Senior Reserve Hurling Championship Final
Loughgiel 1-14 Cushendall 2-8
Wednesday August 2
Fr Healy Park, Loughgiel
By Brendan McTaggart
A strong first half performance from the Shamrocks ensured they regained the reserve championship on Wednesday evening. Three points separated the sides at the end of the hour, owed much to a goal from Eunan McKillop in the fourth minute of injury time but it acted as scant consolation for Cushendall as the Ruairi’s lost their grip on the crown they won in 2016.
The Ruairi’s will look at their profligacy in front of the target when they assess where it went wrong for them in Loughgiel, reaching double figures through the match didn’t help their cause but Loughgiel had the edge throughout the contest.
The Shamrocks half back line, the first half in particular, dominated their opponents. Declan Gillan was going through the wars with a number of knocks while Aaron Carey’s reading was exceptional while having an almighty tussle with McKillop who was the Ruairi’s shining light in the opening 30 minutes.
The Shamrocks had three points on the board before Cushendall opened their account in the eighth minute. Emmett Laverty splitting the posts in response to Ryan McKee and Shan McGrath (two) points for the home side. A further brace of scores from Barney McAuley and ‘Betty’ McKee increased the Loughgiel advantage to four points as the home side threatened to run away with proceedings after the opening quarter.
Two points in as many minutes from ‘Mucker’ Laverty, his second and third of the match kept Cushendall in touch but the hosts found another gear to end the half strongly. A McAuley ’65 was replied to with a McKillop point before the Shamrocks scored the first goal of the final. McGrath and Enda Coen combined to find Dan McCloskey in space and the Loughgiel man hammered the sliotar beyond the rushing Conor McAlister to give Loughgiel a six point lead. A point from James McNaughton in the last minute of the half ended the scoring and left Cushendall trailing 1-8 to 0-4 at the short whistle.
With ‘Betty’ McKee and Seamus Dobbin dominating at midfield, Cushendall were struggling to supply their forward line with any quality ball. Early scores from McAuley (two) increased the Shamrocks lead further before the Ruairi’s fought back. Strong work form McKillop down the Loughgiel right gave him the space to get a shot at Chrissy O’Connell’s goal, the Antrim net-minder was equal to his effort but the rebound fell to Conal McAteer who pulled the sliotar first time to the back of the net. A brace of points followed suit from Laverty (free) and the much improved Aidan McNaughton in the second half to reduce the deficit to four points with a quarter of the match remaining.
Cushendall had all the momentum going forward while in defence Fergus McCambridge was superb in the second half, ably assisted by Joe McCurry. They laid siege on the Loughgiel defence but Declan and Ronan Gillan were superb standing tall for the Shamrocks in defiance.
McKee’s third point of the match and a Dan McCloskey point came either side of Aidan McNaughton’s second point of the half and helped to stem the Cushendall renaissance. Cathal McDonnell and Declan Laverty added points each for their sides before Loughgiel were awarded a penalty in the first minute of injury time, Shan McGrath being hauled to the ground left referee Aidan Kelly no option. McAuley elected to go for point to edge the Shamrocks six clear once again and leave them with more than one hand on the trophy.
Eunan McKillop reduced the deficit to three when he scored the Ruairi’s second major of the match in the fourth minute of additional time but it was the Shamrocks who were celebrating moments later. Three points the difference and a fully deserved win for the men from Loughgiel who will be hoping that it’s the sign of things to come this summer.
Loughgiel: Chrissy O’Connell; Cormac Watt; Ronan Gillan; Ronan McCloskey; Caolan Blair; Aaron Carey; Declan Gillan; Seamus Dobbin; Ryan McKee; Barney McAuley; Declan Laverty; James McNaughton; Dan McCloskey; Enda Coen; Shan McGrath
Cushendall: Conor McAlister; Stephen Walsh; Fergus McCambridge; Joe McCurry; Scott Walsh; Mark Donaghy; Cormac McAlister; Aidan McNaughton; David Kearney; Emmet Laverty; Eunan McKillop; Cathal McDonnell; Ed McQuillan; Cormac McClafferty; Conal McAteer
Loughgiel: Barney McAuley 0–5 (2 frees, 2 ‘65’s); Dan McCloskey 1-1; Ryan McKee 0-3; Shan McGrath 0-2; Declan Gillan 0-1; Declan Laverty 0-1; James McNaughton 0-1
Cushendall: Emmet Laverty 0-4 (2 frees); Eunan McKillop 1-1; Conal McAteer 1-00; Aidan McNaughton 0-2; Cathal McDonnell 0-1
Referee: Aidan Kelly (St John’s)