Super Shamrocks sink Cuchullains in Feis final

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Shay Casey celebrates after scoring his team’s game clinching goal

Feis na nGleann 2017

Senior Hurling Feis Cup Final

Loughgiel Shamrocks 3-14 Dunloy Cuchullains 1-11

Fr Healy Park, Loughgiel

By Brendan McTaggart

“Sure it’s only the Feis” is a remark we have heard in recent years but those at Fr Healy Park this evening will know that when teams go into the game with the right mindset the Feis still maters very much. There was no quarter asked or given between these two fierce rivals as they battled it out for Feis honours at Fr Healy Park.  It may have been ‘only the Feis’, but this game had all the passion of any championship game you will see this season. Both sides battled against the elements and poor underfoot conditions in a game played with huge intensity and physicality, but in the end it was Loughgiel who proved the stronger.  A brace of goals in the final five minutes and a man of the match performance from Donal McKinley saw the Shamrocks home with nine points to spare.

Loughgiel showed two changes from the side that battled against Cushendall in the semi-final with Seamus Dobbin and Declan Laverty replacing Eddie McCloskey and his brother Ronan while the Cuchullains started just seven who lined out in their last match against Rossa, electing to give some of their younger members of their squad match time.

The Shamrocks made the dream start with corner forward Benny McCarry finding the back of Ryan Elliott’s net for the first score of the game in the third minute.  Donal McKinley scored the first point of the match soon after before a brace of points from Eamon Smyth and Nicky McKeague got the Cuchullains off and running in the seventh minute.

With conditions underfoot worsening, both teams were struggling for fluidity but it was the Shamrocks who were finding space for scores.  A trio of points form Dan McCloskey, Barney McAuley and ‘Duck’ McFadden opened a five point lead and while Paudie Shivers and Nicky McKeague replied for the Cuchullains, it was clear the Shamrocks were adapting to the difficult conditions much quicker.

Both sides squandered goal chances with Keelan Molloy going close on two occasions for the Cuchullains and Dan McCloskey for Loughgiel and while they kept the scoreboard ticking over, the intensity and ferocity of the tackling was everything you would come to expect in a match involving these two rivals.

Four points separated the sides at the back end of the first half when referee Eamon Hasson awarded Dunloy a penalty.  Keelan Molloy caught a line ball from Miceal ‘Bean’ Murphy and was fouled inside the square.  Nicky McKeague despatched the sliotar to the bottom corner of Chrissy O’Connell’s goal to give the Loughgiel and Antrim shot stopper no chance and throw the Cuchullains a lifeline.  At half time Loughgiel held a one point lead with a score line of 1-8 to 1-7.

Dunloy introduced Conal Cunning for Murphy at half time to give their attack more impetus but it was the Shamrocks who started the second half brightly.  Joey Scullion and Duck McFadden increased their lead before Nicky McKeague scored his first point from play, and his fourth overall, to keep the Cuchullains in touch.

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Loughgiel goal keeper Chrissy O’Connell is beaten by Nicky McKeague’s penalty in the final minute of the first half

Dunloy were starting to edge affairs and drew level in the 50th minute when Keelan Molloy scored his second point of the match but it was to be the last score for the Cuchullains as Loughgiel took control.  Barney McAuley and Shay Casey opened a two point advantage for the Shamrocks before Donal McKinley scored Loughgiel’s second major of the contest in the 54th minute, Shay Casey with the assist and McKinley firing to the bottom corner of Ryan Elliott’s net.  Midfielder McAuley scored his fourth point of the match from a ’65 before Loughgiel added the icing to their ‘Feis cake’ by scoring their third goal of the night.  Shay Casey applied the finish in injury time to take his personal tally to 1-2 for the hour, sealing the win for his side and keep the Feis Cup at Fr Healy Park for 2017.

TEAMS

Loughgiel: Chrissy O’Connell; Paul Gillan; Neil McGarry; Seamus Dobbin; Tony McCloskey; Damon McMullan; Declan Gillan; Mark McFadden (0-2); Barney McAuley (0-4, 1 ’65); Joey Scullion (0-2); Declan Laverty (0-1); Donal McKinley (1-1); Shay Casey (1-2, 2 frees); Benny McCarry (1-1)

Dunloy: Ryan Elliott; Stephen McGuigan; James McKeague; Adam O’Kane; Eamon Smyth (0-1); Conor McKinley (0-1); Christopher Kearns; Cathair McGuigan; Paudie Shivers (0-1); Miceal Murphy; Gabriel McTaggart; Nicky McKeague (1-5, 1-4 frees); Ciaran Elliott; Paul Shiels (0-1); Keelan Molloy (0-2)

Referee: Eamon Hassan (St Brigids, Cloughmills)

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