Junior Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Cushendun 1-20 St Pauls 1-10
Brendan McTaggart reports from Glen Rovers, Armoy
Ten points and every bit as comfortable as it sounds. Robert Emmet’s booked their place in the 2018 junior final with a comprehensive 10 point win over 14 man St Pauls in Armoy on Saturday afternoon. Midfielder Conor McHugh top scored for the Emmet’s, finishing with 0-7 and putting in a man of the match display guiding his side to their first junior decider since 2014. Harry and David Kilgore contributed heavily to Cushendun’s cause, scoring 1-6 between them, David with the major in the second half while Donal O’Hara marshalled the Emmett’s defence superbly, most notably in the second half.
St Paul’s struggled to contain the attacking threat of Cushendun, of the Emmet’s nine first half points, all but two came from play with five different scorers. Stephen Rooney and Fionntan Gamble battled for the full hour in defence with Niall Peoples shinning in attack, top scoring with 0-5 over the hour in a lively performance.
The semi-final though will be remembered for two incidents by the Shaws Road side though. A first half penalty miss and a piece of defensive brilliance denying Rooney a certain goal coupled with barely 20 second later Cushendun opening a nine point lead thanks to David Kilgore’s major in the 42nd minute. A potential goal at that time could have given the City men the momentum but Donal O’Hara’s outstanding tackle and resulting Kilgore goal effectively sealed the tie in Cushendun’s favour. St Paul’s were reduced to 14 men in injury time when Kevin Gamble saw red for an off the ball incident but it had little impact on the final result with the Emmett’s setting up an encounter with Glenarm in the junior decider.
Cushendun started the last four encounter brightly, Eugene Duffin and Conleth McNeill splitting the posts for the opening points of the match by the sixth minute. Any St Pauls attacks in the early stages were fleeting but they did have the first glimpse of goal either side of the Cushendun points. Niall Peoples pointed effort dropped short and the falling sliotar wasn’t dealt with in the Cushendun defence. Andrew McMorrow pulled on the ground but his effort hit the side netting.
Cairbre O’Caireallan and Kevin Gamble restored parity to the scores by the ninth minute before Cushendun had a sight of the St Pauls goal in the 10th minute. James Morgan finding himself through on Christopher Murray’s goal before being swarmed with red and white hooped shirts. The St Pauls defence cleared the danger but Cushendun went through the gears, Harry Kilgore splitting the posts either side of Conor McHugh’s first point of the match to leave three points between the sides mid-way through the first half.
St Pauls were getting joy in the Cushendun defence by sending the sliotar onto the edge of the square where Sean O’Carroll and Kevin Gamble lay in wait. Their ability to hold onto the sliotar under pressure was causing Cushendun concerns and it was through this outlet that they won the penalty. McMorrow sending the sliotar towards Gamble with the St Pauls full forward hauled to the ground.
Niall Peoples stepped up for his side but he didn’t get the connection he was looking for and Eoin Magee was able to save with ease and clear the danger.
McHugh’s second point of the match opened a four point lead but St Pauls halved the deficit with Frankie Sewell (’65) and Sean O’Carroll (free) brought the Shaw’s Road side to within touching distance once again.
Cushendun finished the half on top however with McHugh (’65), David Kilgore with the score of the half and Harry Kilgore’s third of the opening 30 minutes gave the Emmett’s a five point lead. A 45 yard free from Peoples reduced the deficit to four on the stroke of half time but Cushendun would have been the happier side at the interval with a 0-9 to 0-5 lead at the short whistle.
Niall Peoples second point of the match gave St Pauls hope after the restart of clawing their way back into the semi-final but it was as close as the Shaws Road men would get to their north coast opponents as Cushendun took control.
A trio of scores from ‘Loaf’ McNeill, Matthew McCartin and Harry Kilgore stretched the Cushendun lead to six points. Peoples (free) and substitute Pierce Bannon swapped scores before the first goal of the contest came in the 42nd minute. St Pauls were deep in the Cushendun half and with Rooney in space he eyed up Magee’s goal but O’Hara managed to flick the sliotar away, similar to Nickie Quaid’s tackle on Seamus Harnedy when Limerick defeated Cork in the semi-final of the All-Ireland this year. Perfect timing and inside 20 seconds Cushendun had the sliotar in the back of the St Pauls net. Bannon collected the long clearance before driving at the heart of the St Pauls defence and lured in defenders. He passed the sliotar to David Kilgore in space and the Cushendun man showed composure to beat Murray between the sticks. A six point swing from seeing their lead potentially being halved, Cushendun and Kilgore’s major gave them one foot in the final with a quarter of the match remaining.
A brace of frees from Peoples ensured Cushendun weren’t going to have everything their own way in the closing stages and the Shaws Road men were looking to eat into the Cushendun lead but McHugh (four) and McNeill (free) took the game away from St Pauls in the space of five minutes at the death.
Leo Morgan and Peoples (free) swapped points in the first of six minutes of injury time before Kevin Gamble saw red for an off the ball incident with Aidan Corbett but St Pauls continued to lay siege on the Cushendun defence in search of goals. They got their consolation when Ciaran O’Carroll pulled on the sliotar from close range after a Peoples free landed in the box but it was too little, too late for the Shaws Road men as Cushendun saw out the remaining minutes with little alarm to seal their place in the 2018 Junior Hurling championship final.
Harry Kilgore losses his boot and his sock as he is dragged down close the St Paul’s goal.
Cushendun: Eoin Magee; Sean Hamilton, Aidan Corbett, Jack McKay; Mark Scally, Donal O’Hara, Thomas Scally; Matthew McCartin, Conor McHugh; Harry Kilgore, Eugene Duffin, Dominic McQuillan; James Morgan, Conleth McNeill, David Kilgore.
St Pauls: Christopher Murray; Declan Gamble, Fionntan Gamble, Joe Keatinge; Frankie Sewell, Stephen Rooney, Sean Bradley; Ciaran O’Carroll, Ruaidhri O’Muiri; Sean O’Carroll, Andrew McMorrow, Cairbre O’Caireallan; Niall Peoples, Kevin Gamble, Declan Chapman.
Scorers for Cushendun: Conor McHugh 0-7 (2 ‘65’s, 1f); David Kilgore 1-2; Harry Kilgore 0-4; Conleth McNeill 0-3 (1 f); Matthew McCartin 0-1; Eugene Duffin 0-1; Pierce Bannon 0-1; Leo Morgan 0-1.
Scorers for St Pauls: Niall Peoples 0-5 (4 f’s); Ciaran O’Carroll 1-00; Cairbre O’Caireallan 0-2; Frankie Sewell 0-1 (1 ’65); Sean O’Carroll 0-1 (1 f); Kevin Gamble 0-1.
Referee: Kevin Parke (Naomh Éanna)
Pics by John McIlwaine