out but stormed back into the contest with a thrilling second-half display.

Antrim ultimately needed a Darren Hamill goal to force extra-time and the Saffrons were two clear at the death in front of almost 3,000.

But Meath simply refused to give on their dream to qualify for the MacCarthy Cup and reeled off three points in a row including that winning from Clynch, a converted free, three minutes into injury-time to steal victory.

It was so painful on Antrim who, ironically, bossed the first-half of normal time and stormed into an early five-point lead thanks largely to Ciaran Clarke's third minute solo goal.

He added an eighth minute point though it was a controversial score as an umpire firstly raised his white flag before then calling for Hawk-Eye to be used.

Moments later, on the apparent advice of referee Cathal McAllister, the other umpire raised his white flag and awarded the score without referring to Hawk-Eye.

Captain James Toher converted four frees in a row for Meath to leave just one in it after 17 minutes, 1-2 to 0-4.

Both sides deployed their centre-backs as sweepers and Meath initially struggled to break down Antrim's fortified defence.

They didn't score a point from open play until the 35th minute while Antrim were much more efficient, finishing the half strong with 1-2 from Conor Johnston to take a deserved 2-8 to 0-6 interval lead.

Johnston's injury-time goal was expertly taken as he followed up on the goalkeeper's parried clearance with a bullet shot from the left of goals.

Meath were a different team after the restart and hit 1-4 without reply including a 40th minute Neil Heffernan goal to trail by just one.

They were back level in the 53rd minute and moved three clear when Heffernan scored a second goal from close range soon after.

The Royals would take a four-point lead into the final 10 minutes but a chaotic ending saw both sides fire goals and the lead swung this way and that.

Meath led by three in the fifth minute of injury-time following 1-1 from sub Clynch but were suckered by Hamill's close range tap in for Antrim after a Clarke free was blocked on the line, forcing extra-time time at 4-12 to 3-15.

A fourth Meath goal five minutes into the first-half of extra-time from Gavin McGowan left them with a two-point advantage at the interval.

But while Antrim grabbed their fifth goal of the contest there was one final swing left in an absorbing tie as Meath came up with those scores at the death to win it.

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Scorers for Meath: J Toher 0-12 (0-11f), N Heffernan 2-0, S Clynch 1-3 (0-2f), G McGowan 1-0, A Gannon 0-2, S Quigley 0-2, S Morris 0-1, J Keena 0-1.

Scorers for Antrim: N McKenna 1-5, C Clarke 1-5 (0-2f, 0-1 65), C Johnston 1-2, D Hamill 1-0, J Connolly 1-0, D McKernan 0-2, N Elliott 0-1, E Campbell 0-1, S McAfee 0-1

Meath: S McCann; S Geraghty, R Sherlock, D Donoghue; S Brennan, K Keoghan, S Whitty; S Heavey, S Morris; J Keena, D Healy, A Gannon; G McGowan, J Toher, N Heffernan.

Subs: S Clynch for Brennan (h/t), S Quigley for Heavey (46), K Keena for Heffernan (65), M O'Grady for J Keena (73). J Keena for O'Grady (73).

Antrim: E Gillan; P Burke, T McCloskey, S McCrory; O McFadden, N McAuley, F Donnelly; E Campbell, E McCloskey; N McKenna, C Johnston, S McAfee; N Elliott, B McCarry, C Clarke.

Subs: PJ O'Connell for Elliott (40), D McKernan for McCarry (50), J Connolly for T McCloskey (56), D Hamill for McKenna (70). McKenna for Johnston (h/t e/t), J Dillon for O'Connell (92).

Referee: C McAllister (Cork).

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