The Irish Cultural Center in Canton, Mass., was packed and the majority of those in attendance had trekked up the Thruway to cheer New York on.
New York opened strongly and claimed the lead when Paul Murray worked the ball to Kieran Bergin who took his point well on the three-minute mark. But Antrim responded almost immediately when Johnny McIntosh pointed with Philip Wickham draped all over him.
McIntosh scored 0-10 for Ulster in a recent losing effort and on this day he was too much for New York captain Wickham, burying a goal and three points in the opening 13 minutes and putting Antrim well on the road to their fifth consecutive Ulster Championship.
Trailing 1-6 to 0-2, New York hung tough with points from Bonny Kennedy, a free, Bergin and Hugh O’Leary, the latter two set up by Kennedy. New York had shuffled their back line introducing Sean Corrigan at wing back and dropping Adrian Guinan back to contend with McIntosh.
But Antrim were no one-man show and they quickly reeled off three straight points, the highlight a sideline cut from Brian McFall. Three points from Bonny Kennedy pulled New York within 1-11 to 0-9 but it should have been closer. New York missed a golden opportunity when Bergin’s kicked effort, after a brilliant solo run, hit the post and settled inches from the Antrim goal line. The sliothar just lay there seemingly waiting to be tapped into the open goal but Kevin Kennedy couldn’t get there in time and the chance was gone.
Antrim responded to the pressure as they would all day with scores of their own. The Glensmen reasserted themselves with three added time points and it could have been worse but Guinan’s saving tackle forced McIntosh to settle for a point when a goal seemed imminent.
It looked bleak for New York, trailing by 0-8, 1-14 to 0-9 at the break, and signs were ominous as Michael Herron pointed when Matthew Mitchell misjudged the ball allowing Herron to score far too easily.
But New York fought back. First Bonny Kennedy pointed after being fouled, settling his team. Then after McIntosh rounded Guinan, who was making him work for everything he got, he was met by a thunderous challenge from full back Richie Gaule. Gaule was doubtful for this match with a leg injury but he answered the bell and his challenge on McIntosh roused New York.
Gaule’s long clearance found Kevin Kennedy who caught well under pressure and fed Bonny Kennedy. The latter’s delicate pass sprang substitute Trevor Fletcher in alone on Antrim keeper Darren Quinn and Fletcher made no mistake. Gaule kept the hits coming again, turning McIntosh aside again and now Canton was alive with bodhran fueled chants of “New York, New York!”
Bonny Kennedy pointed when Liam O’Connor was fouled and then goalkeeper Alan Gleason broke from his line and hurled his body into Antrim midfielder Martin Scullion. Gleason was shaken up, but Gaule cleared and New York were just 0-4 behind. Then disaster struck for the Gotham squad.
Antrim full forward Paddy Richmond’s timing was perfect as he pounced on a breaking ball from a long McIntosh free and lashed it to the net. New York stormed back but Bonny Kennedy’s goal try was handled by Quinn.
McIntosh was replaced by Paddy McGill and Antrim, leading by 0-7, must have been feeling secure. The exiles kept the pressure on but Kevin Kennedy’s weak shot gave Quinn little trouble and seconds later the same player blasted wide on a good goal chance.
New York kept pressing but Quinn and his backs were alert to the challenge and New York needed goals. Bergin, playing a fine match, pointed but Richmond and Michael Herron were quick to respond with an Antrim brace.
Bonny Kennedy placed Fletcher in a dangerous position but when his blast carried just over the crossbar even the most ardent New York fan had to concede that this was to be Antrim’s day.
When it was over, New York manager Monty Moloney rued “those missed goal chances.” He told the Irish Echo, “missing four goals, that’s the whole story right there.”
Of course it was only part of the story in what developed into a saga starting back in May when New York defeated Derry to qualify for this Ulster hurling final.
That timing played into Sunday’s defeat said New York GAA Chairman Seamus Dooley, “I’d say if the game had been played in June after we’d beaten Derry, we definitely would have had a better chance.”
Scoring goals wasn’t New York’s only problem on Sunday. Slowing the quick and sharp Antrim attack was another. After saying that Adrian Guinan had a “great game after we moved him back,” Moloney conceded that “we probably should have moved him” on to McIntosh sooner.
Antrim bridged the five-month gap better than New York, their just completed county championship an undoubted plus.
Saffron’s captain Karl KcKeegan told the Echo after the match that “They’re [New York] a good side, and they wanted to win this title as much as we did.” It didn’t happen for New York in 2006, but Chairman Dooley is looking forward to next year. “Hopefully it’s on to Casement Park after we beat Down.”
Man of the Match: Johnny McIntosh.
Antrim: Darren Quinn, Bernard McCauley, James McKeague, John Campbell, Malachy Molloy, Karl McKeegan, Ciaran Herron, Conor Cunning (0-1), Martin Scullion (0-1), Joesph Scullion (0-2), Kieran Kelly (0-1), Micheal Herron (0-2), Johnny McIntosh (1-6,1f), Paddy Richmond (1-2), Brian McFall (0-3,1s.l.) subs: Malachy Dallas (0-1), Brian Delargy, Gavin Bell, Paddy McGill.
New York: Alan Gleason, Philip Wickham, Richie Gaule, Matthew Mitchell, Hugh O’Leary (0-1), Tom Moylan, Adrian Guinan, Liam O’Connor (0-1), Tomas Maher, Bonny Kennedy (0-7, 5f) John Madden, Paul Murray, Kieran Bergin (0-3) Marin Finn, Kevin Kennedy (0-1). Subs: Sean Corrigan, Trevor Fletcher (1-1), Kevin McKay, Colin Whyte.