All County Hurling League Division 1
By Kevin Herron
Rossa 2-18 Ballycastle 2-15
Rossa secured division one survival and in the process condemned Ballycastle to the drop after a high scoring and thrilling 2-18-2-15 win over the North Antrim men at the Shaws Road this evening.
The hosts looked comfortable in the opening half until Kevin Barry McShane beat Gavin Bell in the Rossa goal on the stroke of half-time, however early second half goals from Thomas Morgan and Deaglan Murphy gave the Shaws Road men breathing space again. Ballycastle fought back though and set up a grandstand finish when Ciaran Clarke drilled in an injury-time goal, but Rossa hung on to retain their division one status in hurling and end Ballycastle’s stay in the top flight.
Rossa began the evening on the front foot and points from Michael Armstrong and Aidan Orchin gave them a two point head start, though Kevin Barry McShane got Ballycastle off the mark after his side had squandered a few early opportunities.
The pendulum continued to swing early on, Deaglan Murphy twice restored Rossa’s two-point lead only for Saul McCaughan to reply from play and Ciaran Clarke from a free to leave the score 0-04-0-03 after eight minutes.
Midway through the half Aidan Orchin claimed his second point of the evening and the Shaws Road men hit a purple patch with Murphy claiming his third point from converted frees and adding another from play, Stephen Beatty then popped up with a fine point from range to stretch the lead to five, 0-08-0-03.
Ciaran Clarke ended a twelve-minute baron period without a score for Ballycastle, landing two straightforward frees, but Deaglan Murphy continued to punish the North Antrim side as he stroked over his fourth converted free of the half.
There were further points from Michael Armstrong and Gerard Walsh for the hosts after Clarke had landed his first score from play to make it 0-11-0-06.
Rossa looked as though they would head to the break with a five-point advantage however with seconds of the half remaining Kevin Barry McShane floated the ball over the head of Rossa goalkeeper Gavin Bell and into the net to give his side renewed hope at the break with the score 0-11 to 1-06.
Rossa quickly set about gaining the upper hand from the restart and Thomas Morgan landed the opening score with a point, with two minutes gone in the second-half Rossa found the net and it was Morgan who showed quick instinct to fire the ball past a stranded Ryan McGarry to make it 1-12-1-06 in favour of the hosts.
The dream start continued and within a minute Deaglan Murphy claimed the scraps at the edge of the square and rifled past McGarry again to give his side a nine-point lead and make it 2-12-1-06.
Ballycastle were stunned and replied through a converted Ciaran Clarke free and a point from Caolan McCaughan.
Deaglan Murphy converted his fifth free of the evening, but Ballycastle were determined to make a fist of things and Ciaran Clarke brought his tally to six from frees with back to back scores to put six between the sides with twenty minutes left , 2-13-1-10.
Rossa stemmed the Ballycastle tide momentarily as Stephen Beatty and Deaglan Murphy landed points to increase their sides lead to eight, eight would become three however with Clarke converting two successive frees and landing two from play between a point from Saul McCaughan to leave the score 2-15-1-15 with six minutes plus added time to play.
With the game in the melting pot Rossa showed that bit more determination, Gerard Walsh landed his sides first score in ten minutes and that was quickly followed by corner-forward Morgan landing a point and Michael Armstrong claiming his third of the evening to increase the lead to six-points with injury-time to play.
Ballycastle surged forward in injury-time a foul from the industrious Eoghan O’Neill presented Ciaran Clarke with the chance of a jugular. Clarke went low and with the deflection of the woodwork crashed the ball past Gavin Bell and his quartet on the line to set up a nervy finish at the Shaws Road, 2-18-2-15.
In truth Rossa saw the game out comfortably with Morgan and Orchin both off target in injury-time but it mattered little as Colm McDonald’s full-time whistle was greeted with relief as Rossa retained their division one status and relegated a dejected Ballycastle side who must regroup in the winter months and begin the road back to the top table.
Rossa: G Bell, N Crossan, E O’Neill, K McDonnell, A Orchin (0-02), S Shannon, A O’Brien, C Orchin, C McIllhatton, C McGuiness, M Armstrong (0-03), S Beatty (0-02), D Murphy (1-07, 0-05f) G Walsh (0-02), T Morgan (1-02). Subs: O McVicker for C McIllhatton (60 mins).
Ballycastle: R McGarry, P McLernon, M Donnelly, O Kearney, B McQuillin, N McAuley, D Donnelly, R McCook, C McCaughan (0-01), J McLister, KB McShane (1-01), C Brown, C Boyd, S McCaughan (0-02), C Clarke (1-11, 1-08f). Subs: James McShane for R McCook (30 mins), TT Butler for KB McShane (38 mins), Dermot McShane for C McCaughan (40 mins).
Referee: Colm McDonald (St Galls)