Ulster Senior Hurling Championship Final
Antrim 5-22 Armagh 1-12
Despite having one eye on next week’s crucial Christy Ring Cup clash with Carlow, Antrim defeated Armagh with ease in the Ulster SHC final.
The Saffrons romped to a 16th Ulster senior hurling title in a row with Conor Johnston hitting 3-5 from play at Owenbeg.
Both teams finished with 14 players, Antrim’s Paddy Burke dismissed on 50 minutes and John Corvan’s red carded eight minutes from the end.
It mattered little, with both sides already thinking about Saturday’s important Championship matches – Antrim are away to Carlow while Armagh play Donegal in the Nicky Rackard.
Antrim’s striking and touch was on a different level and two early goals set them on their way to a comfortable victory.
Armagh, appearing in their second successive final, have never won the Ulster title and if they were to stand any chance of being competitive, they needed a good start.
But Antrim won the toss, had a gale force wind at their backs in the first half and romped clear.
Johnston and Neil McManus both hit 1-4 from play in the first half and Johnston was the most dangerous player on the pitch.
His second point had the Saffrons leading by six points to one before Paul Shiels and Neil McManus hit the net within 60 seconds of each other.
Shiels raced through and drilled the ball high into the far corner of the net from 20 metres out for the opening goal.
Seconds later, Ciaran Clarke skinned his marker and floated the sliotar across to McManus at the back post who batted it down into the net.
That put Antrim 2-6 to 0-1 up after just 12 minutes and the game was already over.
Armagh’s touch and striking wasn’t at the same level as Antrim’s and their only scores in the opening half came from Connor Corvan and a David Carvill free.
Fiachra Bradley did get them a goal after 26 minutes, pouncing on a loose ball after Carvill’s free smacked off the upright.
Three minutes later Antrim got goal number three with Johnston charging through unmarked and drilling home a confident, crisp finish from distance to leave it 3-16 to 1-2 at the break.
Johnston netted his second goal after 46 minutes, Clarke again the provider, but Armagh fared a little better with the wind scoring seven points in a row either side of Johnston’s goal.
The Saffrons didn’t register their first point of the second half until the 57thminute through Eoghan Campbell, but that stage Johnston had already sealed his hat-trick.
David Carvill tagged on six points after the break for Armagh, five from frees, but Antrim were always in control.
Scorers for Antrim: Conor Johnston 3-5, Neil McManus 1-6 (1f), Paul Shiels 1-0, Eoghan Campbell 0-3, Maol Connolly 0-3 (2fs), Ciaran Clarke 0-2, Paddy McGill 0-1, Connor McKinney 0-1, Conor Carson 0-1.
Scorers for Armagh: David Carvill 0-7 (6fs), Fiachra Bradley 1-0, Connor Corvan 0-3, Cathal Carvill 0-1, Danny Magee 0-1.
ANTRIM: C O’Connell; Simon McCrory, John Dillon, Stephen Rooney; Paddy Burke, Paddy McGill, Ciaran Johnston; Conor McKinney, Paul Shiels; Maol Connolly, Conor McCann, Eoghan Campbell; Conor Johnston, Neil McManus, Ciaran Clarke.
Subs: Deaghlan Murphy for McCann (43), Ruairi Diamond for Rooney (56), James McNaughton for Connolly (57), Conor Carson for Murphy (60).
ARMAGH: Simon Doherty; Ciaran Clifford, Nathan Curry, David Bridges; John Corvan, Artie McGuinness, Tiarnan Nevin; Cathal Carvill, Conor Devlin; David Carvill, Fiachra Bradley, Connor Corvan; Danny Magee, Cally Gorman, Dylan McKenna
Subs: Odhran Curry for Bridges (23), Paul Gaffney for Devlin (23), Peter McKearney for Bradley (HT).
REFEREE: James Clarke (Cavan).