McAuley shines as Ballycastle storm into the Semi’s

Minor Hurling Championship quarter final

Ballycastle 2-12 Rossa 1-8

By Michael McFall

0- Seamus McAuely

Seamus McAuley

Seamus McAuley put in an inspired performance to propel Ballycastle into the Minor Hurling Championship Semi-Finals at Pairc Mac Uilin on Friday night.

The young forward certainly took his chance to impress with a clinical all round display, helping himself to 1-8 of the home side’s 2-12 total to set up a glamour tie with Dunloy in the next round.

Trailing by four points at half time, McQuillans fought back valiantly in the second half to extinguish a dangerous Rossa side spearheaded by the impressive Tiernan Murphy, however the relentless aggression and determination displayed by the young black and amber boys saw them through the semis, a wonderful last minute major from Ben McQuillan capping a fine performance.

The conditions were nothing short of terrible going into the game, with a gale force Crossfield wind and an unrelenting downpour causing major difficulties from the outset.

This did not dampen the players spirits however, as McAuley and Murphy traded blows straight from the outset, Ballycastle’s talisman finding the back of the net in the early exchanges before Murphy brought his team back towards parity with two clinically dispatched frees.

This trend would continue for the majority of the first half as the rain grew heavier, McAuley (3) and Murphy (2) shining brightest in a dogged battle for possession, with Ballycastle managing to just keep their lead intact.

This would change dramatically however, as seconds after Ryan Hill had registered a point from a 65 metre free, Rossa began to demonstrate their dynamic counter-attack.

Having withstood tremendous pressure throughout the first half, the Belfast men began to find their range as Phelim Lennon and Michael McGreevey played a killer pass after killer pass down the line, Daire Matthews and Dominic McEnhill’s pace causing untold problems for the McQuillans defence.

It was that man Murphy again who inspired the comeback, as he helped himself to two points in two minutes to set up a grand stand finish to the first half, cutting inside to hit low and over the bar with the first, before another free brought the teams back level.

Things went from bad to worse for the home side as another surging run and shot from Murphy was batted away by the Ballycastle goalkeeper, but Ryan O’Neill was on hand to smash the rebound home and send the league leaders into the break with a three point advantage.

It didn’t end there however as another turnover in the midfield and quick ball in found the evermore lively Matthews who cut in and extended the lead to four on the referees whistle.

 

Dejected plodding off the field at the break, Ballycastle emerged from the changing rooms a different animal in the second half, pinning Rossa back in their own half thanks to some superb fielding from Conor Boyd in the midfield.

It was McAuley who was at the forefront again for the town’ helping himself to two points (including his first from play) within the first five minutes of the restart.

Tiernan Murphy added his fifth of the evening in reply but a five minute blitz from Ballycastle turned the game on its head once more.

Ryan Hill produced another long range free, before Oscar Egan bullied his way through the defence to bring his side to within a point with twenty minutes to go.

Buoyed by an excellent start, Ballycastle began to turn the screw as Egan found McAuley down the left flank behind the defence, however the marksman was unable to pick out a team-mate with a goal opportunity gone to waste.

He would get another chance as seconds later Conor Boyd turned over yet another puck out to tee up Ballycastle’s talisman for his seventh score of the evening and level the game once more to a thunderous ovation from the home crowd.

McAuley added another a minute later from a placed ball before Murphy finally replied for the visitors with an acute angle free of his own.

Having been under constant bombardment throughout the second half, Rossa attempted to slow the game down in order to regroup, drawing a series of frustrating frees from Ballycastle as they moved the ball efficiently through the middle of the park.

However, Murphy twice dropped attempts short into the square in a matter of minutes, despite Ballycastle having a decisive height advantage in their defence, which were easily dispelled.

Rossa’s final throw of the dice came in the 23rd minute as another short attempt from Murphy found Ryan O’Neill, and following a goalmouth scramble and some resolute defending from Oisin McAuley Ballycastle were able to clear their lines with their lead intact.

Conor Boyd took full advantage of the counter attack as he followed up with his first score of the evening before a Seamus McAuley free all but settled the tie going into injury time.

There was more to come from the home side however and with the last strike of the match wing-back Ben McQuillan stepped up to send Ballycastle supporters into raptures with a sublime piece of skill and finish worthy of any senior game.

As Rossa tried in vain to clear their lines, McQuillan strode forward to collect the ball on the bounce at full speed, before dispatching an emphatic drive into the net from distance.

McQuillans will now face rivals Dunloy in the semis following their six point triumph over Cushendall.

Ballycastle

E Elliot, O Colgan, O McAuley, O Kearney, C Colgan, C Donnelly, B McQuillan, C Boyd, C Butler, D McMullan, R Hill, D Hill, T Kelly, O Egan, S McAuley

Rossa

P Kennedy, C McGettigan, M McKavanagh, M Cunningham, M Smith, P Lennon, C Shannon, M McGreevey, M Close, D Matthews, E McMenanin, T Murphy, D McEnhill, R O’Neill, C McParthalain

 

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