Bathed in glorious spring-like conditions, in front of a large crowd, South Antrim retained the One1918 Linden Cup, defeating Armagh 4-1 on penalty strokes.
Ulster Union officials could only be impressed by the huge turn-out, and it must give them food for thought when to play next year’s final, and possibly move away from the traditional New Year’s Day date.
It was a repeat of last season’s final, and Armagh were in no mood to be second best this time round. With only 11 minutes on the clock, Gregory Croft edged them in an early lead, when he drove home their first short corner.
However, their lead was short-lived, as two minutes later Chris Henry was on the end of a well worked short corner routine, tucking the ball home from close in.
With the teams still locked a goal-a-piece at half time, the game burst into life, when Ward Phillips sliced into the Armagh circle to unleash an unstoppable shot past Ryan O’Neil, to put South Antrim ahead.
It was all South Antrim, as they peppered the Armagh circle. But completely against the run of play, Armagh hit back when David Warnock collected a cross from the right, to slam the ball home with a sweetly struck reverse stick shot.
Even though Armagh were back on level terms, it was all South Antrim as they went for the elusive winner, and when Armagh went down to 10 men, after Chris Gardener was sin-binned, South Antrim couldn’t make the extra man count, and extra time it was.
Even a period of extra time couldn’t separate the teams, during which the game was suspended, to allow David Warnock to be taken to hospital after he sustained a serious neck injury.
So it was down to the dreaded penalty strokes, and with Armagh missing two of their first three, it was down to Mark Campbell to make a name for himself, which he duly did, dispatching the ball into the Armagh net to deservedly give South Antrim the Linden Cup crown.
Linden Cup Final
Armagh 2 South Antrim 2
(South Antrim won 4-1 on PS)