Antrim retain Ulster Under-21 Hurling Championship

Conor Johnston
Conor Johnston scored the only goal of the Ulster Under-21 hurling final

Antrim bagged their seventh Ulster Under-21 hurling title in a row with a 1-19 to 0-17 win over Derry in Ballinascreen on Wednesday night.

The Saffrons were forced to dig deep in a game which saw the sides level five times in the opening half, including at the interval at 1-07 to 0-10.

Conor Johnston (1-04) bagged the game's only goal after just five minutes, but Derry were always in touch.

Derry free-taker Deaglan Foley (0-11) was in superb form from placed balls.

Two points separated the sides with 10 minutes remaining, but Antrim kicked on to register a five-point win.

Derry had scored after just 28 seconds, with Deaglan Foley delivering the first of his six first-half points from a free.

Antrim quickly equalised through a Conor Johnson pointed free a minute later, but the hosts regained the lead with a score by Slaughtneil clubman Brendan Rogers.

Only goal

Antrim's goal stemmed from the resulting puck-out, with Saul McCaughan cutting through before corner-forward Johnson smashed the ball into the net.

Antrim pushed 1-02 to 0-02 ahead after six minutes thanks to a James Connolly point, but Derry responded with five unanswered points to take a 0-07 to 1-02 lead.

McCaughan broke Antrim's scoring drought with a fine points from play, before a goal effort was stopped by keeper Conor Owens.

Antrim dug deep, and Michael Dudley's point from midfield levelled matters, before a Connolly pointed 65 pushed the Saffrons back in front.

Both sides added to their wides tally, before a Foley 65 ensured the sides were level at 0-08 to 1-05.

Scores from Niall McKenna and Conor Johnson pushed Antirm ahead, but Foley fired a brace of unanswered points at the end of the half, to ensure a 0-10 to 1-07 interval scoreline.

Second half

Defender Eoghan Campbell got the visitors off to the perfect start in the second half with a point, while Niall McKenna further extended their lead.

Mark McGuigan and Eoghan Campbell traded scores, while the free-taking of Foley ensured the score stood at 1-11 to 0-13 early in the second half.

McCaughan and James Connolly added points for Antrim who had been guilty of a string of wides.

Derry badly needed a score, and found it through midfielder and captain Tiernan McCloskey.

But a two-point gap was as close as the hosts could get in the final 10 minutes.

Teams

Antrim: C Heyden; J McGoldrick, P Burke, T Burns; E Campbell (0-2), R McCambridge, M Connolly (0-1); D O'Hara, M Dudley (0-3); P McBride, J Connolly (0-3, 1 65), N McKenna (0-3); C Johnson (1-4, 3f), T Ó Ciarain, S McCaughan (0-2). Subs: S McBride for O'Hara (HT); D Murphy for McBride (HT); C Ross (0-1) for Ó Ciarain (HT); D Traynor for Murphy (60).

Derry: C Owens; S Doyle, J McCullagh, C Quinn; M McGrath, M Mulgrew, E McGill (0-1); T McCloskey (0-1), G Bradley; B Rogers (0-1), M McGuigan (0-1), D Foley (0-11, 10f, 1 65); J O'Dwyer, C O'Doherty (0-2), B Dougan. Subs: T Brady for Dougan (28); B Laverty for McCloskey (55);

Referee: James Clarke (Cavan)

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