Hurling & Camogie

Fired-up Antrim hammer Armagh to take Ulster title

Antrim celebrate after beating Armagh during the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship final at Owenbeg on Sunday Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Antrim celebrate after beating Armagh during the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship final at Owenbeg on Sunday Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

HE rattled in 3-5, all of it from play, and then Conor Johnston outlined his very succinct reasoning for wanting to “teach Armagh a lesson”.

The St John’s clubman was in scintillating form throughout yesterday’s Ulster hurling final at Owenbeg, leading the Antrim attack as they took Armagh’s defence for a merry dance.

He had 1-5 by the interval and added two further goals in a superb display that he put down to his annoyance at comments made by Armagh star Cathal Carvill during the week.

The Orchard forward had spoken about feeling that he had “got the better” of Johnston’s brother Ciaran in their National League meeting earlier in the year.

There may have been no intention on Carvill’s part to annoy, and his words will have appeared innocuous to many, but it brought plenty of motivation to the Antrim table in the days running up to the Saffrons’ 22-point victory.

“It was hard [to get motivated] but once we saw what Cathal Carvill said in the paper, that really did spear us up, we were going out all guns blazing to win that. It wasn’t important until he brought that into the paper,” he said.

“It was more about giving them a lesson, what they deserved, because they didn’t show much respect. A good hurler wouldn’t have said that about anyone.”

He certainly thrived in the wide open spaces of the Dungiven venue in front of a paltry crowd of a couple of hundred fans.

Neil McManus enjoyed himself as well, hitting 1-5 from play on an afternoon where Armagh certainly didn’t hit the heights they could have reached.

With a Christy Ring Cup opener away to a wounded Carlow to come with just six days’ rest in between, Johnston said Antrim had used it as a stepping stone.

“I enjoyed it. We knew we had a job to do, we knew Armagh were going to bring physicality and we had to get over the first 10 minutes. We got the scores on the board and that sort of freed us up going into the second half.

“Lads today were playing for their positions, and that’s why they had to show their talent and your performance. Next week against Carlow will be a massive task and we need to be up for it. Today was a massive stepping stone towards it.”