Antrim had little difficulty in claiming their sixth successive Ulster SHC crown at Casement Park, as they secured a comprehensive 2-24 to 0-04 win over Down.

Down last beat the Saffrons in the championship in 2001 but never looked like repeating that feat in testing conditions in Belfast.

Heavy rain did little for the quality of hurling but Antrim were not deterred and broke free to led 1-13 to 0-02 at half-time. Paul Shields flicked home a sixth-minute goal, while Kieran Courtney was Down's only first-half scorer.

Brendan McGourty and Gareth 'Magic' Johnson added to Down's tally in the second half, but Antrim ended on a high with substitute Brian McFall hitting 1-02.

Neil McManus and McFall, who scored 1-09 between them, were the game's two most impressive forwards as Antrim coasted to their 45th Ulster senior title in all.

Down had the first two chances of the final, but Kieran Courtney and Eoin Clarke were both guilty of hitting wide of the target.

With both sides battling to control the sliotar in the rain, the game failed to sparkle in the opening half but Antrim were more clinical in their play.

The defending champions dominated possession to hold a 1-02 to 0-00 advantage after seven-and-a-half minutes.

Antrim's goal was the opening score of the contest and it came after six minutes when full-forward Johnny McIntosh sent in a long-range free. It was batted out by Down goalkeeper Graham Clarke but corner-forward Shields was quick to capitalise on the loose ball and plant it to the back of the net.

The goal gave Antrim the early momentum and points from McIntosh and defender Malachy Molloy helped the Saffrons take a 1-02 to 0-00 lead.

Down had the ball in the back of the net a minute later, but Brendan McGourty's effort was ruled a square ball by referee James McGrath.

However, Down did manage to open their account three minutes later thanks to a Kieran Courtney pointed free from 21 metres out.

Antrim replied with a Shields point before Courtney and Simon McCrory traded points in the 16th-minute to leave five points between the teams.

However, Antrim restored their dominance and from McCrory's point until the interval it was all about the Terence McNaughton and Dominic McKinley-managed side. They had two excellent points each from Brendan Herron and Neil McManus while Paddy McGill and Johnny McIntosh were also on target to ensure Antrim held a comfortable 1-13 to 0-02 interval advantage.

Antrim's stranglehold on the game continued on the restart with effective play from McManus, who brought his tally to seven points, while substitute McFall also operated well when introduced in the second half and scored 1-02 to ensure Antrim were comfortable 26-point winners by the finish.

Next up for Antrim is round one of the Liam McCarthy Cup qualifiers on 30 June, while seven days earlier Down will begin their Christy Ring Cup campaign against Westmeath.

Antrim: R McGarry; M Kettle, M McCambrige, S Delargy; M Molloy (0-1), J Campbell, C Herron; B Herron (0-03), K McKeegan (0-03, 2f); P McGill (0-01), N McManus (0-07), M Herron (0-02); S McCrory (0-02), J McIntosh (0-02, 1f), P Shields (1-01).

Subs used: N McAuley for Campbell (48 mins), P Richmond for McGill (53), Brian McFall (1-02) for Shields (53), S McDonnell for McIntosh (58), Barry McFall for Kettle (61).

Down: G Clarke; L Clarke, S Murray, F Conway; G Clarke, P Hughes, M Ennis; A Savage, B McGourty (0-01); E Trainor, K Courtney (0-02, 1f), J Trainor; E Clarke, G Johnson (0-01), P Coulter.

Subs used: A Bell for E Trainor (39 mins), A Dynes for E Clarke (58).

Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)