Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship – Quarter-Final
Dunloy 2-25 St John’s 3-12
Sunday August 27
By Brendan McTaggart
These two teams provided the tie of the round on Sunday afternoon at Cushendall as St John’s pushed the Cuchullains all the way before the Dunloy men pulled away in the last quarter. A majoy shock looked on the cards when St John’s went three points clear in the opening minute of the second half, but brilliantly taken goals by two of Dunloy’s young charges Conal ‘Coby’ Cunning and Eoin O’Neill killed off the Johnnies challenge and booked their team a semi-final meeting with Ballycastle in two weeks time.
After a slow start, St John’s fought their way back into the tie through the free taking ability of Miceál Bradley but it was the first goal of the game from Miceál Dudley that gave St John’s the belief that they could defy the bookies. Dunloy had made a bright start scoring the first five points of the match before St John’s opened their account in the 14th minute thanks to a Bradley free. The Cuchullains held onto the five point advantage until the 20th minute with Eoin O’Neill and Conal Cunning keeping the St John’s defence occupied but the momentum of the game swung with a majestic wave of Dudley’s hurl. Wide on the right hand side and about 30 yards from goal, Dudley drilled his effort and found the top corner of Ryan Elliott’s goal. A quite simply sensational strike and it gave the Johnnies a huge lift for the remainder of the half.
Dunloy continued to plug away with Paul Shiels in top form in the middle of the park. One point separated the sides when the Johnnies took the lead for the first time in the match. A long ball from Jim Peoples was gathered by Dudley. The St John’s man found CJ McKenna in space and McKenna applied the finish in the fourth minute of first half injury time.
It was a tough half of hurling with plenty of off the ball incidents to keep referee Fiontann McCotter occupied. Both teams didn’t stand back with their challenges in what was a quality half of championship hurling. St John’s edged the opening 30 and it was down to the work rate of their defence. The Dunloy forwards were running them ragged and while the Cuchullains managed to score 12 points in the opening 30 minutes, just one of those white flags came from a free. The Cuchullains did miss two from placed ball but it was a testament to the work that the St John’s defensive unit put in during the first half.
Dunloy up the tempo..
The Johnnies opened the scoring in the second half with a superb strike from Dudley, managing to get his shot away over his shoulder while under pressure. It was their last score for 13 minutes though as the Cuchullains stepped up the intensity even further.
Nigel Elliott was causing St John’s all sorts of problems with his pace while Shorty was unerringly accurate form placed ball. Chrissy Brogan scored his first point of the match in the 36th minute meaning all the Dunloy starting forwards had now registered their names on the scoresheet while their half back line started to get to grips with the Johnnies poc outs.
The Cuchullains had turned a three point deficit into the three point lead inside those 13 minutes they kept St John’s scoreless but again, St John’s found a way back into the tie. Peter McCallin linking up with Dudley who scored the Johnnies third goal in the 44th minute to leave just the minimum between the sides once again.
Instead of the expected St John’s resurgence though, it was the Cuchullains who found another gear in the final quarter. Second half substitute Nicky McKeague split the posts with a his first touch of the sliotar but it was the next Dunloy attack that dealt a body blow to St John’s Championship hopes. Nigel Elliott supplied an angled ball to Conal Cunning and despite being fully 30 yards from goal, Coby found the top corner of Simon Doherty’s net for the Cuchullains first goal.
A trio of points from Shorty came in response to Bradley’s fifth point of the match but the Cuchullains put the game beyond doubt with their second goal in the 55th minute. Conor McKinley supplying the assist for Eoin O’Neill who finished smartly to take his personal tally for the game to 1-3 and end the Johnnies hopes of making the last four of the championship.
There was still time for drama at either end, the Johnnies were reduced to 14 men when referee McCotter ruled that Domhnall Moran had interfered with Cunning’s faceguard while at the other end the Johnnies were awarded a penalty after a melee in the Dunloy square. Bradley drilled his effort over the bar in what was the last action of a pulsating championship contest.
In the end, the Cuchullains ran out victors by ten points but they certainly didn’t get things all their own way. The Johnnies performed admirably with perhaps their lack of Division One hurling affecting them as the game entered the final quarter. The Cuchullains were impressive throughout with the speed of their forwards and ball supplied varying enough to keep St John’s guessing. They will be concerned with the spaces St John’s were creating in their own defence but their attack was outstanding with just five points of their 2-25 coming from placed ball. Next up for the Cuchullains, a last four encounter with Ballycastle in two weeks’ time.
Dunloy: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin; James McKeague; Oran Quinn; Kevin McKeague; Conor McKinley; Kevin Molloy; Ciaran Elliott; Paul Shiels; Keelan Molloy; Gabriel McTaggart; Nigel Elliott; Eoin O’Neill; Chrissy Brogan; Conal Cunning
Subs: Nicky McKeague for C Brogan (43 mins); Paudie Shivers for G McTaggart (48 mins); Ally Dooey for E O’Neill (inj)
Scorers: Paul Shiels 0-10 (6 frees); Eoin O’Neill 1-3; Conal Cunning 1-2; Nigel Elliott 0-3; Keelan Molloy 0-2; Kevin Molloy 0-2; Chrissy Brogan 0-1; Nicky McKeague 0-1
St Johns: Simon Doherty; Domhnall Moran; Ryan McNulty; Stephen Tierney; Simon McCrory; Ger Cunningham; Colm McFall; Jim Peoples; Shea Shannon; Conor Johnston; Miceál Bradley; CJ McKenna; Miceál Dudley; Ciaran Johnston; Peter McCallin
Subs: Donál Carson for S Shannon (43 mins); Niall McCallin for Ciaran Johnston (52 mins)
Scorers: Miceál Dudley 2-1; Miceál Bradley 0-7 (0-1 pen, 4 frees); CJ McKenna 1-00; Conor Johnston 0-1; Jim Peoples 0-1; Ger Cunningham 0-1
Referee: Fiontann McCotter (Sarsfields)