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Antrim coast to Ulster title

ANTRIM 6-22 DERRY 0-06

By Conor McLaughlin

Antrim have won a fifth consecutive Ulster under-21 Hurling Championship title after a facile 6-22 to 0-6 victory over Derry at Casement Park on last night

They will now face Leinster champions Wexford in the All-Ireland semi-final on August 24.

The Ulster rivals exchanged scores in the early stages and were locked at 0-3 each after a low-key opening spell.

Daniel McKernan and two Jackson McGreevey points put Antrim ahead but Enna Cassidy, Niall Ferris and Tiernan McCloskey replied in kind for Ger Rogan's Derry side. However, that equalising point from McCloskey was their last of the half as Antrim moved up through the gears. McKernan, Stephen McAfee and a superb Chris McGuinness point from the left moved Antrim five points in front before a flurry of goals late in the half all but ended the match as a contest.

First McAfee burst forward from deep and soloed to within 20 metres before belting the sliotar towards goal. Derry goalkeeper Ciaran O'Kane got his hurley to the ball, but couldn't stop it from crossing the line.

Less than a minute later and Antrim had the green flags raised again when Ciaran Clarke, who top scored for them in last week's semi-final win over Down, found the net from an acute angle.

Two further McKernan scores extended the lead to 2-11 to 0-3, and right on the stroke of half time Clarke struck a third and decisive goal.

Although Derry got the first score of the new half from a McCloskey '65, it didn't take Antrim long to get back into scoring for.

Stephen Beatty got his first point of the night before a great slaloming run from McAfee ended again with the ball in the back of the Derry net.

Four further scores from the impressive Daniel McKernan followed with Niall Ferris and Brendan Rodgers replying for Derry.

That slight scare simply increased Antrim's intensity at the other end, with Conor McCann finally getting on the score sheet before a deserved goal arrived for McKernan. He was set clear by Michael Bradley and finished in some style to bring his tally to 1-7. Substitutes Niall McKenna, two, and Bradley were also on the score sheet before McAfee scored his third.

Antrim: G Dixon, T Ó Ciarain, M Donnelly (C Morgan 30 mins), T Coyle, S Dooey, P McNaughton, D Kearney, J McGreevey 0-4 (M Dudley 40 mins), E Campbell, S McAfee 3-1, S Beatty 0-1 (C Burke 40 mins), C McGuinness 0-2 (N McKenna 0-2 30 mins), D McKernan 1-7, C McCann 0-3, C Clarke 2-1 (M Bradley 0-1 30 mins)

Derry: C O'Kane, N McCallion (C Devine 55 mins), C McGurk, E Crossan (C McIntyre 48 mins), C Lynch (J Loughlin 52 mins), B McGilligan, R Farren, E Cassidy 0-1, L Murphy, B Rodgers 0-1, D Mullan, T McCloskey 0-2, T Henry (D Breen 52 mins), A Armstrong (D McAlary 42 mins), N Ferris 0-2

Referee: Paul Braniff (Down)

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