ACHL Division 1
Loughgiel 0-16 Cushendall 0-10
Thursday July 13
Fr Healy Park, Loughgiel
By Brendan McTaggart
There’s a saying that familiarity breeds contempt and although this is the third match between these two great rivals inside 12 days, you could never tire of watching them. It wasn’t quite the epic tussle they produced in their two outings in the Feis but it was every bit as intriguing and with the same result, A loughgiel victory over the Ruairi Og’s. A six point victory for the Shamrocks but this was as physical a battle as it gets with both teams not parting an inch to the other.
The undoubted turning point came just six minutes into the second half with Cushendall winning by two points. Martin Burke was sent off for an off the ball tussle with Joey Scullion ending his comeback from injury early. Loughgiel made the most of their extra man in the latter stages of the half and pulled away but the Ruairi’s will be rueing a string of bad misses in the opening 30 minutes.
With teams missing a number of first team players, Cushendall, who probably suffered a little more in that department, had the better of a tight first half. Arron Graffin and Paddy Burke were superb in defence while David Kearney was once again showing his capabilities at midfield instead of his usual corner back berth. Loughgiel started the scoring and had three points on the board thanks to efforts from Dan McCloskey, Mark ‘Duck’ McFadden and Barney McAuley by the seventh minute but once Cushendall settled into the game they looked to be more fluent and were on top in the midfield exchanges. Having missed two free’s well within range, Christy McNaughton made it third time lucky in the 10th minute to get the Ruairi’s off and running on the scoreboard.
The sides were tied half way through the half when Paddy McGill and McNaughton dissected the posts and while Dan McCloskey scored his second of the match soon after, it did little to deter the Ruairi’s dominance. Indeed were it not for the brilliance of DD Quinn in the Loughgiel goals, Cushendall could have been out of sight in the first half. Twice the Loughgiel stopper denied the visitors to Fr Healy Park with saves right out of the top drawer, Cormac McClafferty and McNaughton with the efforts but three white flags unanswered from Cushendall, Eunan McKillop, Paddy Burke and McNaughton (’65), pushed the Ruairi’s two clear with ten minutes of the half remaining.
With both defences in top form, scoring chances were at a premium. The half back duo of Cathal and Damon McMullan excelled for the Sharmocks but the final delivery into their forwards wasn’t of the quality the home side needed to create chances.
Cushendall scored points from McGill and Fergus McNaughton either side of a trio of scores from Joey Scullion, Mark McFadden and James McNaughton to go into the break ahead but the minimum separated the sides. Half time score Loughgiel 0-7 Cushendall 0-8.
The visitors were well worthy of their half time lead. They had hit eight wide’s in the first half to Loughgiel’s three and were well on top of a Loughgiel attack that ran riot against them in the opening half in the Feis semi-final replay. All of Loughgiel’s seven first half scores came from open play with the home crowd feeling that they weren’t getting the rub of the green with some of the refereeing decisions in the first 30 minutes.
Paddy McGill scored his second point of the match and first of the second half to double the Ruairi advantage but the momentum was to swing heavily in Loughgiel’s favour shortly after. While play was at the other end of the pitch, Martin Burke and Joey Scullion decided to get to know each other a bit better. After consulting his own umpires, referee Colin Murray decided to end Burke’s game early while giving Scullion a yellow card. Loughgiel took full advantage and reeled off five unanswered points thanks to McAuley, Shay Casey (free), Benny McCarry (two) and McFadden with his third of the match.
A change of free taker brought a change of fortunes for the Ruairi’s, McGill splitting the posts for his fourth of the match in the 49th minute but that was the last time Cushendall were to trouble the scoreboard. Casey landed his second free of the match before McAuley opened the lead to four points and while Loughgiel were more fluent and finding more space, Cushendall were blocking and tackling everything with Ryan McCambridge outstanding in the second half.
The Shamrocks had a glimpse of goal with time running out, Benny McCarry’s driven effort bringing a superb save from Conor McAllister but further scores from McCarry – his third of the half and a free from McAuley ensured the Shamrock’s would be celebrating at the final whistle.
These two teams will be in action again on Sunday with the Shamrocks facing a trip down the Ards Peninsula and a match up against Ballygalget while the Ruairi’s entertain unbeaten Dunloy.
Loughgiel: DD Quinn; Paul Gillan; Neil McGarry; Seamus Dobbin; Cathal McMullan; Damon McMullan; Declan Gillan; Mark McFadden (0-3); Barney McAuley (0-4, 2 frees); Joey Scullion (0-1); Declan Laverty; James McNaughton (0-1); Dan McCloskey (0-2); Shay Casey (0-2, 2 frees); Benny McCarry (0-3)
Cushendall: Conor McAllister; Ryan McCambridge; Martin Burke; Stephen Walsh; Mark Donaghy; Paddy Burke (0-1); Arron Graffin; David Kearney; Fergus McCambridge (0-1); Paddy McGill (0-4, 1 free); Eunan McKillop (0-1); Aidan McNaughton; Ryan Delargy; Christy McNaughton (0-3, 3 frees); Cormac McClafferty
Referee: Colin Murray (Carryduff)
Last night’s win sees the Shamrocks move back to the top of the league table on 17 points, but they have played two games more than second placed Dunloy who are on sixteen. The two sides meet in Dunloy on August 9th. Cushendall, who have 15 points from their ten games played move down to third, but they are not out of the race yet as they face the unbeaten Cuchullains on Sunday.