Antrim 2-17 Derry 2-16
A late point from Daniel McKernan saved Antrim’s blushes as they registered their 13th Ulster Senior Hurling title in a row in front of 1,243 spectators in Owenbeg this afternoon.
Derry played the bulk of this game with 14 men, following the dismissal of Tiarnan McCloskey in the 29th minute, after the Banagher player received a straight red card.
The hosts weren’t fazed and took a 1-9 to 1-8 interval lead, although a Conor McCann pushed Antrim back in front 10 minutes after the restart.
Derry failed to lie down, with a Paddy McCloskey goal handing them a three-point lead, with 14 minutes remaining.
Shane Farren extended the lead to four points, but Antrim were strongest late on.
Ruairi Convery brought his tally to 1-10 with a 69th minute point, but, with a minute of normal time, plus at least one further minute of additional time to follow there was time for a winner.
And Under 21 player McKernan stood up calmly under pressure to slot over his third point of the match from play, to ensure an Antrim win.
The Saffrons began this game in explosive fashion, as right from the throw-in they worked the ball upfield, for PJ O’Connell to pounce for the opening goal after 22 seconds.
The Clooney Gaels clubman gave Darrell McDermott little chance in the Derry goalmouth, as the Saffrons quest for a 54th provincial title got off to the perfect start.
Antrim moved 1-2 to 0-1 ahead after seven and a half minutes, with Paul Shiels adding two pointed frees.
The visitors had a second goal chance during this spell, but Daniel McKernan’s effort went by the side netting.
Derry kept in touch thanks to the brilliance of Convery from placed balls, with Sean McGuigan also taking an excellent score from play in the 13th minute.
Derry cut the gap to two points at the start of the second quarter, with Aaron Kelly firing the first of his three points from play during the opening half.
A McKernan score restored Antrim’s three point lead, but the sides were level for the first time after 24 minutes, as Convery brought his tally to 1-4 with a superbly taken goal.
Antrim had a goal chance of their own at the opposite end, but Chris McGuinness wasn’t denied by the outstretched stick of Liam Óg Hinphey.
The Saffrons moved two points ahead thanks to a brace of Shiels scores, before disaster struck for Derry, after Tiarnan McCloskey was shown a straight red card, having pulled the face guard of an Antrim player.
Despite this, Derry gained momentum before the break, with three unanswered points, including scores from Convery and Kelly to take a 1-9 to 1-8 interval lead.
Kelly extended the hosts lead to two points for the first time, with a well struck score inside 15 seconds of the restart.
Antrim fought back with scores from Shiels and McKernan, but Derry continued to impress.
The Oak Leafers opened up a 1-12 to 1-10 lead nine minutes into the half following a Convery score, before McCann cracked home Antrim’s second goal.
The Creggan Kickhams clubman interlinked well with Ryan McCambridge, before sending the ball past Darrell McDermott as Antrim gained a one-point lead.
Antrim had chances to further their lead, but sent three efforts in a row wide of the posts, while at the opposite end Derry registered 1-2 without reply, including a 66th minute Paddy McCloskey goal.
Four points ahead, but with a man down, pressure was on Derry to continue their impressive display.
Antrim worked hard, and bagged four unanswered points, including a Daniel McCloskey score to level the game at 2-14 each with six minutes left on the clock.
Convery regained the lead for Derry, but two quick-fire Antrim points edged the visitors back in front.
Convery continued to work hard, and was almost unerring from placed balls, but his late equaliser was cancelled out by McKernan’s superb late point as Derry claimed silverware.
After the game Ulster GAA Vice Chairman Michael Hasson presented Paul Shiels with the cup.
ANTRIM: S McToal; O McFadden, A Graffin, M Bradley; E Campbell, N McAuley, D McKernan (0-4); J McGreevy, D Hamill (0-1); C McCann (1-2), C Carson, P Shiels (0-8, 6f); C McGuinness, M Donnelly, PJ O’Connell (1-0). Subs: R McCambridge for McGreevy (HT); N McKenna (0-1) for McGuinness (40); D McCloskey (0-1) for Hamill (58).
DERRY: D McDermott; A Rafferty, C Quinn, E McGuckin; P Cleary, O McCloskey, C McQuillan; K Hinphey, L Óg Hinphey; T McCloskey, S McGuigan (0-1), A Kelly (0-4); J O’Dwyer, R Convery (1-10, 8f, 2 ’65), P McCloskey (1-0). Subs: M Warnock for McQullian (17); S Farren (0-1) for O’Dwyer (44); J McCloskey for McGuigan (44); M Conway for P McCloskey (65).
REFEREE: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)