Ciaran Clarke scored 12 points for Antrim in their Joe McDonagh Cup victory over Meath.
Ciaran Clarke scored 12 points for Antrim in their Joe McDonagh Cup victory over Meath. 

Joe McDonagh Cup: Antrim overpower Meath

Joe McDonagh Cup Round 5

ANTRIM 2-30 MEATH 3-10

By Paul Keane at Pairc Tailteann, Navan

Michael Bradley shone for Antrim as the Saffrons secured a big win over Meath in Navan to make certain of their Joe McDonagh Cup final place alongside Kerry.

Bradley helped himself to 0-8 at Pairc Tailteann, all from play, while free-taker Ciaran Clarke contributed 0-12 to guarantee a December 13 final spot at Croke Park against Kerry.

The Kingdom were already through to the showpiece while a draw, or even a defeat in certain circumstances, would have sufficed for Antrim though Darren Gleeson's men progressed in style.

They did trail for most of the first half hour or so but reeled off bursts of 0-9 and later 1-10 without reply to ease through to next month's final with a pep in their step.

The final will be a repeat of last month's Allianz League Division 2A decider which Antrim won by three points while the northerners also beat Kerry 3-18 to 2-14 in Round 3 of the McDonagh Cup.

This was Antrim's third win of the campaign and they've progressed without talisman attacker Neil McManus who was injured early in the League final.

They struggled initially against a Meath side desperately seeking a result to put some gloss on their championship campaign.

Nick Weir's men, without the suspended Jack Regan who was red carded against Westmeath last weekend, struck a fourth minute goal through James Kelly.

The sides were briefly tied at 1-2 to 0-5 but Meath surged clear again with a three-in-a-row of points from Kelly, Patrick Potterton and Padraic O'Hanrahan and were two points ahead with 29 minutes played.

Antrim took off from there and reeled off six points without reply to close out the half with a 1-13 to 1-9 lead and three more scores immediately after the restart left them sitting pretty.

Trailing now by seven points, Meath gave themselves some hope with a 42nd minute goal from Stephen Morris who slammed a low shot to the net from 13 metres.

But it was a brief reprieve for the overwhelmed Royals as Antrim hit the afterburners again, this time reeling off 1-10 without reply.

Ryan McGarry got the scoring siege underway and McCloskey sniped Antrim's second goal with 20 minutes to go.

Meath sub Daithi McGowan broke the Antrim scoring series and Damien Healy pulled back a late goal for Meath but it was far too little, far too late.

As for Antrim, they finished with 11 different scores and got a strong punch from their bench with three different players - Damon McMullan, Donal Nugent and Nicky McKeague - providing 0-4 for them.

Antrim scorers: Ciaran Clarke 0-12 (0-10f), Michael Bradley 0-8, Daniel McCloskey 1-0, Niall McKenna 1-0, Conor McCann 0-2, James McNaughton 0-2, Nicky McKeague 0-2, Eoghan Campbell 0-1, Ryan McGarry 0-1, Damon McMullan 0-1, Donal Nugent 0-1.

Meath scorers: James Kelly 1-1, Stephen Morris 1-0, Damien Healy 1-0 (1-0f), Padraic O'Hanrahan 0-2 (0-1f, 0-1 65), Alan Douglas 0-2, Jack Walsh 0-1, Patrick Potterton 0-1, Keith Keoghan 0-1, Darragh Kelly 0-1 (0-1f), Daithi McGowan 0-1.

ANTRIM: Conor McAllister; Stephen Rooney, Matthew Donnelly, Phelim Duffin; Gerard Walsh, Paddy Burke, Ryan McGarry; Eoghan Campbell, Aodhan O'Brien; Niall McKenna, James McNaughton, Michael Bradley; Ciaran Clarke, Conor McCann, Daniel McCloskey. Subs: Damon McMullan for Walsh (45), Donal Nugent for McCann (45), Nicky McKeague for McKenna (50), Eoin O'Neill for McCloskey (60), Conor Johnston for McGarry (64).

MEATH: Charlie Ennis; Mickey Burke, Shane Brennan, Sean Geraghty; Ben McGowan, Darragh Kelly, Shane Whitty; Patrick Potterton, Padraic O'Hanrahan; James Kelly, Stephen Morris, Alan Douglas; Jack Walsh, Daithi McGowan, Keith Keoghan. Subs: Patrick Conneely for Geraghty (29), Damien Healy for Walsh (47), Jack McGowan for Morris (51), Nicholas Potterton for Koeghan (64), Eamonn O Donnnchadha for O'Hanrahan (64).

Referee: David Hughes (Kilkenny).