Antrim and Down go on scoring spree to reach final
Antrim and Down will meet in the Conor McGurk Hurling Cup final on Saturday following respective semi-final wins over university opposition yesterday.
The Saffrons proved too strong for Queen's, who they beat by 4-26 to 0-11, while Down were similarly untroubled in hurdling Ulster University by 3-19 to 0-16.
It is expected that the McGurk Cup decider between these two fierce Ulster rivals will also serve as a semi-final meeting in the Leinster Council's Kehoe Cup competition since the teams have advanced to this stage.
Antrim boss Darren Gleeson and his Down counterpart Ronan Sheehan, while happy that their teams continue to progress with 2020 still to dawn, know that much more formidable challenges await.
Yet both share a robust desire to see their team capture the Conor McGurk Cup. Tipperary All-Ireland winner Gleeson can take considerable satisfaction from the spread of scorers that helped his side leave Queen's trailing in their slipstream.
Dan McCloskey, one of the new faces in the side, helped to spark the scoring blitz with an early goal and when Alec Delargy hit a second, the Saffrons were already in overdrive.
Queen's worked hard but were unable to match the cohesion and slickness of their opponents who showed almost uncanny accuracy on occasions from play and frees.
Niall McKenna and Domhnall Nugent got Antrim's other goals and with Michael Bradley, Ronan Molloy and Ryan McCambridge in particular sharing in the sustained points-scoring blitz, Antrim showed that their forward resources have been considerably enhanced.
Ronan Molloy has also made considerable progress since coming into the side and looks set to enjoy an extended stay.
Meanwhile, Down manager Sheehan is taking considerable satisfaction from the fact that his new-look side is already showing signs of progress.
Players such as Tim Prenter, Oisin McManus, Eoghan Sands, Conor Woods, Phelim Savage, John McManus and Liam Savage have been making a big impact and Sheehan believes that the more games the team gets to play, the quicker the side as a whole will mature.
"That is one of the reasons why we are pleased to have reached the Conor McGurk Cup final. This will give us a competitive game against Antrim and at this stage when you are preparing for the league that's exactly what we need. It will serve a useful purpose for us in terms of bringing on players," pointed out Sheehan.
Oisin McManus and Liam Savage were among players who helped to set the tone for yesterday's display and the scores flowed freely as Down romped into a comfortable 2-14 to 0-10 interval lead.
Ulster University tried hard but lacked the edge in experience and style which underpinned their opponents' polished display.
"We will certainly be up for the final, that's for sure," said manager Sheehan.