Clarke points way to final for Saffrons
Antrim 1-24 Down 0-23
Antrim booked their place in the final by producing a strong finish to overcome old rivals Down in a thrilling game in Loughgiel.
At half-time, it looked like it was going to be Down's day as they completely bossed the opening 35 minutes, but the Saffrons rallied to seal the win.
Down were much sharper in the opening half with Danny Toner and Conor Woods leading the way as they built a 0-13 to 0-7 half-time lead.
It appeared a shock was on the cards, but the introduction of Niall McKenna and James Connolly prompted a much better effort from the Saffrons after the break and they were right back into the game thanks to a Conor Carson goal on 37 minutes.
The hosts were level by the 45th minute, but Down stuck stubbornly to their tail and with five to play the game was still tied. Antrim found that extra gear with Ciaran Clarke, who hit 0-16.
Scorers - Antrim: C Clarke 0-16 (12f, 1 65); C Carson 1-1; N McKenna 0-3; E McCloskey, J Dillon, E Campbell, Conor Johnston 0-1 each. Down: D Toner 0-9 (5f); C Woods 0-4; C Taggart, D Hughes, C O'Prey (2f, 1 65) 0-3 each; C Egan 0-1.
Antrim - C O'Connell; O McFadden, T McCloskey, C McKinley; S McCrory, N McAuley, M Burke; E Campbell, C Johnston; E McCloskey, J Dillon, N Elliott; C Johnston, C Carson, C Clarke. Subs: N McKenna for N Elliott (h/t), J Connolly for J Dillon (h/t), SMcAfee for C Johnston (62).
Down - S Keith; M Conlan, P Flynn, J McManus; C O'Neill, C Taggart, J McGrath; S Ennis, F Conway; C Mageean, C O'Prey, D Hughes; D Toner, C Woods, S Nicholson. Subs: C Egan for P Flynn (48), B Byers for S Nicholson (60), J Doran for F Conway (65), O McManus for C Taggart (70 mins).
REF - D Hughes ( Carlow).