Ulster SHC: Saffrons on top again

June 15, 2008
A power packed second half display by Antrim saw them claim their seventh successive Ulster SHC title as they came from behind to defeat a battling Down side at Casement Park. Antrim 3-19 Down 2-15 Down lead at half time, but Antrim found the back of the net on three occasions to rattle their opponents, who to their credit kept fighting to the very end of this lively contest. Antrim made just one change to the side that defeated Derry in the semi final and that was enforced as midfielder Michael Magill was ruled out through injury and his place went to Eddie McCloskey. The Saffrons were chasing their seventh successive Ulster title and in the last five championship meetings between the sides, it was Antrim that came out on top leaving them favourites for this clash. Down were dealt a massive blow ahead of the match as inspirational full forward Gareth 'Magic' Johnston was ruled out with a broken metatarsal, although the Mourne men got off to a perfect start when their opening score of the match was a goal. Antrim soon settled and points from Karl Keegan, Paul Shields and Eddie McCloskey helped them stay in touch as a Brendan McGourty point was soon followed by their second goal as Conor Woods doubled on a McGourty sideline with the sliothar flying into the back of the net to leave it 2-1 to 0-6 but there were plenty of more scores before the break as both sides showed some exceptional skill. Antrim seemed to step up a gear at the start of the second half and when awarded a 21 metre free, Liam Watson stood up and blasted the ball to the back of the net before the same player converted a free to make it 1-11 to 2-5, just nine minutes into the second half. The Saffrons found the net again soon after when Karl Stewart rattled the net and then a good move involving the same player was finished to the net by Paddy Richmond to push Antrim further ahead. Down went for a much needed goal but the Antrim defence held firm and confined their opponents to raising the odd white flag as they held on to win by 3-19 to 2-15. Antrim - R McGarry; A Graffin, N McGarry, S Delargy; C Herron 0-1, K McKeegan 0-5, J Campbell; K Stewart 1-0, E McCloskey 0-1; M Herron 0-2, C Donnelly, P McGill 0-1; P Richmond 1-0, L Watson 1-6, P Shields 0-2. Subs - PJ O'Connell for C Donnelly; S McCrory for P McGill; M Kettle for C Herron. Down - Graham Clarke; L Clarke, S Murray, F Conway; S Wilson 0-3, K Courtney, Gabriel Clarke; A Savage, R McGrattan; P Braniff 0-6, B McGourty 0-2, C Woods 1-0; E Clarke, E Trainor 0-2, S Clarke 1-0. Subs - C O'Prey 0-3 for L Clarke; K McGarry for E Trainor; B Ennis for S Clarke; P Hughes for F Conway. Ref - G Devlin (Armagh)

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