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Antrim manager Darren Gleeson warns they can get even better after reaching Joe McDonagh Cup final in style

Meath 3-14 Antrim 7-29

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At the double: Conor McCann scored two goals for Antrim in their win over Meath. Credit: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

At the double: Conor McCann scored two goals for Antrim in their win over Meath. Credit: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

To the fore: Antrim’s Conal Cunning was one of his side’s many star performers. Credit: INPHO/Evan Treacy

To the fore: Antrim’s Conal Cunning was one of his side’s many star performers. Credit: INPHO/Evan Treacy

©INPHO/Evan Treacy

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At the double: Conor McCann scored two goals for Antrim in their win over Meath. Credit: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

A place in the Joe McDonagh Cup final is now guaranteed for Antrim as they romped to a 27-point win over Meath at Pairc Tailteann to maintain their 100 per cent record in the competition.

The Saffrons looked in the mood from the off and were out of sight at the break when 20 ahead and while they will be a little disappointed in how they conceded their goals, there was no disputing their superiority.

“I wouldn’t go as far at ruthless,” said Antrim manager Darren Gleeson.

“We were wasteful at times and just played at a middle level there today to get the job done. We’ve loads to work on but are where we planned to be, in the final.”

Antrim couldn’t have had a better start as just 50 seconds in, Conor McCann doubled on a broken ball after Conal Cunning’s free dropped short and their second major came on seven minutes with McCann again the man on target as he took Cunning’s knock-down in stride to cut left and fire low.

After an exchange of points, goal number three came as Paddy Burke broke forward, fed Seaan Elliott who was crowded out but in the ensuing scramble, Burke prodded home to make it 3-4 to 0-2 with 11 minutes played.

It was already looking ominous for Meath, but after Kevin Keena struck a point, they had their opening goal as Jack Regan blasted home a penalty that was awarded when Damien Healy was fouled.

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Antrim replied with six points on the bounce, but Meath would get a second goal on 25 minutes as they were awarded a 20-metre free in front of goal after Stephen Rooney was penalised for an off-the-ball infringement and Regan found the net.

Antrim simply powered on into half-time next five of the next seven points before their fourth goal arrived and Burke grabbed his second as an excellent ball from Niall O’Connor put him in on the left and the Cushendall man cracked home.

Elliott then got in on the act as James McNaughton teed him up in stoppage time and when Eoin O’Neill lashed over to make it 5-16 to 2-5 at the half, all of Antrim’s starting forwards and midfield had registered.

After Cunning knocked over a 65 for Antrim just after the restart, Meath had a second penalty as Healy was fouled in the area, but this time Ryan Elliott turned Regan’s shot around for a 65 that was converted.

The game was really becoming disjointed and the pace visibly dropped although Antrim did get a sixth goal as James McNaughton whipped home on 48 minutes.

Cunning and Regan were to the fore, while Antrim’s full-back Walsh lashed over points either side of Meath’s third goal when Jack Walsh finished from close range after Éamon Ó Donnachadha passed inside.

Niall McKenna clipped over his fourth of the day before being shown a straight red on 67 minutes for swinging back at Darragh Kelly.

While goal chances came and went for Antrim with Charlie Ennis making some fine saves, he couldn’t prevent Eoin O’Neill in stoppage time who batted home and although Meath had the final four points of the game, Antrim were comfortable winners.

On Saturday at Cullen Park, Down’s hopes of reaching the decider were ended as they fell to a 2-25 to 1-19 defeat to Carlow.

The hosts were quick out of the traps and led 0-15 to 0-7 at the half, but a 42nd-minute goal from Daithi Sands and the accuracy of Marc Fisher helped Down to within four with five to play.

However, Carlow finished well with goals from Conor Kehoe and Marty Kavanagh sealing the points.


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