Under 16 Hurling League Play-Off
Ballycastle McQuillan’s 1-12 Loughgiel Shamrock’s 1-11
Report and pics by John McIlwaine
Two late points from the McClean brothers Reuben and Mark and one deep in injury time by corner forward Jack Egan gave Ballycastle victory over Loughgiel in Saturday Under 16 All County Hurling League play-off at Clougmills. When the two sides ended the league on equal points Ballycastle thought they had won the title because of the head to head against each other while Loughgiel were sure they had it on score difference. As it turned out neither were correct and the Ulster council ordered a play-off and so they two evenly matched sides were forced to go again.
Ballycastle manager Clare (Maybin) Egan took the U16 job at the start of the season when nobody else wanted it. Today she was rewarded for her brave decision when her son Jack scored the winning point in the league play-off win over Loughgiel.
In bitterly cold conditions Ballycastle started with a Fergal McKiernan point but with the breeze at their backs Loughgiel soon got on top. Full forward Rian McMullan brought Loughgiel level on nine minutes and after Enda Og McGarry put them ahead with a great score McMullan put them 0-3 to 0-1 clear with a pointed free. A beautifully taken score by Ronan McCollum on 13 minutes put three between the sides and Rian McMullan added two more inside a minute the Shamrocks were five clear by the end of the opening quarter. Seamus McAuley kept Ballycastle in touch with a point from a free on 18 minutes but McMullan stepped up to the mark again when he sent a 65 between the posts to restore the five point gap. Ballycaslte were in danger of being cut adrift but they were thrown a lifeline when the Loughgiel defence failed to deal with a long ball in around the square and Ballycastle corner forward Cormac Doherty pounced on the breaking ball to stab it over the line.
Rian McMullan came back with two more points but just before the short whistle Seamus McAuley pulled one back from a free for Ballycastle to leave just three between the sides at the break.
Seamus McAuley solos away from the Loughgiel defence to score a second half point.
With the diagonal breeze in their favour in the second half Ballycastle knew there were still very much in the game but things changed a minute into the new half when Loughgiel corner forward Christy McGarry soloed through from midfield before scooping the ball over the advancing Ballycastle goalkeeper for a brilliantly taken goal. Ballycastle were rocked back on their heels but they finally got going again when with a point from a Seamus McAuley free in the 39th minute and when Jo McToal added one from play and McAuley sent another over following a great solo run the game was up for grabs again. When McAuley added points from free in the 38th. 40th and 41st minutes Ballycastle were back on terms and the smart money was on them to push on and win, but Loughgiel hit back again and the brilliant McMullan added to two points in the 55th and 58th minutes to put themselves in a strong position.
Ronan McCollum sends over a Loughgiel point during the opening half.
With gap still at two with just a minute of normal time to play it looked the Loughgiel’s game, but two excellent points from the McClean brothers Reuben and Mark brought them level one minute into injury time. It looked set to go to extra time at this stage but the dice rolled right for Ballycastle when an attempted clearance by the Loughgiel defence was partially blocked and fell directly into the hand of corner forward Jack Egan who tapped over from close range to give his team the lead.
The drama wasn’t finished there as Loughgiel got one last chance to steal it but a goal bound shot went inches wide of the post as Ballycastle held on the for the win.
BALLYCASTLE – Tiernan Smyth, Shane Kelly, Jack Colgan, Patrick McAllister, Reuben McClean, Ronan Laverty, Eoin Boylan, Mark McClean, Jack McGowan, Caolan O’Conor, Fergal McKiernan, Seamus McAuley, Cormac Doherty, Jo McToal, Jack Egan.
LOUGHGIEL – Kevin McAuley, Tiernan McCaughan, Cathair Connolly, Ruairi McCormick, Enda Og McGarry, Conor Dickson, Dylan Devlin, Eunan Laverty, Conor O’Mullan, Conor McCormick, Damian Quinn, Christy McGarry, Rian McMullan, Ronan McCollum.
Referee – Colum Cunning
Top scorer Rian McMullan takes on the Ballycastle defence. Pics by John McIlwaine