U-16 all-county hurling final
Rossa 2-16-0-12 Cushendall
By Kevin Herron at Dunloy
Rossa were too strong for Cushendall as the Shaws Road club clinched the all-county U-16 hurling championship with a 2-16-0-12 victory at Dunloy on Saturday afternoon.
Despite losing Fionn McIlroy and Eoin Trainor to straight red-cards – either side of the interval the 13-men were firmly in the driving seat thanks to goals from Trainor and half-time substitute Liam Carr.
Rossa went into the game as pre-match favourites and began on the front foot with Daire Murphy firing the ball between the posts.
Fiontan McQuillan levelled – converting a free after a foul by Ben McAuley though Ruairi Murray pointed from a similar scenario and a further converted free and super angled point from Paul McLaughlin had Rossa 0-04-0-01 ahead inside of eight minutes.
Cushendall were heavily reliant on the accuracy of wing-half forward Fiontan McQuillan from placed balls in the opening half hour and McQullian made it two from two with a converted ninth minute effort.
Daire Murphy (free) and Ruairc Murray hit back to stretch their sides lead to four – though Fiontan McQullian converted his third free of the afternoon, midway through the opening half to leave it 0-06-0-03.
Cushendall found it hard to negotiate a way past a determined back line with Conor Boyle, Dylan Magee and Ben McAuley coming out on top of their particular duals.
The strong work ethic of Andy McLean led to further Rossa scores – the midfielder switched the ball of Ben McAuley who was upended and Daire Murphy converted the resulting free.
Colm McKeegan’s subsequent puck-out was claimed by Padraig McKillop who quickly fed Conlith McKinley who watched in frustration as his effort crashed off the Rossa woodwork – though McQullian converted his fourth free of the half to reduce the deficit to three once more.
A brave Conor Boyle block led to the next score as Rossa turned defence to attack and Fionn McIlroy shot high over the bar.
It would be one of McIlroy’s final acts in the game as the young corner-forward was dismissed by referee Ciaran McCloskey soon afterwards.
The 14-men responded however with Daire Murphy converting his third free of the opening period. Three minutes before the break the opening goal arrived – the lively Owen May cleanly won McKeegan’s puck-out in the aftermath of Murphy’s free and quickly threaded the ball into the path of Eoin Trainor who picked his spot and gave Rossa a 1-09-0-04 advantage.
Team captain Dairie Murphy celebrates with the cup
Cushendall replied deep into first-half injury-time through a converted McQullian free but the North Antrim men were seven-points in arrear at the interval.
Rossa introduced Liam Carr at the break and within seventeen seconds of his arrival into proceedings Carr burst away from the Cushendall defence and shot into the corner past McKeegan to strengthen his sides grip on the game.
Daire Murphy added two points, one from a converted free and another from play but his side were dealt a second blow as referee McCloskey dismissed midfielder Eoin Trainor.
From the resulting free McQullian saw his low driven free scrambled to safety by Rossa goalkeeper Liam Groves – but Oisin Connolly sent the follow-up over the bar.
With a two-man numerical advantage Cushendall tried to find a route back into the game – but Charlie Cooley and Patrick Moyes in particular stood-out in a resilient Rossa rearguard.
A converted free from Padraig McKillop and a first point of the afternoon from Fiontan McQullian made it 2-11-0-08 – though the Murray’s conjured up a response for Rossa as Ruairi’s quickly taken free picked out Ruairc whose angled shot was between the posts.
Dylan Magee’s turnover in defence then led to a free and Daire Murphy converted for his fifth from placed balls midway through the second-half.
Murphy quickly followed-up with a sixth a minute later – Conal McGlynn replied at the other end but Cushendall were really in need of goals with little over ten minutes to play.
Ruairc Murray and Daire Murphy (free) wrapped up their sides scoring with five minutes remaining – Cushendall pushed for a late consolation goal but Liam Groves denied Padraig McKillop from a low driven free in front of the posts.
McKillop would point from play and a free in injury-time and James McAlister hit the final score of the game – but it was Rossa who ran out convincing winners despite playing with two-men light for over half an hour and lifted the U-16 all-county hurling championship.
Rossa: L Groves, P Moyes, C Cooley, D Magee, C Boyle, R Murray (0-02f), B McAuley, E Trainor (1-00), A McLean, O May, P McLaughlin (0-01), P Short, F McIlroy (0-01), D Murphy (0-09, 0-07f), R Murray (0-03). Subs: L Carr (1-00) for P Short (31 mins), J Burns for A McLean (44 mins), D Rogan for O May (58 mins), B McBurney for C Boyle (61 mins).
Cushendall: C McKeegan, M Quinn, M Emerson, D McGill, S McKenna, P McKeegan, C McColiam, C McGlynn (0-01f), C Kilgore, F McQullian (0-06, 0-05f), O Connolly (0-01), P McKillop (0-03, 0-02f), J McAlister (0-01), C McKinley, K McNaughton.
Referee: Ciaran McCloskey (Loughgiel)