Minor Hurling Championship Final
Dunloy Cuchullains vs Loughgiel Shamrocks
Sunday October 14 @ Paírc MacUílín, Ballycastle – Throw in: 1pm
Referee: Darren McKeown (St Galls)
By Brendan McTaggart
It may be the curtain raiser for the St Johns and Cushendall replay on Sunday afternoon but the minor final has all the ingredients to be the stand out match of the day. Dunloy and Loughgiel will take to Paírc MacUílín on Sunday once again with the Cuchullains searching for a fourth successive win while the Shamrocks will be looking for their 14th title and their first since 2008.
The men from Fr Healy Park have overcome the challenges of St Johns and Ballycastle to reach the decider and while they saw off the Johnnies with consummate ease, their titanic marathon with the McQuillans will live long in the memory for all those in attendance.
They managed 4-50 between them in an incredible exhibition of hurling and it took 90 minutes to separate the sides. Normal time, extra time and extra-extra time. The Shamrocks eventually seeing off Ballycastle with two points to spare. U16 star Rian McMullan top scoring for the Loughgiel men on the day, finishing with 0-14 in an imperious display while Odhran McGrath chipped in with 1-3 in an excellent all-round team performance.
It’s fair to say the Cuchullains path to the final has been a less rocky one. They were due to play St Gall’s in the quarter-final but the Dunloy men were awarded a walk-over. They were made to wait for their semi-final opponents as Cushendall and Glenariffe took a replay to find a winner. In the end it was the Ruairi’s who advanced but found Dunloy too strong an obstacle in the semi. Early goals from Rory Mullan and Eoghan McGrath helping the Cuchullains to gain a sense of control and see off the Cushendall challenge with 14 points to spare in a score line of 2-14 to 0-7.
The Cuchullains take to the field as favourites. These sides have played each other twice this year already and while there has never been too much between the sides, the experience Dunloy have of minor final day will prove to be invaluable. Off their semi-final team, eight played in last years’ decider against Naomh Padraig where the Cuhcullains took the honours with eight points to spare.
Both sides have sharp shooters in attack. How both defences deal with the threats of Rian McMullan and Seaan Elliott could prove to be pivotal. Odhran McMullan and Ryan McGarry will marshal the Loughgiel and Dunloy defences and the work rate from both sides scrummaging for lose ball will be vital.
There won’t be the same gap on Sunday and if anything the Shamrocks have shown they have improved as the year has progressed. Their tussles with Ballycastle will have added to their confidence and character and they will come into Sunday’s decider with no fear but I think the Cuchullains will take the honours, adding to their Darragh Cup triumph earlier in the year and taking a record four minor titles in succession.
Paths to Final:
Loughgiel 5-29 St John’s 1-3
Dunloy vs St Galls w/o
Loughgiel 1-29 Ballycastle 3-21
Dunloy 2-15 Cushendall 0-7