Ulster Hurling semi-finals: Antrim and Armagh clinch places in decider

PJ O'Connell
PJ O'Connell scored Antrim's first goal in the Ulster semi-final win over Derry

Antrim and Armagh clinched places in the Ulster Hurling Final as they earned victories in Sunday's semi-finals double-header at Armagh.

The Saffrons romped to a 3-28 to 0-14 win over Derry in the opening game with PJ O'Connell, Eddie McCloskey and Sean McAfee hitting the goals.

Antrim were always in control as they forged an early 0-9 to 0-2 advantage at the Athletic Grounds.

The second semi-final saw Armagh earn a 4-12 to 0-17 victory over Down.

Armagh will be aiming to win their first Ulster title while Antrim will be bidding to win the Saffron county's 56th title and a 15th successive triumph.

Antrim earned a narrow 1-15 to 1-14 win over Down in last year's Ulster decider.

Antrim hurlers face busy schedule

Christy Ring Cup Finalists Antrim will face two finals in the coming weeks, after booking their place against Armagh in the Ulster Senior Hurling Final this evening.

The Saffrons are due to face Meath in the Christy Ring Cup Final refixture at Croke Park next Saturday at 5pm, and will face into a provincial decider on July 10th.

Antrim led throughout against Derry, and fired a trio of points unanswered in the opening minutes to take an early advantage.

The Saffrons led by 0-8 to 0-2 at the end of the first quarter, and moved 1-16 to 0-5 ahead at the break, with O'Connell finding the net.

Ciaran Clarke (0-5) and Conor Johnston (0-4) were also impressive for Antrim in the opening half, with the likes of Ruairí Convery keeping the Oak Leafers ticking over.

Antrim never relented on the re-start, with Clarke and McAfee netting further goals to complete the Saffrons hat-trick, and ensure a 23-point win.

Armagh too strong for Down

Armagh booked their place in the decider for only the second time since 1946, after the Orchard County claimed a 4-12 to 0-17 win over Down.

The hosts trailed by nine points on a 0-13 to 2-1 score-line after 33 minutes, but staged a tremendous second half display, with Down finishing with 12 men.

Armagh led by 1-1 to 0-1 after five minutes, with Cahal Carvill netting their opening goal after good work by Declan Coulter.

However, Down powered back with 12 unanswered points including scores from Conor Mageean, Conor O'Prey, Paul Sheehan, Danny Toner and Chris Egan to ensured a 0-13 to 1-1 lead after 30 minutes.

Armagh responded strongly with an unanswered 1-2 before the interval, including 1-1 from Coulter - the goal coming following an Eoin McGuinness pass, and McGuinness also added a point to ensure a 0-13 to 2-3 half-time score-line.

Danny Toner opened the second half scoring for Down, but Armagh were in superb form.

The hosts cut the gap to a pony following a Conor Corvan pointed free in the 47th minutes, before Conor Mageean extended Down's lead to two points.

However a Conor Corvan goal 15 minutes from time put Armagh in the driving seat.

Down were reduced to 14 men soon after following a red card for Fintan Conway.

Chris Egan levelled the tie yet again, but Armagh responded with four unanswered points.

Down were left with 13 men following a second yellow for Micheal McCullough, and although Down pegged a point back, Armagh finished strongly with Coulter netting his second goal, and a Cahal Carvill point ensuring a seven-point win.

Donegal and Monaghan into Shield final

Meanwhile, Donegal and Monaghan will meet in the inaugural Ulster Senior Hurling Shield Final.

In a double header in Brewster Park, Enniskillen, Donegal beat hosts Fermanagh by 3-18 to 3-14 following a closely contested encounter.

Donegal led by 2-11 to 0-10 at half-time, with the visitors making a lightning start.

Danny Cullen and Lee Henderson netted, with Cullen, Niall Cleary (0-3) and Bernard Lafferty (0-1) also firing early points, as Donegal led by 2-5 to 0-0 after just nine minutes.

Fermanagh cut the gap to seven points at the interval, thanks to good work by Sean Corrigan, Ryan Bogue and Declan McGarry.

The Erne County continued to impress on the restart, with Ciaran Corrigan netting two goals early in the second half to cut the gap to the minimum.

However, Donegal kept on top, with Paddy Hannigan netting a 44th minute goal, while Declan McGarry completed Fermanagh's hat-trick entering the final quarter, but they only managed one further point.

The second semi-final between Monaghan and Tyrone didn't take place in Enniskillen as Tyrone failed to field, due to the start of the Tyrone Senior Hurling League tomorrow night.