Junior Hurling Championship Final
Gort na Móna 3-12 Shane O’Neill’s, Glenarm 3-10
By Brendan McTaggart
With a little over 10 minutes to go in the junior final on Saturday, the result looked a foregone conclusion. Gort na Mona were 10 points ahead and despite misfiring in front of the target, the Turf Lodge men were dominant and looked like they would see out the remaining minutes at a canter. The Glenarm challenge had seemingly faltered but as the heavens opened again, the Glenarm men were planning the perfect storm. They laid siege on the Gort na Mona defence in search for goals. An aerial bombardment and all-out attack. It was like the Glenarm version of the Alamo and the Shane O’Neills were winning but time was not their friend.
The Gort’s hung on to see out the win to claim the junior crown and on the evidence of the hour, deservedly so. Two points was the margin of victory in the end as the Gort’s celebrated their first hurling crown in nine years.
Glenarm made a bright start to the final with Darren Hamill in particular causing the Gorts huge problems. The former county star scored four points in the first half with three of those coming in the first ten minutes. Gort were struggling to settle into their game and with the normally reliable Desi McClean misfiring from placed ball, they couldn’t get any form of footing in the game. Sean Doyle, McClean and the impressive Padraig McCaffrey all registered scores for the Turf Lodge men in the opening quarter but Daniel Black and Captain Brendan McDermott split the posts to give the north Antrim side a two point lead mid-way through the first half.
Glenarm were looking lively all over the pitch and strong in defence. McClean and Darren Boyd weren’t getting much change from their markers but it was a moment of brilliance that produced the opening goal of the final in the 18th minute. Centre half Mark Rea sent a long ball into the heart of the Glenarm defence and for once former minor star Hugh-Pat McNeill didn’t claim the sliotar. McClean rose highest but his shot was superbly blocked with some last ditch Glenarm defending. The lose sliotar fell to Dermott McVeigh and he pulled first time to the back of Patrick Abraham’s net to give the Gort’s the lead and one that they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the final.
A brace of points from Patrick McCaffrey and McClean (’65) was answered by Hamill’s fourth point of the match in the 25th minute before the Gorts found the net once again. Boyd’s effort for a point fell short but Abraham between the sticks failed to clear his lines. Doyle gathered and punished the Glenarm defence with a drilled shot to the back of the net to open a five point lead for his side.
Glenarm finished the half well with a Black free and a Liam Mulvenna point, Mulvenna’s pulled effort just going over the bar with ‘keeper Connor McCann routed to the spot to leave three points between the sides at the short whistle.
The three point advantage was the minimum that the Gorts deserved from the opening 30 minutes. 11 wides, four from placed ball and passing up on two further goal chances meant that Glenarm were still in the game at the interval. Glenarm had their own chances for goal, Mulvenna’s effort in first half injury time looked destined for the back of the net while Darren Hamill’s fourth point was ‘unlucky’ to not find the back of McCann’s net.
A trio of Gort points after the restart reaffirmed their position, Patrick and Thomas McCaffrey along with ‘Diesel’ Boyd. It could have been better for the Gorts but McClean’s goal bound effort was blocked by the Glenarm defence.
Dylan McLaughlin and Padraig McDermott split the posts to keep the Glenarm men in touch but the Gorts found the back of Abraham’s net in the 43rd minute to all but secure the junior crown. Thomas McCaffrey latching onto a lose sliotar, pulling first time and putting a Gort hand on the junior crown. Martin Ward, Patrick McCaffrey (free) and Thomas McCaffrey all registered white flags in the space of four minutes to open a ten point lead in the 49th minute and Glenarm looked a beaten side.
The Shane O’Neill’s found a second wind to launch an attempt at the mother of all comebacks. They had chances to score from frees and begin to chip away at the Gort na Mona lead but decided to look for majors. With hindsight, the Glenarm men will rue their lack of composure in the closing stages with a series of missed chances in the space of five minutes. Going for goal when electing for point may have been a better option. They finally breached the Gort defence in the 55th minute when Barry Hamill fired home from close range but it brought a muted applause from the Glenarm support who looked consigned to defeat.
A point from McVeigh moments later did little to derail the new found Glenarm momentum as they probed for more openings in the Gort defence. Their second goal came after McLaughlin latched onto a long ball from Blair McDermott in the last minute of normal time and left the Glenarm bench frantically looking at their watches to see how long was left. More Glenarm pressure followed and again they found the net in the second minute of injury time. Barry Hamill with his second and the Glenarm bench were asking how long was left. The answer? Not enough. Gort na Mona hung on in the end to finish two points clear at the end of a dramatic final ten minutes.
Gort na Mona: Connor McCann; Christopher Devlin; Gavin McKenna; Brendan Cousins; Padraig McHugh; Mark Rea; Gary Doyle; Patrick McCaffrey; Declan Hughes; Sean Doyle; Martin Ward; Dermott McVeigh; Thomas McCaffrey; Desi McClean; Darren Boyd
Subs: Nathan Gibson for S Doyle (45 mins); Padraig Fryers for D Boys (58 mins)
Scorers: Thomas McCaffrey 1-2; Patrick McCaffrey 0-4 (1 free, 1 ’65); Sean Doyle 1-1; Dermott McVeigh 1-1; Desi McClean 0-2 (1 free, 1 ’65); Martin Ward 0-1; Darren Boyd 0-1
Glenarm: Patrick Abraham; Jake Hamilton; Hugh-Pat McNeill; Sean Moran; Patrick McAuley; Blain McDermott; Liam Mulvenna; Padraig McDermott; Shane Magill; David Black; Dylan McLaughlin; Brendan McDermott; Darren Hamill; Conal Ward; Barry Hamill
Scorers: Barry Hamill 2-00; Darren Hamill 0-4; Dylan McLaughlin 1-1; Daniel Black 0-2 (2 frees); Liam Mulvenna 0-1; Padraig McDermott 0-1; Brendan McDermott 0-1
Subs: Connor McNeill for L Mulvenna (38 mins)
Referee: Colm McDonald (St Galls)