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Antrim's cutting edge carves out Cup glory

By John Campbell

Antrim took the first silverware of 2016 as they claimed the Conor McGurk Cup with a 0-17 to 0-12 win over Down at The Dub.

Despite it being effectively a pre-season game, this was a typically feisty affair between these great rivals and one that Down will feel they left behind them having shot 14 wides.

However, after a nip-and-tuck opening when Antrim opened a 0-4 to 0-3 lead on 12 minutes followed by a scoreless nine-minute period, the Saffrons burst into life with Eddie McCloskey (three), Simon McCrory, Michael Bradley and Liam Watson all finding the target to open a seven-point lead.

Down - who had been misfiring during this time - did have the final say of the half when Danny Toner found his range with a free to leave it 0-10 to 0-4 at the break, but Antrim appeared to be in command and well on course for victory.

However, they were unable to push on after the break as Down opened the much brighter with scores from Steve Dineen (two) and Conor O'Prey.

The Saffrons were forced to rely on three Watson frees to keep the board ticking over as Down continued to misfire.

Toner did convert two frees either side of a Conor McGourty point for Antrim as the game moved into the final 10 minutes with PJ O'Mullan's side six ahead, although they were then dealt a blow when Simon McCrory received a second yellow for a high challenge on Toner.

Down were unable to take advantage however with Ciaran Clarke knocking over a free for Antrim and while Toner and Conor Mageean did clip over points for Down late on, the Saffrons had done enough for the win.

ANTRIM: S McToal; O McFadden, N McAuley, C McKinley; S McCrory (0-1), Ciaran Johnston, B McFall; K McKernan (0-1), J Black; M Bradley (0-1), D Nugent, L Watson (0-6, all frees); D Hamill (0-1), E McCloskey (0-4), C Clarke (0-2, 1 free). Subs: D McKernan for D Hamill (46 mins), CJ McGourty (0-1) for K McKernan (50 mins), C Brogan for L Watson (57 mins).

DOWN: S Keith; M Conlan, P Flynn, M McCullough; C O'Prey (0-1 '65'), J McGrath, R Campbell; S Nicholson, J McManus; D Hughes, S Dineen (0-3), F Conway; D Toner (0-6, 5 frees), O O'Prey, C Egan (0-1 free). Subs: P Sheehan for S Nicholson (HT), C Mageean (0-1) for J McGrath (42 mins), J Lavery for C O'Prey (57 mins), B Byers for P Flynn (69 mins).

Referee: Aidan Ferguson (Fermanagh)

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