McNaughton hails character of Antrim after demolition job
Antrim 4-23 Down 0-15
Antrim hurling boss Sambo McNaughton heaped praise on his charges after they won through to a second consecutive Christy Ring Cup final with a demolition of 14-man Down at Cushendall on Saturday.
The Saffrons dominated a one-sided encounter that was well over by the time Michael Hughes saw red in the 61st minute. Two goals each from Ciaran Clarke and Conor Johnston helped Antrim to the June 10 decider against Carlow at Croke Park.
"I thought we worked very hard and it shows the work we've done over the past number of weeks. I'm very pleased with the work-rate from start to finish. The game was over 20 minutes in," said McNaughton
"It's heads down now for three weeks; Croke Park here we come. We believe we're going the right road and we've a good group of players.
"We feel we're a different squad than last year and there's more character there. They all want to play for Antrim and that can only be positive going forward in years to come."
Johnston bagged the game's first goal on 25 minutes to put Antrim 1-10 to 0-5 ahead, with Clarke rippling the net five minutes later, as Antrim took a 2-12 to 0-7 lead into the break.
Clarke struck for his second 19 seconds after the restart, with Johnston raising the fourth green flag five minutes from time.
SCORERS - Antrim: C Clarke 2-7 (7f), Conor Johnston 2-1, N McManus 0-6 (1f), C McKinley, C McCann 0-3 each, C Carson 0-2, P Burke 0-1. Down: C O'Prey 0-4 (3f), D Toner, 0-3, S Nicholson, C Mageean, M Magee 0-2 each, C Egan, P Sheehan 0-1 each.
Antrim: C O'Connell 7; S Rooney 6, J Dillon 8, S McCrory 7; Ciaran Johnston 7, P Burke 8, O McFadden 7; C McKinley 8, P McGill 7; N McAuley 8, C McCann 8, E Campbell 8; Conor Johnston 9, N McManus 8, C Clarke 9. Subs: J Maskey 7 for McGill (44), C Carson 8 for Ciaran Johnston (49), R Diamond 7 for Rooney (57).
Down: S Keith 7; J McManus 6, M Hughes 6, S Ennis 6; S Nicholson 6, C Woods 7, C O'Prey 7; D Hughes 7, D McManus 6; C Mageean 7, M Magee 7, M Ennis 7; C Egan 6, C Taggart 7, D Toner 7. Subs: P Sheehan 7 for Nicholson (45), O McManus 6 for D McManus (60), P McManus 6 for J McManus (60).
Ref - J Murphy (Limerick).