O’Neill’s Antrim Senior Hurling League
Ruairi Og 2-17 Ballycran 0-16
Colum Thompson reports from Pairc Mhuire
Cushendall overcame a lethargic first half performance and the sending off of Sean McAfee after fifteen minutes to claim the two league points with a battling win over Ballycran at Pairc Mhuire on Sunday. In a hard fought battle the Ruairis completed the league double over their Down opponents, but just like the reverse fixture on the Ards earlier in the year it was a hard fought win.
The Dall got the first point of the game from a Neil McManus free but it was Ballycran who were the brighter team in the early stages. They hit three points in a row, one from Conor Woods and two from Conor Dorrian frees to take the lead. Paddy McGill, named at full forward but operating as a third midfielder hit points either side of a Liam Savage effort for the Down side. Michael Hughes made his way forward to fire over a point but McManus answered back for the home side with another free. Ballycran were bossing the exchanges with Conor Woods pulling the strings they hit another purple patch with three points in a row again with two Conor Dorrian frees and a Woods effort from play. McManus was keeping Cushendall in touch and a free from the Dall midfielder reduced the deficit to four points. McGill won possession and he fed the onrushing Sean Delargy who strode forward and fired over from seventy yards to leave the gap at three. Dorrian converted another free for the visitors and things looked ominous for Cushendall but they dug deep and finished the half in style. First Neil McManus converted a free, then the impressive Paddy McGill fired over his third of the half. Donal McNaughton found space and he raised the white flag with a tidy finish and that man McManus nipped in to point from play to leave the score at half time Ruairi Og 0-9 Ballycran 0-9.
The Ruairis started the second half like a house on fire. The irrepressible McGill got things going with a long range effort and then came a critical score. Conor Carson’s strong run caused panic in the Cran defence, the ball fell in front of Cormac McClafferty and he lifted the net with an excellent ground stroke from 14 yards to put daylight between the teams. Mc Manus, ever reliable, tapped over a free to put five between the sides. Conor Woods replied with a free of his own but Cushendall really had the bit between their teeth. Conor Carson, who was winning a lot of possession, solo ran forward and fired over a brilliant score from the right wing. Niall Brown stopped the rot for the visitors but again Cushendall went for the jugular. Conor Carson wrestled control in the right corner and headed for goal, despite the best efforts of several defenders he finished one handed for Cushendall’s second goal of the game. Cormac McClafferty got a point with a neat pick up and finish. Niall Torney, on as a sub, got a point for the Ards men but try as they might they couldn’t get closer to Cushendall. Sean Delargy got his second of the game when he was found in space by McManus. Neil then hit another point from a free but Ballycran never gave up. Both Woods and Brown fired over points as Ballycran pushed for an opening for a goal. But on this particular day they found the Burke brothers and Joe McCurry almost impregnable in the Dall full back line. McGill fired over a free from distance, Woods replied for the Ards men but the writing was on the wall at this stage and in the closing minutes McManus traded scores with Torney and when Colm Cunning blew the final whistle it was two more league points for Cushendall. Final Score Ruairi Og 2-17 Ballycran 0-16.
How they played: Ballycran battled from start to finish as they always do. Stephen Keith was solid in goals and further forward Conor Woods and Conor Dorrian gave their all. For Cushendall it was a pleasing display. Having been reduced to 14 men and behind on the scoreboard it was a real hard working performance to get the win. Paddy Burke marshalled the defence well from the edge of the square and he was well supported by Sean Delargy and Martin Burke. Conor Carson made some great catches and Cormac McClafferty always looked dangerous but the winning of this game was in the midfield engine room. Both Neil McManus and man of the match Paddy McGill were superb. It wasn’t just their scoring, they tackled, hassled and worked their socks off for their team.
Cushendall team: E Gillan, M Burke, P Burke, J McCurry, S Delargy(0-2), R McCambridge, S Walsh, N McManus(0-7,5f), E Campbell, C Carson(1-1), D McNaughton(0-1), S McAfee, F McCambridge, P McGill(0-5,1f), C McClafferty(1-1