Junior Hurling Championship quarter final
By John McIlwaine
Gort na Móna held off a strong second half challenge from Cushendun in Saturday evening’s Junior Hurling Championship quarter-final at Randalstown to book a semi-final place against St Paul’s in two weeks’ time. When they went in at the break leading by 2-6 to 1-4 the Belfast men appeared to have a bit of breathing space but Cushendun came out in the second-half with all guns blazing and backed by superb displays by full-forward Conleth McNeill and the Kilgore brothers Harry and David, they edged their way back into the game. McNeill had a chance to steal the win when he was awarded a free thirty metres from goal in injury time, but his shot flew inches over the Gortnamona crossbar and the Gorts held on to secure a semi-final place.
Playing on the old pitch at Whitehill, Randalstown it was Cushendun who got off the perfect start when Eoin McQuillan goaled inside thirty seconds but points in the third and fourth minutes plus a goal on eight minutes by Mark Ward swung the game in favour of Gort na Mona. Cushendun were guilty of some bad wides but two quick points in the fourteenth and fifteenth minutes by Eoin McQuillan and Harry Kilgore had them level. A pointed free by Dessie McClean on nineteen minutes put Gort na Mona back in front and when Thomas McCarfferty fired in his team’s second goal in the twenty-third, they were back in control. Conleth McNeill pulled a point back for the Emmets a minute later from a well struck free but the Belfast men finished the half strongly with points in the twenty-seventh, twenty-ninth and thirty-second minutes, in reply to one from Cushendun’s James Morgan to head to the dressing room with a 2-6 to 1-4 half-time lead.
The lead was out to six early in the second half when Darren Boyd pointed, but Conleth McNeill found a quick reply to close the gap back to five. Once again Gort na Mona stretched their advantage to six when Patrick McCaffrey pointed from play but McNeill was on the mark from a free seconds later to keep Cushendun in touch and when Harry Kilgore and McNeill tagged on two superb scores from play the gap was back to three points. A pointed free from Dessie McClean in the forty-fifth minute eased the pressure on the winners and opened the gap to four, but two quick points from substitute David Kilgore brought it back to just two, and it was game on once more. As the excitement built Dessie McClean settled Gort na Móna nerves with a point from twenty five metres on the right to put three between them, and though David Kilgore responded with one at the other end inside thirty seconds, the Belfast men would not ease their grip and a McClean point from a close range free kept the Emmets at arms’ length. McNeill’s sixth point of the half from a free sixty metres out, again raised Cushendun hopes but once Gort na Móna found a response when it was most needed, and when the ball was worked out to centre back Mark Rea he sent it high between the posts from sixty metres to restore his team’s three point cushion.
A superb catch from Harry Kilgore from the puck out following Rea’s score saw the half forward find an opening and he sprinted clear to send a left sided strike between the posts, but the frustration for the Emmets fans continued as once again Gort na Móna hit back immediately, this time with a point from substitute Ciaran Kelly. As the game went deep into injury time David Kilgore closed the gap to two with his third point since being introduced and though McNeill fired over from a free in the sixty fifth minute it was just a few inches on the wrong side of the crossbar and Gort na Móna deservedly held on for the win.
Gort na Móna
Conor McCann, Brendan Cousins, Gavin McKenna, Conor Connolly, Gary Doyle, Mark Rea, Dominic Collins, Patrick McCaffrey, Declan Hughes, Thomas McGoran, Martin Ward, Sean Doyle, Darren Boyd, Dessie McClean, Thomas McCaffrey
Subs – Ciaran Kelly
Aidan Delargy, Sean Hamilton, Mark Scally, Aidan Corbett, Leo Morgan, Oisin McMahon, Conor McHugh, Eoin McQuillan, Matthew McCartin, Harry Kilgore, Don Whelan, James Morgan, Jack McKay, Conleth McNeill, Dominic McQuillan.
Subs – Rory McQuillan, Pearse Bannon, David Kilgore, Eoin Magee
Referee- Fionntan McCotter
Well done to Gort na Móna from all at the Hunting Lodge