Antrim 6-22 Derry 0-6
Antrim scored all bar two points of their impressive 6-22 tally from play as the Saffrons were crowned Bord Gais Energy Ulster U-21 Hurling champions for the fifth year in succession tonight at Casement Park.
In front of Wexford manager JJ Doyle and his selectors, the hosts powered to an All-Ireland semi-final date with the Slaneysiders on August 24th, but only after putting to bed a shaky start to this contest.
The sides were level on three occasions inside the opening 16 minutes, and although both teams had three points on the board at this stage, Antrim had 10 wides also to show for their efforts at this juncture.
While the scoreboard will show that Antrim eventually blew away their opponents, Derry battled hard throughout and never gave up, despite a 34-point margin being between the sides at the full-time whistle.
Antrim opened the scoring after 50 seconds with a Daniel McKernan point; the Sarsfields clubman eventually finishing the match with 1-7 from play.
But after an equaliser from Dominic Mullen, Antrim took full control, but couldn't make this dominance count - registering seven wides in a five-and-a-half-minute spell.
Their captain Jackson McGreevy put Antrim back ahead with a point in the ninth minute, but Derry equalised once more through Niall Ferris.
Respective skippers McGreevey and Tiernan McCluskey swapped points soon after, but Antrim finally got a grip on this game in the 17th minute with a Stephen McAfee point and never looked back thereafter.
The hosts scored 3-8 without reply in a 13-minute spell before the break, with McAfee and Ciaran Clarke with goals.
Clarke with his second three-pointer in injury-time, as Antrim claimed a 3-11 to 0-3 interval lead.
Derry got the first score of the second half with McCloskey pointing a 65, but despite his efforts and those of the likes of substitutes Declan Breen and Joe Loughlin, along with goalkeeper Ciaran O'Kane, Derry couldn't gain a foothold.
O'Kane who had a busy evening, was hugely instrumental in keeping the Oak Leafers from further embarrassment, pulling off a string of fine saves in the second half.
The Kevin Lynch's clubman denied Conor Burke and back-to-back title winning Antrim captain Conor McCann of second half goals.
But Antrim were hugely hungry for scores, with McAfee bagging two goals in the closing 30 minutes, along with Daniel McKernan bringing his tally to 1-7 by the close of play.
After the game, Antrim captain Jackson McGreevy accepted the cup, as he and his Saffron team mates now look forward to an All-Ireland semi-final date with Wexford on August 24.
ANTRIM: G Dixon; T Ó Ciarain, M Donnelly, T Coyle; S Dooey, P McNaughton, D Kearney; J McGreevy (0-4), E Campbell; S McAfee (3-1), S Beatty (0-1), C McGuinness (0-2); D McKernan (1-7), C McCann (0-3, 2f), C Clarke (2-1). Subs: N McKenna (0-2) for McGuinness (HT); M Bradley (0-1) for Clarke (HT); C Morgan for Donnelly (HT); C Burke for Beatty (39); M Dudley for McGreevy (39).
DERRY: C O'Kane; N McCallion, C McGurk, E Crossan; C Lynch, B McGilligan, R Farren; E Cassidy, L Murphy; B Rodgers (0-1), D Mullan (0-1), T McCloskey (0-2, 1f, 1 65); T Henry, A Armstrong, N Ferris (0-2). Subs: D McAlary for Armstrong (42); C Devine for McCallion (43); K McIntyre for Crossan (48); D Breen for Henry (52); J Loughlin for Lynch (52).
REFEREE: Paul Braniff (Down)