Ulster Club Junior Hurling Championship final preveiw
Cushendun’s opponents Castleblayney have a proven track record in the Ulster Club championship, winning the Junior titles in 2005 when they beat Strabane Shamrocks and in 2014 when they accounted for Derry champions Na Magha. That most recent win in 2014 saw them beat Antrim champions Glenravel in the semi-final in O’Neill Park Dungannon. The also reached the final of the Intermediate championship in 2011 when they were well beaten by local rivals Middletown of Armagh. They are a well organised hurling club who have been the dominant force in Monaghan hurling over they years. They have won 15 of the 19 finals played this century and after failing to reach the final in 2016 they bounced back to win the last two convincingly, beating new boys Inniskeen Grattans on both occasions.
Castleblayney started their Ulster club campaign with a convincing win over Donegal champions Burt in Letterkenny. Playing with the aid of a strong breeze in the opening half ‘Blayney laid down a marker early on and two goals from Hugh Byrne helped them to a 2-5 to 0-4 lead at the break. After the break Burt hit back with four unanswered points and were back in contention and it liked it was going to be level when a Burt players got through one-on-one with Blayney goalkeeper Paddy Collins. However Collins proved to be the hero of the day as he pulled off a terrific save and when the ball was cleared upfield Hugh Byrne grabbled a point at the other end to ease the pressure. Buoyed by this let-off the Monaghan side controlled the rest of the game as they added a further eight points, and though Burt did manager three second half goals, Blayney always had the edge as they held out for a six point win. 2-14 to 3-7
In their semi-final win over Down champions Clonduff the Monaghan men were made to work hard for their victory and after conceding 2-2 in the early stages it looked like an uphill battle. However with team captain Peter Trainor taking control of the game with a few great runs through the middle ‘Blayney battled back to go in level at the break on 0-9 to 2-3. A goal early in the second half from Ferghal Rafter gave ‘Blayney the edge and they pushed on to open up a six point gap, and when Clonduff were reduced to fourteen men it all looked like plain sailing. However Clonduff fought back and a goal brought the Down men back into contention with just five minutes to go, but the Monaghan champions shut up shop and comfortably held out to book their place in Sunday’s final on a 2-14 to 3-6 scoreline.