Conor McCann scored two goals for Antrim.
Conor McCann scored two goals for Antrim. 

Joe McDonagh Cup: Antrim blitz Meath to clinch place in Final

Joe McDonagh Cup

ANTRIM 7-29 MEATH 3-13

By David Mohan at Pairc Tailteann

A place in the Joe McDonagh Cup final is now guaranteed for Antrim as they romped to a 28-point win over Meath at Pairc Tailteann to maintain their 100 per cent record in the competition.

The Saffrons looked in the mood from the off and were out of sight at the break when 20 ahead and while they will be a little disappointed in how they conceded their goals, there was no disputing their superiority on the day that leaves Meath heading to face Down next week in what is a de facto relegation playoff.

The Saffrons had 11 different scorers with Conal Cunning top-scoring for his team with a dozen points, that tally eclipsed by Meath's Jack Regan who finished with 2-07.

Antrim couldn't have had a better start as just 50 seconds in, Conor McCann doubled on a broken ball after Conal Cunning's free dropped short and their second major came on seven minutes with McCann again the man in target as he took Cunning's knock-down in stride to cut left and fire low.

After an exchange of points, goal number three came as Paddy Burke broke forward, fed Sean Elliott who was crowded out but in the ensuing scramble, Burke prodded home to make it 3-04 to 0-02 with 11 minutes played.

It was already looking ominous for Meath, but after Kevin Keena struck a point, they had their opening goal as Damien Healy rose above Gerard Walsh to catch and he was fouled inside the area for a penalty that was tucked away by Jack Regan.

Antrim replied with six points on the bounce through Conal Cunning (two), Michael Bradley, Niall McKenna, James McNaughton and Elliott, but Meath would get a second goal on 25 minutes as they were awarded a 20-metre free in front of goal after Stephen Rooney was penalised for an off-the-ball infringement and Regan found the net.

Antrim simply powered on into half-time with five of the next seven points before their fourth goal arrived and Burke grabbed his second as an excellent ball from Niall O'Connor put him in on the left and the Cushendall man cracked home.

Elliott then got in on the act as James McNaughton teed him up in stoppage time and when Eoin O'Neill lashed over to make it 5-16 to 2-05 at the half, all of Antrim's starting forwards and midfield had registered.

After Cunning knocked over a 65 for Antrim just after the restart, Meath had a second penalty as Healy was fouled in the area, but this time Ryan Elliott turned Regan's shot around for a 65 that was converted.

The game was really becoming disjointed with the pace visibly dropped although Antrim did get a sixth goal as James McNaughton whipped home on 48 minutes.

Cunning and Regan were to the fore, while Antrim's full-back Walsh lashed over points either side of Meath's third goal when Jack Walsh finished from close range after Éamon Ó Donnachadha passed inside.

Ryan McCambridge hit two points off the bench for Antrim and Niall McKenna clipped over his fourth of the day before being shown a straight red on 67 minutes for swinging back at Darragh Kelly.

While goal chances came and went for Antrim with Charlie Ennis making some fine saves, he couldn't prevent Eoin O'Neill in stoppage time who batted home and although Meath had the final three points of the game, Antrim were comfortable winners to book their place in the June 4 decider with a game to spare.

Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Stephen Rooney, Gerard Walsh (0-02), Niall O'Connor (0-01); Paddy Burke (2-00), Eoghan Campbell, Conal Bohill; Joe Maskey (0-01), Michael Bradley (0-02); Niall McKenna (0-04), Eoin O'Neill (1-01), James McNaughton (1-01); Conal Cunning (0-12, 6 frees, 3 65s), Conor McCann (2-01), Seaan Elliott (1-02)

Subs: Scott Walsh for S Elliott (47), R McCambridge (0-02) for C McCann (51), Matthew Donnelly for P Burke (51), Aaron Crawford for C Bohill (58), Phelim Duffin for E Campbell (64)

Meath: Charlie Ennis; Brendan McKeon, Seán Geraghty, Patrick Potterton; James Kelly (0-01), Darragh Kelly, Stephen Morris (0-01); Michael Burke, Padraig O'Hanrahan; Mark O'Sullivan, Jack Regan (2-07, 1-04 frees, 1-00 pen, 0-01 65), Kevin Keena (0-02); Mikey Cole, Damien Healy, Chris Reilly (0-02).

Subs: Jack Walsh (1-00) for M O'Sullivan (HT), Nicholas Potterton for James Kelly (HT), Jarlath Ennis for P Potterton (47), Éamon Ó Donnachadha for D Healy (47), Adam O'Connor for M Cole (53)

Ref: Chris Mooney (Dublin)