Antrim advance to Ulster SHC final

Antrim 2-17 Derry 1-12

Antrim 2-17 Derry 1-12

14-man Antrim booked their place in the Ulster SHC final against Down thanks to an eight-point win over Derry at Casement Park tonight.

The Saffrons did not have it all their own way and were reduced to 14 men after just nine minutes following a second yellow card for Liam Watson.

Derry's freetaker Ruairi Convery helped launch the Oak Leafers into a 1-06 to 0-02 lead after 17-and-a-half minutes, but Antrim responded well and failed to give up despite their numerical disadvantage.

Antrim could not have asked for a better start as a point from centre-forward Watson quickly settled any Saffron nerves.

However Watson was sent for an early shower almost as quickly as this contest began as he picked up two yellow cards in the space of three minutes.

It took a while for Dominic McKinley and Terence McNaughton's charges to regain their composure as Derry went on a scoring spree, mainly thanks to the efforts of full-forward Convery, who hit five points from placed balls before the interval.

Derry had built up a seven-point advantage at the end of the first quarter - Convery with three points while Paddy McCloskey and Gavin Kelly also raised white flags.

The latter contributed an excellent goal after 17 minutes following a good run, and corner-forward Kelly only had one thing on his mind as his powerful strike rippled the back of the Antrim net.

Derry may have led by seven points at this stage, but the gap was quickly reduced to two points by the interval as the hosts came back strongly into contention.

A point from substitute Eddie McCloskey after 21 minutes started a purple patch for Antrim, with Paddy Richmond quickly contributing a goal.

Points from Richmond, Karl Stewart and Paul Shiels ensured a 1-08 to 1-06 interval score-line.

Derry only hung on by a thread in the second half as a more determined Antrim side had no problems reducing the arrears.

A second goal from Richmond, four minutes into the second half, brought the sides level for only the second time in the contest.

Yet Derry still held the edge as Convery continued to convert with ease from dead ball situations to see his side hold a 1-12 to 2-7 lead by the 44th-minute.

Incredibly, Derry failed to score over the remainder of the contest, as the switching on of the floodlights ignited a spark in Antrim's play.

Unfortunately for the Oak Leaf supporters, Convery's accuracy in front of the posts then began to slip at a dramatic rate.

A Karl McKeegan '65' kickstarted a dominant spell for the Saffrons, and with PJ O'Connell and Richmond adding points, along with two each from Shiels and McCloskey, Antrim led by five points with as many minutes remaining.

The Saffrons failed to ease up and with Richmond scoring his third point - bringing his tally to 2-3 - and McCloskey sending over a fourth point, a place in the final was theirs.

ANTRIM: R McGarry; A Graffin, J McKeague, S Delargy; C Herron, K McKeegan (0-01, 0-01 '65'), J Campbell; K Stewart (0-02), M Magill; P Richmond (2-03), L Watson (0-01, 0-01f), P Shiels (0-04, 0-03f); M Herron, C Donnelly, D McNaughton.

Subs used: E McCloskey (0-04) for Magill (5 mins), S McCrory (0-1) for Donnelly (half-time), PJ O'Connell (0-01) for McNaughton (54).

DERRY: A Magill; M Craig, C Quinn, C McQuillan; R McCloskey, S Henry, S McCullagh; D Brunton, O McCloskey; P Henry, K Hinphey (0-01), SL McGoldrick; P McCloskey (0-02), R Convery (0-08, 0-07f, 0-01 '65'), G Kelly (1-01).

Subs used: C McKenna for McQuillan (28 mins), M Kirkpatrick for D Brunton (29), S Dodds for P Henry (53), C Brunton for Craig (70).

Referee: Declan Magee (Down)

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