Antrim 3-18 Derry 0-9
Antrim coasted to an eleventh successive Ulster SHC title with a runaway win over Derry Antrim at Casement Park.
But for the heroics of Derry goalkeeper Darrel McDermott, who pulled off four superb saves the 18 points margin would have been much greater.
For the Saffrons, this was redemption of a sort. Their 32-points humiliation at the hands of Limerick in the All-Ireland Qualifiers sent them into this low-key provincial decider under a cloud, but they succeeded in restoring some pride.
Derry finished with just 13 men on the field, following the late dismissal of defenders Michael Warnock and Mark Craig.
Antrim were quick to assert themselves, hitting their opponents with early points from Liam Watson, Barney McAuley and Neil McManus.
And in the eighth minute, the Saffrons struck for a goal. Darrel McDermott, who had earlier made a smart save from Neil McManus, could do nothing to prevent Conor Carson from hitting the net, after he was sent through by Watson’s delicate flick.
But Derry responded in positive fashion, and points from Ruairi Convery, Alan Grant, Paddy McCloskey and wing back Ruairi McCloskey had them back in contention.
With Liam Hinphey performing with assurance at the heart of the Oak Leaf defence, they looked as if they were capable of making a game of it, but the reigning champions recovered from a shaky period, and a couple of Watson frees eased them into a five points ahead.
McManus almost had a second Antrim goal, but he was denied by a superb flying save from McDermott.
Derry’s dual star Chrissy McKaigue fortunate not to have had an own goal to his credit after he deflected a Johnny Campbell delivery against onto a post.
McNaughton and Eddie McCloskey fired over points, and with Neal McAuley and Campbell impressive in a much improved Antrim defence, Derry managed just one point in the second quarter, a Paddy Henry free.
Antrim led by 1-9 to 0-5 at half-time, and stretched the advantage through Watson and McNaughton.
Carson could have had his second goal, but blazed over, and once again, ‘keeper McDermott rose to the challenge to deny Barry McFall as the Saffrons stepped up the intensity.
McNaughton also broke through to have a crack at goal, but he too failed to beat the inspired Oak Leaf net-minder, who dived to his left to push the ball round a post.
Antrim continued to float over the points, though, with McCloskey and Conor McCann nailing stylish efforts from difficult angles, and wing back Michael Herron stepping up to claim a couple.
Derry were reduced to 13 men in the space of a minute when defenders Mark Craig and Michael Warnock received straight red cards in separate incidents.
And they were punished when McNaughton fired in a second Antrim goal on 64 minutes.
As the floodgates opened, McCloskey blasted home a third Saffron goal, and Derry’s limited challenge was put to bed in ruthless fashion.
Antrim scorers: E McCloskey 1-3, S McNaughton 1-2, C Carson 1-1, L Watson 0-6 (5f, 1 ’65), N McManus, M Herron 0-2 each, C McCann, B McAuley 0-1 each.
Derry scorers: A Grant 0-2 (1f), R Convery, P Henry (f), K Hinphey, P McCloskey M Craig, R McCloskey, P Kelly (’65) 0-1 each.
Antrim: DD Quinn, J Campbell, N McGarry, A Graffin, M Herron, N McAuley, J Campbell, B McAuley, S McNaughton, E McCloskey, C Carson, P Shiels, L Watson, N McManus, B McFall.
Subs: C McCann for Shiels, J Scullion for Watson, C Rea for McAuley, D Hamill for McFall, C McFall for Carson
Derry: D McDermott, S McCullagh, C Quinn, M Warnock, R McCloskey, L Hinphey, M Craig, O McCLoskey, P Kelly, A Grant, P McCloskey, K Hinphey, C McKaigue, R Convery, P Henry.
Subs: C McSorley for Quinn, C Gilmore for R McCloskey, S Farren for P McCloskey, J McCloskey for Kelly
Referee: T Carroll (Offaly).