Antrim prevail at Casement Park

Antrim 0-15 Armagh 2-7, Casement Park

Late points from Conor McCann and Neil Cunningham denied Armagh their first Bord Gáis Energy Ulster Under-21 hurling title at a wet Casement Park tonight.

A strong second half showing was enough for defending champions Antrim to prevail, with this being their third successive provincial success at this grade.

Underdogs Armagh had opened up a 1-4 to 0-2 lead by the 19th minute, mainly thanks to a Conor Corvan goal.

Corvan's goal provided the difference at the interval, but Antrim were strongest on the restart.

A brace of points from Antrim captain McCann gave the hosts a 0-2 to 0-1 lead after eight minutes, but the Saffrons failed to build on this.

Armagh looked far sharper throughout the opening half, with full-forward Conor Corvan most dangerous.

Corvan struck all of his side's scores in the opening 13 minutes. He brushed past full-back Adrian Downey before finding the net in the 12th minute.

Armagh were on top in midfield and Martin Maguire and Corvan adding scores, stretching the lead to five points.

Antrim battled back before half-time by claiming three of the last four points, but Armagh still led by 1-5 to 0-5 at the break.

Antrim were fired up on the restart, with points from McCann and Stephen Smyth cutting the deficit to the minimum in the 34th minute.

Dinny Cahill's charges continued to cause the Armagh defence huge problems. Dessie McLean fed Conor Laverty for a goal chance two minutes later, however Armagh goalkeeper Simon Doherty pulled off a superb save.

A brace of Tony McCloskey points squared things up at 0-9 to 1-6 as the game entered the final quarter.

The hosts continued to show great momentum, and well-taken scores from Nigel Elliott and McCann pushed Antrim in front.

Despite this, the courageous Armagh responded with a goal from substitute Tony Duffy just two minutes after his introduction. His strike gave them a one-point lead with eight minutes remaining.

The sides were on level terms twice in the closing five minutes until Antrim took control late on with McCann and Cunningham slotting over the decisive points.

Afterwards Saffrons skipper McCann accepted the cup on behalf of his team-mates, while defender James McCouaig claimed the man-of-the-match award.

ANTRIM: E Gillan; T McAllister, A Downey, J McCouig; N McAlea, M Donnelly, K McKiernan (0-1, 0-1f); C Laverty, S Smyth (0-1); J Black (0-1), M Devlin, D McLean (0-1); N Elliott (0-1), C McCann (0-6, 0-4f) T McCloskey (0-2).

Subs used: C Johnston (0-1) for Devlin (half-time), C Loughran for Downey (39 mins), N Cunningham (0-1) for Elliott (60).

ARMAGH: S Doherty; M Garvey, F Corvan, N Duffy; T Marley, P Heaney, JJ Hughes; K McKernan, M Lennon; M Maguire (0-1), J King, C McKee (0-1); A Mackle, C Corvan (1-4, 0-4f), D Nugent (0-1).

Subs used: E Carvill for Mackle (19 mins), R Lewis for N Duffy (half-time), L Woods for Marley (41), T Duffy (1-0) for Lewis (50).

Referee: Eamon Hassan (Derry)

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