Joe McDonagh Cup: Antrim 5-25 Meath 2-18

Conor Johnston is about to lash in his late penalty at Pairc Tailteann
Conor Johnston scored two of Antrim's five goals at Pairc Tailteann

Antrim hurlers came good in the second half to beat Meath 5-25 to 2-18 in the Joe McDonagh Cup opener in Navan.

Goals from Gavin McGowan and Alan Douglas helped Meath lead 2-8 to 0-7 as a repeat of their 2016 Christy Ring Cup triumph over the Saffrons looked on.

But Nigel Elliott's goal contributed to Antrim moving into a 1-14 to 2-8 lead by half-time.

Elliott netted two more second-half goals with Conor Johnston's brace also helping the Saffrons pull well clear.

Meath shocked Antrim in the final of the then second-tier Christy Ring Cup two years ago after a replay was required because of a scoring blunder.

And with Antrim relegated back to Division Two A in the Spring, Meath might have fancied their chances of producing another upset as the new second-tier championship competition began.

Indeed, the Saffrons were tested well in the opening half as the goals from McGowan and Douglas helped Meath move seven ahead after 20 minutes.

However, Dunloy man Elliott's goal kick-started the Saffrons' comeback as Meath failed to score between the 20th and 39th minutes.

Donal McKinley, Neil McManus (two), Simon McCrory and Joe Maskey added points to ensure Antrim's 1-14 to 2-8 half-time lead.

Eoghan Campbell stretched Antrim's lead to four points, three minutes after the restart, and although Meath added a point, scores were rare for the Royals in the second period.

Johnston bagged Antrim's second goal in the 45th minute and Elliott completed his hat-trick within two further minutes as the visitors moved into a 14-point lead.

Antrim continued to drive on until the finish with Johnston's late penalty completing a 16-point win.

Meath: S McGann; N Weir, S Geraghty, S Morris; J Keena, D Healy, S Brennan; K Keoghan, A Gannon; J Kelly, C McCabe, E O Donnchadha; A Douglas, G McGowan, J Regan. Subs: P Fagan, P Kelly, S Quigley, P Conneely, C O Mealoid, K Keena, D Conneely, M Cullen, C Lynch, M O'Grady, M O'Sullivan.

Antrim: R Elliott; D Kearney, J Dillon, R McCambridge; P Burke, C McKinley, J Maskey; N Elliott, S McCrory; C Carson, C Johnston, N McManus; D McKinley, M Armstrong, E Campbell. Subs: J O'Mullan, M Donnelly, N McAuley, C Boyd, C McCann, J McNaughton, S Rooney, G Walsh, E O'Neill, R McNulty, C McHugh.