Historic day as South Antrim seal promotion to top flight

South Antrim Firsts celebrated winning the league and gaining promotion to the Premier League on Saturday.
South Antrim Firsts celebrated winning the league and gaining promotion to the Premier League on Saturday.

Last Saturday was an historic day for South Antrim as the men’s 1st XI sealed promotion to the top flight of Ulster Hockey for the first time in the modern era.

The side had been in truly magnificent form winning 14 of their first 15 games of the season, prior to Saturday, which meant they required just one win from their remaining three games to clinch the title.

And they did so in style; defeating Antrim 7-0 away from home.

With a large crowd of expectant South supporters in attendance at the Antrim Forum, the Lisburn side didn’t take long to burst into life. Simon Watt broke the deadlock with little over six minutes on the clock as he received the ball at the top of the circle before turning his man and firing into the bottom corner.

Chris Henry doubled South’s lead five minutes later with a trademark deflection at the back post from a well worked short corner routine. And it was 3-0 going in at half-time; Paul Maguire grabbing his 20th goal of the campaign after Lee Marshall had deflected a short corner into his path to tap in.

Maguire grabbed his second of the game shortly after the break; rounding the ‘keeper before reversing the ball into the empty net. Simon Watt got South’s fifth (and his second) goal of the day, rifling a short corner home after a clever switch from Patric Cochrane. Cochrane himself then had the chance to get on the score-sheet from the penalty flick spot, after Watt was felled, but his effort was sublimely saved by the Antrim ‘keeper.

Goal number six for South came courtesy of an Adam Glass drag flick in the 52nd minute before Simon Watt completed both his hat-trick and the rout moments later; tapping in at the back post after being played in by Paul Maguire.

It was a proud moment for Club Treasurer Eric Cunningham (who recently turned 80) to present the trophy to the 1st XI Captain, Lee Marshall, on behalf of Ulster Hockey. Lee thanked the South committee and supporters before expressing his gratitude to the team’s coaches - Drew Campbell, Ross Johnston & David Bingham - for their work throughout the season. Lee then dedicated the league title to club stalwart, Dessie Allen, who sadly passed away last June.

Congratulations to the men’s 1sts on their promotion to the Premier League and thanks, as always, to the Club Sponsor Phillips Volkswagen for their continued support. The boys have two games of their league campaign remaining; North Down (a) and Raphoe (a).