A Conor McCann goal for Antrim after 19mins marked the beginning of the end for a Derry side that up until that point had managed to live with their opponents.
With Shane Farren and the excellent Alan Grant opening the scoring for the Oak Leafers to lead 0-02 to 0-01 after 5mins, a period of Antrim dominance followed which saw them establish a 1-05 to 0-03 lead. Derry however showed spirit and hauled themselves back into the game after Shane Farren raced through to plant the ball in the Antrim net. Minutes later the Bananger man levelled the game from a close range free to leave the score 1-05 each midway through the first half.
However, when Creggan and Antrim captain McCann struck for a goal, followed by a further four points in the run up to half time, the Saffrons established a five point half time cushion 2-10 to 1-08.
It was a lead which Derry struggled to claw back. Despite Gilmore, McCloskey and Farren points giving some hope, Antrim kept the scoreboard ticking over to maintain a six point cushion with 15mins left in the game.
The final quarter saw a fitter Antrim pull away. Indeed, had it not been for the consistent excellence of Oisin O’Doherty in the Derry goal, the winning margin of 11 points could have been greater.
This Derry side showed glimpses of what they are capable of with Alan Grant the stand out performer from the first half. Antrim, in truth, had simply too much in the physical fitness stakes for their opponents. Combined with a slicker first touch and greater aggression under the high ball, this gave them a platform to expose weaknesses in the Derry defence.
However, these are all things that can be put right. If the will is there and the hard work is put in over the winter months, this group of Derry hurlers are certainly talented enough to progress, and provide a very real challenge to the provincial status quo.
Scorers — Antrim: C McCann 1-4 (1f), S Smith 1-2, M Devlin 0-4, S McAfee, J Black (1f) 0-3 each, K McKernan 0-2, C Laverty, A McKeown 0-1 each. Derry: S Farren 1-4 (3f), A Grant 0-3, T McCloskey, N Ferris 0-2 each, C Gilmore 0-1.
Derry – O O’Doherty; M Warnock, C McGurk, C McIntyre; C Convery, K McKaigue, E Cassidy; C Gilmore, D O’Neill; N Ferris, A Grant, A Armstrong; T McCloskey, S Farren, D Shields. Subs: MJ Groogan for Warnock (h-t), R Farren for Cassidy (40), M Taggart for Groogan (46), C Lynch for McIntry 46, C O’Loane for Shields (49).
Antrim – J O’Mullan; C Murray, R Gillan, F Donnelly; J McShane, M Donnelly, J McCouaig; A McKeown, S McAfee; M Devlin, K McKiernan, J Black; S Smith, C McCann, C Laverty. Subs: C Morgan for Donnelly (39), D McKinley for Devlin (47), P McNaughton for Black (55), S Devine for Murray (56), N McFadden for McCann (59).
Referee – D Magee (Down)