Dunloy 0-14 Loughgiel 1-11
Sunday October 14th
Brendan McTaggart reports from Paírc MacUílín, Ballycastle
After seven minutes of the second half, it looked like it was going to be a formality. Dunloy had just taken a five point lead for the first time in the match when Seaan Elliott showcased all his silky skills to land his fifth point of the final. The four in a row chasing Cuchullains came into the decider as favourites and although the Shamrocks were more than a match for their near neighbours in the opening half, Dunloy looked to have the edge and Elliott’s point gave them breathing space. If there’s one thing you learn though the years of watching hurling in Antrim, you can never write off The Shamrocks.
Loughgiel scored the only goal of the game in the 42nd minute when Michael McGarry danced his way through the Dunloy defence before firing to the bottom corner with an outstanding piece of skill and stick work to reignite his sides flagging championship hopes.
The final quarter of the final was a ding-dong battle with the Shamrocks pegging Dunloy back on three occasions and looking the more likely to get a decisive score to derail the Cuchullains hopes of a four-in-a-row. In the end, Odhran McMullan’s mammoth point in the third minute of injury time proved to be the last of the game and these two great rivals have to do it all over again.
The Cuchullains will look at their profligacy in front of the target when they analyse the final. They hit double the wides Loughgiel managed throughout the hour. Missed frees, chances dropped short or wrong decisions blighted their hour but the Shamrocks desire and hunger at the breakdown meant they didn’t let Dunloy settle, especially in the second half.
Following his semi-final exploits, Rian McMullan (0-5, 4 f’s) top scored for the Shamrocks with Michael McGarry (1-2) while Seaan Elliott was tormentor-in-chief for the Cuchullains. Having missed last years championship decider with a cruciate injury, Elliott went some way to easing the pain of missing out 12 months ago by landing 0-9 (4 f’s, 1 ’65) for his hours endeavours withEoin McMullan, Ryan McGarry and Aaron Crawford also impressing for the Cuchullains.
The Shamrocks introduced Cormac McFadden at half time to play on the three quarter line and his impact was game changing. If he didn’t win clean ball, he was foraging and being a constant thorn in the Cuchullains defence after the restart. Declan McCloskey and Enda Og McGarry also shone for Loughgiel with Odhran McMullan landing an impressive 0-3 from centre half through the hour.
Dunloy started the final brightly but had to wait until the fifth minute before Elliott opened the scoring, using his trademark burst of speed to gain the necessary yards to get his shot away. Loughgiel soon found their form though and through Michael McGarry, Odhran McFadden and Shane O’Boyle, they opened a two point lead by the 15th minute. All of the Shamrocks scores coming from distances as they made light of playing into whatever wind there was at Paírc MacUílín. Dunloy hadn’t settles into the final, racking up six wides in the same time but they were almost back on terms when they created the first goal scoring opportunity of the decider. Padraig McGilligan surprising everyone with a 30 yard drilled effort only for Kevin McAuley to be equal to his shot. The sliotar was parried free and although Elliott was first to the ball, his pulled effort went wide of the post.
Dunloy finally awoke from their early slumber and points from Rory Mullan (two), Elliott (two, one free) and McGilligan opened a three point lead for the Cuchullains for the first time in the final. Rian McMullan’s first free of the match stopped the rot for the Shamrocks in the 25th minute but a further brace of points from the impressive Elliott, taking his tally to five for the half, gave the Cuchullains a four point lead at the interval, 0-8 to 0-4.
Although they only played close to their potential for the last 10 minutes of the first half, the Cuchullains could have been out of sight by the short whistle having reached double figures for wides in the opening 30 minutes.
The second half started with Elliott and Rian McMullan exchanging frees before a classy score from Elliott in the 37th minute gave Dunloy a five point lead. Loughgiel response typified the resilience within this young Shamrock side though. Against Ballycastle they proved their battling qualities, and on Sunday they did it again with Michael McGarry leading the charge. First landing his second point of the match from distance before dancing his way through the Dunloy defence and smashing the sliotar to the bottom corner of Adam Mooney’s net. A piece of individual brilliance at a time when his side were flagging and gave them the shot in the arm they needed at the perfect time.
Dunloy responded with Oisin McErlean landing a point from the half way line but the Shamrocks smelt blood and went for the jugular. Odhran McMullan and Elliott swapped frees to leave two points between the sides with ten minutes remaining but the Shamrocks had all the momentum and were winning every breaking ball in midfield. A brace of frees from Rian McMullan brought the sides level for the second time of the final and with Loughgiel looking more likely to push on, the Cuchullains were facing a huge test of their character this time. Big occasions need big players and the Cuchullains have a rising star in Seaan Elliott. He split the posts with a ’65 in the last minute of normal time, only for Rian McMullan to return the favour moments later with his first white flag from open play.
With the game in injury time, Dunloy worked a quick free to substitute Eoghan McGrath and he showed nerves of steel to send the sliotar over the bar with what felt like a match winning score but Loughgiel and Odhran McMullan had the final say with the Shamrocks centre half splitting the posts for his third of the match with the last poc of the game.
An exhilarating ending to an entertaining contest. Both sides will feel they let this one slip from their grasp in a tense closing 10 minutes. When and where the final will be remains to be seen. Both sides have players involved in the Mageean Cup schools competition – maybe extra time should have been played? That’s a story for another day. For now, we get the chance to watch these two sides do battle once again with nothing decided yet.
Dunloy: Adam Mooney; Ciaran McQuillan, Aaron Crawford, Eoin McMullan; Callum Scullion, Ryan McGarry, Barry Scott; Anton McGrath, Oisin McErlean; Anthony Smyth, Ryan McFarlane, Padraig McGilligan; Sean O’Neill, Rory Mullan, Seaan Elliott.
Subs: Eoghan McGrath for S O’Neill (43); Patrick Kinsella for R McFarlane (50)
Scorers for Dunloy: Seaan Elliott 0-9 (3 f’s, 1 ’65); Rory Mullan 0-2; Oisin McErlean 0-1; Padraig McGilligan 0-1; Eoghan McGrath 0-1
Loughgiel: Kevin McAuley; Conor Henry, Declan McCloskey, Enda Og McGarry; Ciaran McKay, Odhran McMullan, Tiernan McAlonan; Shane O’Boyle, Paul Boyle; Conor Deery, Cathal Hargan, Michael McGarry; Rian McMullan, John-Francis Connolly, Odhran McGrath
Subs: Cormac McFadden for Conor Deery (35); Christy McGarry for O McGrath (52)
Scorers for Loughgiel: Rian McMullan 0-5 (4 f’s); Michael McGarry 1-2; Odhran McMullan 0-3 (2 f’s); Shane O’Boyle 0-1.
Referee: Darren McKeown (St Galls)
Pics by John McIlwaine