Cuchullains are minor football champions

Dunloy 1-17 St Galls 1-8

Sunday 21st October

Brendan McTaggart reports from Fr McGuigan Park, Ahoghill

Before a ball was thrown in on Sunday afternoon at a packed Fr McGuigan Park, this one was supposed to be too hard to call.  Both the Cuchullains and St Galls had upset the odds reaching the decider and both sides had shown all the qualities required to be county champions.  The Dunloy men put in their best performance of the year though to take the crown for the second time in three years with nine points to spare and put to bed the ghost of 2006 when these two side’s were last due to play in the minor final.

On that occasion, the Milltown Row men took the crown but the Cuchullains didn’t show for the final.  A bizarre set of circumstances surrounding the contest but on Sunday, Dunloy put in a hugely impressive and polished performance, dominating from start to finish.  Apart from a ten minute period at the start of the second half when St Galls began to look like the team who had upset the form book by defeating Aghagallon in the last four but once they had weathered the storm, Dunloy controlled the game and cantered to claim minor glory.

The Cuchullains goal came at the perfect time for the north Antrim men.  Man of the match Callum Scullion bagging the major in the third minute to settle the Cuchullains early and putting St Galls on the back foot.  The Dunloy men were able to build momentum and after a breath-taking opening 30 minutes, they held a ten point lead at the short whistle.

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St Galls started the second half brightly and with more urgency.  Early scores and intense pressure kept Dunloy under the cosh but the Cuchullains were more resourceful when they needed to be.  Their ability to play the ball out of defence, make use of the spaces and with a clinical ruthlessness they began to pick apart St Galls.

Dunloy were reduced to 14 men when substitute Daire Crawley was sent off for an off the ball incident in the 57th minute but the Cuchullains had a big enough lead built by that stage to see out the remaining time with comfort.  The Milltown Row men bagged their major in the last minute of normal time, Lorcan McIlroy with a stylish finish but it did little to affect the outcome.  Dunloy were worthy and convincing winners by the end of the hour.

St Galls opened the scoring in the final after barely 30 second.  Niall Burns splitting the posts to give the west Belfast side the perfect start.  They were unable to capitalise and build any momentum though as the Cuchullains dominated.  Their first score of the game came via Scullion’s goal – capitalising on an error from Louis McCormick, intercepting a stray pass before firing home from 30 yards in the third minute.  Anthony Smyth and Marc McKenna swapped scores by the seventh minute but that was the last score St Galls would manage for 18 minutes.  In the same period, the Cuchullains began to turn the screw and scored six points to open an eight point lead.  Eoghan McGrath, Scullion, Dathai McGuigan, Seaan Elliott (two) and Eoin McMullan landing the scores.

St Galls looked threatening on the counter with Niall Burns and Paul McLaughlin keeping the Dunloy defence on their toes with their direct running but the Cuchullains produced turn over after turn over to increase their confidence and deflate the St Galls challenge.  Paddy Kinsella and Aaron Crawford instrumental while Anton McGrath and Ciaran McQuillan were providing an extra option in attack.

Substitute Conor Maxwell stopped the rot for St Galls when he sent over a left footed free in the 25th minute but Dunloy finished the half on top.  Scullion’s second point of the half along with points from Elliott and Smyth was answered by a Burns free for St Galls before Eliott had the last say of the half with his third free of four points in the opening 30 minutes to give Dunloy a 1-11 to 0-4 half time lead.

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Dunloy looked sharper all over the pitch.  They were more efficient in possession and clinical when it mattered.  10 points was a big advantage, even with the wind and if St Galls were going to get back into the Final they were going to need a fast start and a perfect performance in the second half.

The west Belfast side certainly looked more energetic after the restart but a brace of missed frees from Maxwell didn’t help their cause.  They did manage the first two scores of the half with Maxwell (free) and McLaughlin rekindling their feint championship hopes but Dunloy began to weather the St Galls storm.  A run of four unanswered points reasserted their control, Smyth with his third and fourth of the match either side of scores from Oisin McErlane and Scullion raising white flags to give Dunloy a commanding 12 point lead midway through the second half.

Substitute Lorcan O’Ciarain and Maxwell (free) landed points for St Galls to keep the score board ticking but the Cuchullains were in complete control.  They had begun to unload their bench to give members of their panel the experience of the final with Daire Crawley drilling over in the 55th minute when he had the goal at his mercy.  It was Crawley’s last piece of action though as referee Cathal McDermot cut his cameo short by giving him a red card moments after his point.

Seaan Elliott scored his fifth point of the match with a superb strike using the outside of his boot to open a 12 point lead once again for the Cuchullains and while St Galls had the final say with McIlroy bagging a major in the 59th minute, it did little to take the gloss off the score line for the Cuchullains.  They now turn their attention to the possibility of a minor football and hurling double with the replay against Loughiel taking place this Sunday and another tilt at the St Pauls Ulster minor tournament later in the year.

Dunloy: Padraig McGilligan; Oisin McErlane, Paddy Kinsella, Cathair McCloskey; Anton McGrath, Aaron Crawford, Ciaran Crawford; Callum Scullion, Ryan McFarlane; Daithai McGuigan, Rory Mullan, Eoin McMullan; Eoghan McGrath, Anthony Smith, Seaan Elliott.

Subs: Daire Crawley for D McGuigan (48); Conal Kelly for E McMullan (56); John Dixon for R Mullan (58); DJ McKendry for E McGrath (60)

Yellow Cards: P Kinsella (34); A Smyth (36)

Red Cards: D Crawley (60)

Scorers: C Scullion 1-3; S Elliott 0-5 (3 f’s); A Smyth 0-4 (2 f’s); O McErlane 0-1; D McGuigan 0-1; E McMullan 0-1; E McGrath 0-1; D Crawley 0-1

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St Galls: Louis McCormick; Connla Maguire, Ronan Gilligan, Oisin Crawford; Conor Ryan, Conall Murray, Matthew McCaffrey; Lewis McGarvey, Kian Cruickshank; Oran McIlhatton, Lorcan McIlroy, Paul McLaughlin; Odhran McDonald, Marc McKenna, Niall Burns.

Subs: Conor Maxwell for C Maguire (19); Lorcan O’Ciarain for K Cruickshank (HT); Conall McCabe for P McLaughlin (47); Eoin Burke for M McCaffrey (48); Dara Delaney for O McDonald (55); Conor Breen for N Burns (60).

Yellow Cards: C Murray (24); M McKenna (60)

Red Cards: None

Scorers: C Maxwell 0-3 (3 f’s); L McIlroy 1-00; N Burns 0-2 (1f); P McLaughlin 0-1; M McKenna 0-1; L O’Ciarain 0-1

Referee: Cathal McDermot (Tír na nÓg)

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County chairman, Collie Donnelly presents the MFC cup to Dunloy captain Aaron Crawford.

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