Antrim claim 10th SHC title

Antrim 2-20 Armagh 2-12, Casement Park

Antrim 2-20 Armagh 2-12, Casement Park

Joey Scullion struck 1-07 to help Antrim claim their tenth Ulster SHC title in-a-row at Casement Park this afternoon.

Surprise finalists Armagh were two points ahead early on, but once Colm McFall scored his tenth minute goal the Saffrons never trailed.

Conor Corvan grabbed a 33rd minute goal for the underdogs as Antrim held a 1-12 to 1-06 lead at half-time.

A second half goal from captain Paul McCormack kept Armagh in touch, but Scullion netted late on for the defending champions.

Contesting the county's first Ulster SHC decider since 1946, it was always going to be a big challenge for Armagh against an Antrim team so used to this stage.

Karl McKeegan and Ciaran Herron were part of all ten title wins for Antrim, but Herron was sent-off with 12 minutes to go in today's game following a second yellow card.

The Orchard men made a strong start, registering the first two points inside four minutes. Ryan Gaffney, who scored 18 points for Armagh on the way to this Ulster final, opened their account with a pointed free.

This was soon followed by a Conor Corvan point as the visitors settled well. However, Antrim held Armagh to just one point over the next six minutes as they reeled off 1-03.

Ciaran Herron and McKeegan claimed equalising points, before Cathal Carvill edged Armagh back in front in the eighth minute.

Thomas McCann snatched an equaliser and then came the game's opening goal which fell to McFall. The St John's attacker got on the end of a long ball and smashed it past Armagh goalkeeper Simon Doherty to make it 1-03 to 0-03

The assured Gaffney continued to fire over some well-struck points from placed balls, with Scullion proving to be Antrim's chief scorer in the opening half.

Points from Scullion, Paddy Doherty and Herron gave Antrim a 1-11 to 0-06 lead coming up to half-time.

Armagh had a timely response when corner forward Martin Mone drove a shot towards the posts and Corvan got the slightest of touches to nick the ball past Antrim goalkeeper Ciaran Cunningham, and reduce the deficit to five points.

Michael Johnston's side had two chances to add to their scoring tally late in the half, but both were missed and their wides tally stood at five at the interval.

Antrim finished the half strongly with midfielder Barry McFall landing an injury-time point to leave six between the sides.

Armagh began the second half just as they started the first with a brace of quick-fire points. Centre-back Ruairi McGrattan and midfielder Kieran McKernan were both on target.

McKeegan and Scullion quickly cancelled out these points, but Armagh hit two of the next three scores, with John Corvan and Gaffney on target to leave the scoreline at 1-15 to 1-10 eight minutes into the second half.

Armagh could have cut the gap even further over the next three minutes, with midfield dominance swinging in their favour. Yet, Conor and John Corvan were both guilty of poor finishing in front of the posts.

Arron Graffin cleaned up in defence and Antrim's forwards, despite misses from McKeegan and Thomas McCann, were putting Armagh stopper Doherty and his defenders under increased pressure.

Eddie McCloskey and McKeegan scored a point each to open up a seven-point lead as the game entered the final quarter.

To their credit, Armagh failed to roll over for Dinny Cahill's men. McGrattan added his second point, but Antrim continued to pile forward.

Scullion had a chance for his second goal with 14 minutes left on the clock and while the Armagh defence closed him down, the ball fell for McCann to claim his third point.

A foul on Cathal Carvill by Herron saw the Kevin Lynch's clubman pick up his second yellow card and suddenly Antrim were down to 14 men.

Armagh fully utilised this numerical disadvantage, with Paul McCormack smashing a 30-metre strike straight into the back of the net after his initial shot was blocked.

McCormack's goal reduced the arrears to just four points, but Antrim scored two of the next three points and Scullion's injury-time goal put the seal on it.

After the game, Antrim captain Eddie McCloskey received the cup from Ulster Council Chairman Aogan O Fearghail.

Armagh's 2011 campaign has come to an end, but the Saffrons can now look ahead to an All-Ireland SHC third phase qualifier next weekend.

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