Antrim ended a 10-year wait for the TG4 All-Ireland Junior title as they powered to victory over Fermanagh replay at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh.
Two weeks after the draw in Croke Park when the Saffrons were extremely wasteful, this time they were much more efficient in front of the posts and were helped in their cause by early goals from Lara Dahunsi and a Cathy Carey penalty.
Grainne McLaughlin played a starring role for the victors, turning up the heat on a blistering hot day and top-scoring with eight points, five from play.
It was left to Eimear Smyth to carry the fight for Fermanagh and she kicked seven of her own, but unlike McLaughlin, had little support with Antrim just better in all departments on the day.
After an early exchange of pointed frees for Smyth and Grainne McLaughlin, Antrim bagged their first goal and Dahunsi — so influential in the drawn game — forced a turnover out on the right and while she shot for a point, it dipped over Róisín Gleeson wickedly and ended up in the net.
Smyth replied with a point, but Antrim’s second goal arrived a minute later when Maria O’Neill was sent through and while Gleeson saved the shot and injured herself in the process, after a stop for treatment, referee Lorraine O’Sullivan indicated there was an infringement in the build-up and awarded a penalty.
Up stepped captain Carey to slot home the penalty to the roof of the net.
Again, Smyth replied with a point but Orlaith Prenter cancelled this out from a free.
Smyth was on fire for the Ernesiders and hit a great score, attacking at pace and shooting on the spin, before Erin Tierney became their second scorer when she pointed off her left.
Yet Antrim had a fine spell, with points from Caitlín Taggart, McLaughlin and Bronagh Devlin to push the gap out to six.
The wides began to creep in towards the end of the first half and Smyth’s fifth point of the game kept Fermanagh in the hunt at the break with Antrim’s lead 2-5 to 0-6.
Smyth had an opportunity to narrow the gap further at the beginning of the second half, but her free came back down off the post as Antrim’s first foray resulted in McLaughlin steering a shot over.
The Saffrons kicked on with Taggart, Carey and McLaughlin pointing before Smyth finally added to the Fermanagh tally with a free on 43 minutes.
Taggart replied immediately to leave Antrim 2-10 to 0-7 up by the well-needed water break.
Bláithín Bogue, so influential for Fermanagh in the drawn game, was held scoreless until the 47th minute when guiding a shot over with the outside off her boot, but this failed to ignite the Ernesiders as Antrim drove to the line with McLaughlin the star of this show, weaving onto her left for two from play and another off a free.
The coup de grace came on 53 minutes as Carey fielded a long ball and buried to the net, pushing the lead out to an unassailable 15 and while Fermanagh did stick to the task with points from the Bogues, Cadhla and Bláithín, and Smyth in reply to McLaughlin’s eight of the day, Antrim eased to a deserved victory.
Antrim: G McLaughlin 0-8 (3f), C Carey 2-1 (1-0 pen), L Dahunsi 1-0, C Taggart 0-3, O Prenter 0-2 (1f), B Devlin 0-1.
Fermanagh: E Smyth 0-7 (2f), B Bogue 0-2 (1f), E Tierney 0-1, C Bogue 0-1.
ANTRIM: A McCann; D Coleman, A McFarland, N McIntosh; M Mulholland, S Tennyson, S O’Neill; L Dahunsi, A Tubridy; C Taggart, C Carey, M O’Neill; B Devlin, O Prenter, G McLaughlin.
Subs: T Mellon for M O’Neill (45), O Corr for D Coleman (47), C Emerson for C Taggart (51), M McGarry for S O’Neill (55), E Murphy for B Devlin (57). Blood sub: T Mellon for B Devlin (40-44).
FERMANAGH: R Gleeson; E Keenan, M McGloin, S McQuade; N McManus, S McCarville, C Bogue; B Bannon, A O’Brien; E Tierney, B Bogue, S Britton; C McElroy, E Smyth, L Grew.
Subs: N Curran for L Grew (ht), E Maguire for E Tierney (40), E Douglas for A O’Brien (43), A Gordon for B Bannon (51), K Elliott for C Bogue (55).
REF: Lorraine O’Sullivan (Donegal).