Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship – Quarter-Final @ Pearse Park, Dunloy
Saturday August 26
Ballycastle 1-15 Rossa 1-13
By Brendan McTaggart
It was every ounce the war of attrition that was predicted in the run-up to this quarter-final. The second quarter-final at Pearse Park Dunloy was always going to be close and Ballycastle and Rossa served up a nail biter for their fans.
As the tie entered injury time, the Shaw’s Road men looked like they would be making plans for a semi-final tie in two weeks’ time. They held a slender one point lead and despite their radar letting them down throughout the hour, they had done just about enough in the second half and certainly in the final quarter of the match to earn their one point lead. Ballycastle had other ideas.
Ballycastle sent a long ball to the heart of the Rossa defence in an attempt to get back into the tie. Substitute Ciaran Butler plucked the sliotar from the air before being hauled to the ground and Ballycastle were awarded a penalty in the first minute of injury time.
Score a point and send the tie to extra time or go for glory and all but seal a semi-final spot for the McQuillan’s. The decision faced by Ciaran Clarke as he stood over the sliotar one on one with Gavin Bell in the Rossa goals.
Clarke went for broke and found the bottom corner of the Rossa goal. A goal that sealed Ballycastle’s progress and sealed Rossa’s fate. A goal that proved when it comes to the championship league form means very little.
The Rossa players and management will have left Pearse Park on Saturday evening bewildered as to how they didn’t manage to see the job through. 14 wides throughout the hour with some uncharacteristic misses along the way didn’t help their cause but as the game progressed, they looked to be in control, as much control as a slender lead can allow but their half back line and midfield were well on top and it looked like the only question to be asked was how much they would win by and not if.
They lost the services of influential forward Mickey Armstrong in the first half but James Connolly was in quite simply irresistible form when he was entered the fray. The Rossa man finished with 0-3 to his name but his overall display was a silver lining in what turned out to be a dark day for the Jeremiah’s. The Ballycastle defence struggled to control him, especially in the second half as he led the Rossa charge.
The sides were tied at the short whistle 0-8 to 1-5. Despite Ballycastle having marginally the better of the opening half, Rossa scored the first goal of the contest in the last minute of the half. Ballycastle ‘keeper Ryan McGarry losing the flight of the sliotar having left his line and Murphy duly obliged to bring the City men back into the tie.
The second half belonged to the free takers with Clarke and Murphy going toe to toe. Neither team could stretch away from the other with no more than two points separating the sides at any one stage.
Rossa did create a glorious goal opportunity after just nine second half minutes but Murphy failed to collect Connolly’s pass when he had the Ballycastle goal at his mercy.
The sides were tied on five different occasions in the second half alone before Rossa looked to have done enough, Connolly had just landed his third point of the contest to give his side the lead for the fifth time in the match but Ballycastle and Clarke had differing ideas.
The introduction of Ciaran Butler proved to be a master-stroke for the McQuillan’s management team with the Ballycastle man scoring a point with his first touch of the game and earning his side the decisive penalty.
Clarke despatched the penalty to take his personal tally for the hour to 1-7 and destroy Rossa’s championship dreams in the process.
The Shaws Road men laid siege on the Ballycastle goal in the time that remained in search of the score that would see them renew their championship aspirations but they met an amber and black wall with Neal McAuley and Matty Donnelly in particular outstanding.
Deaglan Murphy had one last chance with a free from 25 yards out but his riffled effort was blocked and eventually cleared by the imperious McAuley. They rolled the dice one last time but the house, or the Town, won on this occasion.
Ballycastle progress with two points to spare and who’s to say they can’t continue to upset the form book? In a one off match of 60 minutes of hurling they will fancy themselves no matter who they come up against and while there were occasions when it wasn’t pretty, they showed that they have the character and inner-belief to pull through when the chips are down.
Ballycastle: Ryan McGarry; Paul McLernon; Matthew Donnelly; Dermott Donnelly; James McShane; Neal McAuley; Ben McQuillan; Conaire Butler; Caolan McCaughan; Conial Brown; Tiernan Butler; James McLister; Dairmuid McShane; Kevin-Barry McShane; Ciaran Clarke
Rossa: Gavin Bell; Niall Crossan; Eoghan O’Neill; Aidan Orchin; Conor McClelland; Stephen Shannon; Aodhan O’Brien; Ciaran Orchin; Chris McIlhatton; Chris McGuinness; Michael Armstrong; Stephen Beatty; Deaglan Murphy; Gerard Walsh; Thomas Morgan
Ballycastle: Ciaran Clarke 1-7 (1 pen, 5 frees); Tiernan Butler 0-2; Conial Brown 0-2; Kevin-Barry McShane 0-1; James McShane 0-1; Conaire Butler 0-1; Ciaran Butler 0-1
Rossa: Deaglan Murphy 1-8 (6 frees); James Connolly 0-3; Stephen Beatty 0-1; Chris McGuinness 0-1
Referee: Colum Cunning (Dunloy)