ANTRIM 2-22 DOWN 1-18 Ulster SHC Final A MUCH improved Antrim produced a superb display at Casement Park yesterday to retain the Guinness Ulster SHC title for a fourth consecutive season.
Antrim stormed off to a 0-5 to nil lead inside nine minutes and were never really troubled afterwards. Johnny Campbell and Johnny McIntosh led the charge throughout but all over the field Antrim had the answers to any questions that the losers posed.
By the 12th minute of the game, after McIntosh had struck three long range points in a row, Antrim led by 0-6 to 0-1 and when Campbell and Karl McKeegan pointed free pucks the writing was already on the wall for Down.
However, the losers began to get their act together. Johnston, Eoin Clarke and Coulter pointed to narrow the gap (0-8 to 0-4) by the 21st minute and in the final 14 minutes of the first half Down matched Antrim's five additional points to leave the half-time score at Antrim 0-14, Down 0-9.
On the restart, McIntosh sliced through on a defence splitting run that seemed certain to produce a goal but as he was about to fire for the net he was hooked and the sliotar was scrambled away.
Ger Adair, Eoin Clarke and Coulter kept the game alive with Down points but then came a hammer blow to the visitors. Sub Karl Stewart fired a rocket to the Down net and the St Gall's player immediately added a point. Paddy Richmond increased the winners' lead to nine points and the silverware was staying where it was.
Martin Coulter was on target with a personal tally of 11 points but when full-back Gavin Bell took a Down goal attempt off the line in the 53rd minute the contest really died.
Sixty seconds later Stewart found his skipper Jim Connolly inside the opposing defence and the Rossa man hit the Down net from close range to send his team into a 2-19 to 0-16 lead to really end the argument.
The winners combined well throughout and the switches that they made all paid off. Karl Stewart showed that he was determined to win back his place in the side and the return of Brian McFall is another boost to the champions.
SCORERS - Antrim: J McIntosh 0-7, K McKeegan 0-4 (4f), J Connolly and K Stewart 1-1 each, J Campbell 0-3 (1f, 1 '65'), P Richmond and J Scullion 0-2 each, M Herron (f) and M Scullion 0-1 each). Down: M Coulter 0-11 (10f), E Clarke 0-2, G Johnston 1-1, S Wilson ('65'), B McGourty (f), J McCusker and J Convery 0-1 each.
ANTRIM - D Quinn; M Kettle, G Bell, C Hamill; G Cunningham, J Campbell, M McCambridge; P Richmond, M Scullion; K McKeegan, K Kelly, M Herron (0-1 free), J McIntosh, J Connolly, J Scullion. Subs: K Stewart for Kelly (34), C Herron for M Herron (48), B McFall for J Scullion (56), C McGuckin for Cunningham (65).
DOWN - Graham Clarke; L Clarke, S Murray, P Hughes; Gabriel Clarke, G Savage, S Wilson; G Adair, A Savage; B McGourty, P Monan, E Clarke; M Coulter, G Johnston J McCusker. Subs: C Coulter for Hughes (13), J Convery for Monan (39), E Trainor for McCusker (66).
REF - B Gavin (Offaly)