Cuchullains made to fight all the way by the Johnnies

O’Neill’s All County Hurling League Division One

8Dunloy’s Nigel Elliott who turned in another outstanding display in his team’s win over St John’s at Pears Park. Pic by John McIlwaine

Dunloy Cuchullains 0-19 St John’s 0-15

By Brendan McTaggart reports from Pearse Park, Dunloy

Dunloy followed up their victory over Loughgiel last weekend with a four point win over St John’s at Pearse Park on Sunday afternoon.  When these two sides last met, it was a championship thriller in the sunshine at Cushendall and while the weather didn’t hit the same heights, both teams put on an exhibition of point taking with some outstanding scores throughout the hour despite the strong wind.  Nigel Elliott following up his man of the match performance by once again catching the eye for the Cuchullains while midfielder Micheál Bradley and the superb Conor Johnston impressed for the Corrigan Park side.

Playing with the wind in the first half, the home side opened a nine point lead for the second 30 minutes and it proved to be decisive.  Despite the Johnnies making a blistering start to the second half, Dunloy put in a strong defensive display to nullify the St John’s threat and make it three wins from four.

Showing two changes from last weekend, Keelan Molloy and Shane Dooey coming in for Gabriel McTaggart and the injured Kevin McKeague, the Cuchullains made a slow start to the match.  St John’s were moving the ball well and making light of playing against a substantial wind.

The home side did open the scoring with Paul Shiels sending over a free from long range but a trio of points from the Johnston brothers Ciaran and Conor along with a tidy score from Barry McFall gave the visitors to Pearse Park a deserved two point lead after ten minutes.

McKeague and Conor Johnston swapped frees in the 16th minute as Dunloy began to find their game among a packed St John’s defence.  Keelan Molloy first pointing after a trademark burst of pace before Nicky McKeague pointed from a free to bring the sides level in the 18th minute.  Bradley edged the Johnnies ahead with his first of three points over the hour from midfield moments later, but it was the last score the visitors would register in the first half as the Cuchullains upped the pressure on Simon Doherty’s poc outs and began to turn their pressure into points on the board.

Ten unanswered points in as many minutes from the home side derailed the St John’s challenge, undoing all their hard work in the first 20 minutes as the Cuchullains took advantage of the elements and with some superb skill, ingenuity and opportunism they began to open what would be an insurmountable gap.  Nigel Elliott (three), Nicky McKeague (two frees), Keelan Molloy, a brace from Shiels (one free), Deaglan Smyth and Conal Cunning all registering scores as Dunloy held a 0-14 to 0-5 lead at the short whistle.

7Dunloy’s Paul Shiels plucks a high ball out of the air during Sunday’s win over St John’s

St John’s had no answer to a relentless Dunloy attack in the second quarter of the first half and half time couldn’t come quick enough for the Corrigan Park side.  Dunloy were taking scores at will and St John’s were camped in their own half under huge pressure.  Tempers did flare before the half time break, referee Tarlach Conway calling for the sliotar for half time allowing both sides to use the break to cool heads and it was the Johnnies who made the most of the break.

Now with the wind at their back, they fired three points in the opening two minutes of the second half, Shea Shannon and two frees from Conor Johnston reducing the Dunloy advantage to six points and suddenly it looked like the Dunloy lead would be reeled in by the visitors.  Coby Cunning’s second point of the match got Dunloy firing again in the second half with a tidy score in the 37th minute and while Conor Johnston scored his fourth free of the match soon after, the Johnnies were hurt by wastefulness in possession with a brace of wides in as many minutes.

Points from Elliott, his fourth of the match, and Eoin O’Neill gave the Cuchullains an eight point lead once again in the 42nd minute before Micheál Dudley and Conor Johnston kept St John’s within touching distance.

Nicky McKeague and Micheál Bradley swapped points in the 46th minute to leave six between the sides going into the final quarter but both sides were guilty of squandering chances with tempers threatening to boil over once again before referee Tarlach Conway once again resumed control.

St John’s outscored the Cuchullains three points to one in the closing stages, Shannon, Dudley and Bradley’s third point of the match only answered to by Nicky McKeague’s fifth point of the match, sixth overall but it was another solid performance for the Cuchullains as they go into the league break with optimism for the remainder of the season and while it was St John’s second defeat from four, they showed enough on Sunday that they too have reason for optimism for the months ahead.

TEAMS

Dunloy: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin; James McKeague; Conor Kinsella; Eamon Smyth; Kevin Molloy; Paul Shiels; Shane Dooey; Nicky McKeague; Eoin O’Neill; Nigel Elliott; Deaglan Smyth; Keelan Molloy; Chrissy Brogan; Conal Cunning

St John’s: Simon Doherty; Sean Wilson; Ryan McNulty; Conor Carson; Simon McCrory; Ciaran Johnston; Stephen Tierney; Micheál Bradley; Aidan McMahon; Barry McFall; Conor Johnston; Peter McCallin; Shea Shannon; Dónall Carson; Micheál Dudley

 

Scorers for Dunloy: Nicky McKeague 0-6 (5 f); Nigel Elliott 0-4; Paul Shiels 0-3 (2 f); Keelan Molloy 0-2; Conal Cunning 0-2; Deaglan Smyth 0-1; Eoin O’Neill 0-1

Scorers for St John’s: Conor Johnston 0-6 (5 f); Micheál Bradley 0-3; Micheál Dudley 0-2; Shea Shannon 0-2; Ciaran Johnston 0-1; Barry McFall 0-1

Referee: Tarlach Conway (Ballinascreen)

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