by Brendan McTaggart
U16 McMullan Cup Semi-Final
Dunloy 1-10 Ballycastle 3-10
When these two teams played each other in the league earlier this year, the Cuchullains came away with the points overcoming the McQuillan’s by the slimmest of margins. On Wednesday night it was The Town who were celebrating a McMullan Cup final place by overpowering the home side in an impressive display.
In an edgy start to this semi-final, Dunloy had the upper-hand in the opening exchanges with Rory Mullan impressing from the offset. Once Ballycastle settled into the game though they looked much shaper and played with more hunger. The midfield duo of Seamus McAuley and Sean Brogan caused the Cuchullains huge problems while half forwards Aaron Faloona and Ryan Hill tormented the Cuchullains defence.
This first goal of the match came in the 15th minute with the McQuillan’s leading by just one point. Hill made a break down the Dunloy right before passing to Faloona. With Fergal McKiernan in space, Faloona gave an inch perfect pass to his team mate and McKiernan finished with aplomb from an acute angle.
Ballycastle looked dangerous through the middle of their side and where arrowing high ball into bustling full forward Oscar Egan at every opportunity. They had another chance of goal in the 23rd minute, Faloona this time bringing the best out of Paul Doherty between the sticks for the Cuchullains from point blank range. The Ballycastle man was first to the rebound but again, Doherty came to the Cuchullains rescue to deny him.
Two points in first half injury time from Dunloy half forward Tiernan O’Boyle cut the deficit to two points as Ballycastle lead at the interval 1-5 to 0-6.
Ballycastle were by far the better side in the first half and the two point lead was a poor reflection on their dominance. Dunloy hurled well within themselves in the opening 30 minutes but showed towards the end of the half that they were capable of clawing their way back into this game.
The start of the second half was dominated by Ballycaste and Egan in particular. He was having his own personal duel with Dunloy ‘keeper Doherty with the Cuchullain net minder denying the Ballycastle man with a series of outstanding saves. Egan finally got the better of Doherty in the 40th minute after receiving a long pass from Faloona, Egan crashed the sliotar to the bottom corner to give Doherty no chance. The Ballycastle man repeated the feat just four minutes later, this time Jo Jo McToal with the assist for Egan’s finish.
Ten points separated the sides with a quarter of the match still remaining and Dunloy launched one last comeback. A goal from corner forward Sean O’Neill after some neat play from Rory Mullan raised the Cuchullains hopes of an unlikely turnaround but the Ballycastle defence were imperious in the closing stages with Tiernan and Cormac Donnelly commanding and dominant helping the McQuillan’s to book a Final spot on Feis Sunday (against either Loughgiel or Glenariffe) with six points to spare.
Paul Doherty; Daithi McGuigan; DJ Crawley; Conor McAleese; Cathair McCloskey; Barry Scott; Ciaran McQuillan; Padraig McGilligan; Ryan McFarlane; Tiernan O’Boyle (0-2); Rory Mullan (0-6, 4 frees); Daithi Cree; Sean O’Neill (1-1); Eoghan McGrath (0-1); Conal Kelly
Tiernan Smyth; Reuben McClean; Tiernan Donnelly; Eoin Magee; Mark McClean; Cormac Donnelly; Ronan Laverty; Seamus McAuley (0-4, 2 frees); Sean Brogan (0-1); Aaron Faloona; Ryan Hill (0-3, 1 free); Eoin Maybin; Jo Jo McToal; Oscar Egan (2-1); Fergal McKiernan (1-00)
Referee: Harry Graham (Ahoghill)