by John McIlwaine
All County Hurling League Division 2
Carey Faughs 1-19 Clooney Gaels Ahoghill 1-18
Carey took a significant stride towards Division 2 safety tonight when a late Shea Hunter point gave them victory by the narrowest of margins over Clooney Gaels in Ballyvoy. In a game had everything any hurling fan could ask for the home side came from six down ten minutes into the second half to gain a win which at times looked highly unlikely. There were scores of the highest quality, great saves and blocks, tough tackles and even a wee bit of Sumo wrestling sprinkled in here and there, as both teams gave their all in a real relegation dogfight. At the end while feeling pleased at the Carey men getting the result you had to feel for the men from Cloney who, as they always seem to do, emptied the tank out on the pitch. Such games are won by fine margins, with a wee bit of luck here and there and on the night the men from Barnish got the break that got them over the line when a shot for a point from a free by James ‘Rocket’ Black dipped into the corner of the Ahoghill net five minutes from the end.
‘Rocket’ was one of the stars of the show, if not the star. He is not your typical modern day county hurler, muscle bound by daily gym work, but a fine athlete blessed with natural talent and a burning desire to win. His speed of thought and touch can be mesmerising at times and when he is really on his game, as he was tonight, he is hard to stop. His quick wrists and quicker brain gives opponents little time to hook or block, and a bit like Gary O’Kane of old, he never dwells on the ball a second longer than is needed. Shay Hunter was another who stood out for the Faughs as indeed was left-half back John McBride whose point from inside his own half midway through the second half was inspirational.
The Ahoghill men also had their starts and PJ O’Connell is a man any team manager in the county would like to be writing on their teamsheet, and corner forward Ronan Graham hit some lovely points throughout the game.
The game got off to a flying start with and both teams had two points each on the scoreboard inside the first minute and a half. Carey got the uppehand with three quick points, one from Shea Hunter and two from Rocket and they were still 0-5 to 0-2 to the good when the Ahoghill revival got started with a long range pointed free from Fionnbar O’Neill in the thirteenth minute. Thomas McGlone added one from play and though Rocket came back with one for the home side, two points from PJ O’Connell frees and a well taken goal from corner-forward Owen Neeson put them a goal clear by the twenty first minute. Shea Hunter and Cathal ‘Doog’ McAuley pulled back points for the Faughs but the visitors finished strongly with points from play from Patrick Graham, James O’Connell and Ronan Graham to go in at half time a goal to the good. 1-10 to 0-10
When Ahoghill hit four of the first five points in the second half to stretch their lead to six Carey clearly had a mountain to climb, but they slowly got a grip of the game and six unanswered points, three of them from James ‘Rocket’ Black, two long range monsters from half backs John Black and Michael McVeigh and one from a Doog McAuley free had them level by the fifty second minute. Jimmy McMeel ended a fifteen minute scoreless spell to put Ahoghill back in front before a free from fifty metes by ’Rocket’ dipped into the top corner of the Cloney Gaels net as full-back and goalkeeper impeded each other as they got their hurls entangled in a last gasp bid to stop it.
A Doog McAuley point from play put the home team a goal clear again with just three minutes of normal time left for play but a dogged Ahoghill side fought back to level the match with three unanswered points as the clock ticked past the thirty minute mark. Both sets of fans would probably have settled for a draw at this stage so nerve-wracking was it all, but both sets of players knew that extra point was vital and Shea Hunter settled it all in favour of the Faughs with a superb left sided strike from fifty metres out on the left sideline.
Stephen McGinn, Kevin Murphy, Sean McBride, Eoin Hill, Michael McVeigh (0-1), James McCouaig, John McBride (0-1), James Black (1-7), Daniel McBride, Martin Hunter, Nat Hunter (0-1), Fiachra McVeigh, Daniel Martin, Cathal McAuley (0-2), Shea Hunter (0-5).
Subs – Peter Murphy for Daniel McBride
Aiden Graham, Stephen O’Connell, Francis Neeson, James Magee, Foinnbar O’Neill (0-1), Bernard Graham, Neill O’Connell, Patrick Graham (0-1), Donal Graham (0-1), Jimmy McMeel (0-1), Thomas McGlone (0-2), James O’Connell (0-3), Owen Neeson (1-1), PJ O’Connell (0-5), Ronan Graham (0-3).
Subs – Eamon Brady for James Magee; Dermot Graham for Neill O’Connell; Gerard Graham for Donal Graham.
Referee – Fiontan McCotter