Ulster Senior hurling – Conor McGurk Cup final
UUJ 0-19-1-19 Down
By Kevin Herron at the Dub
Down were crowned Conor McGurk Cup champions for 2019 after edging UUJ 1-19-0-19 in an exciting final at the Dub this evening.
The Mourne men appeared to be in control at the break leading 1-12-0-08 thanks to a Cormac Coulter goal inside the first ten minutes and six converted first half frees from deadly Paul Sheehan.
But UUJ refused to throw-in the towel and overturned their seven-point deficit largely thanks to the free-taking exploits of Oisin MacManus and second half doubles from James O’Connell and Conal Cunning.
When they drew level it appeared that the students might go and win the game but in the last five minutes Down regained the initiative and three unanswered points sealed a well desereved victory.
UUJ almost hit the opening goal inside the first three minutes – Kevin Rice watched on as his shot crashed off the post and Conal Cunning was denied from the follow-up.
Shea Shannon would open the scoring with a sixth minute point and James O’Connell doubled UUJ’s lead from a precise Peter McCallin assist.
Tim Prenter’s offload to Tom Murray yeielded a response for Down who hit the front on eighth minute as Cormac Coulter tried his luck from an almost impossible angle and managed to beat Ryan Elliott in the UUJ goal to make it 1-01-0-02.
James O’Connell responded instantly and by the midway point in the half UUJ were level thanks to a converted Oisin MacManus free.
Down regained the lead through successive Paul Sheehan free’s and another successful placed ball from Conor O’Prey had the Mourne men leading 1-04-0-04.
Peter McCallin hit back in what would be his sides last score for eight minutes – in that time Down hit four unanswered points to take a firm grip on proceedings.
Conor O’Prey doubled his tally for the half with a fine point that just landed over the crossbar, Cormac Coulter added to his earlier goal and two further Paul Sheehan frees moved Down six to the good (1-08-0-05).
UUJ responded just before the half hour mark from an Oisin MacManus free though Ronan Costello and Conor O’Prey replied at the other end.
The sides traded scores in the dying embers of the half – Conal Cunning and Oisin MacManus for UUJ with Paul Sheehan converting successive frees for the third time in the half as Down were in control and 1-12-0-08 ahead at the interval.
Down increased their lead after the restart through a seventh converted free of the evening from Paul Sheehan.
Oisin MacManus replied for UUJ and Shea Shannon doubled his evenings account to make it a six-point game.
The students should have found the net through substitute Conor McHugh who drew a magnificent save from Down goalkeeper Jamie Crowe.
Oisin MacManus (free) and Kevin Rice landed back to back scores in the aftermath as four successive scores meant UUJ had cut the deficit to four-points ten minutes into the second-half (1-13-0-12).
Paul Sheehan squeezed the ball inside the near post to score his first from play of the evening – though a magnificent Conal Cunning point as well as scores from James O’Connell and Donal McKernan (free) cut the margin to two-points with 13 minutes remaining.
Free-takers Sheehan and MacManus traded placed balls either side of the hour mark, Sheehan would convert his ninth placed ball of the evening by the 62nd minute only James O’Connell to pop the ball over and bring his personal tally to four and make it 1-16-0-17.
UUJ were on the up and with five minutes remaining had clawed back the seven point deficit at the break – Oisin MacManus converted his fifth free of the contest and Conal Cunning then shot over to level the scores (1-16-0-19).
Down edged ahead once more for the second time in the contest thanks to Paul Sheehan’s eleventh score of the evening and tenth from placed balls.
Midfielder PJ Davidson increased the Mourne men’s advantage and a Conor O’Prey point in the fourth minute of additional time ensured victory for his side on a score line of 1-19-0-19.
UUJ: R Elliott, A Orchin, T Burns, N Crossan, M Fisher, R McGarry, D McKernan (0-01f), C Hanna, S Shannon (0-02), K Rice (0-01), P McCallin (0-01), J O’Connell (0-04), O MacManus (0-07,0-01f), C Cunning (0-03), D Sands. Subs: C McHugh for D Sands (36 mins), L Dunphy for R McGarry (60 mins), D Cartin for J O’Connell (65 mins), P Brannigan for A Orchin (68 mins).
Down: J Crowe, M Patterson, C Taggart, M Hughes, R McCrickard, M Conlon, L Savage, T Murray (0-01), PJ Davidson (0-01), P Sheehan (0-11,0-10f), C O’Prey (0-04), C Coulter (1-01), R Costello (0-01), E Sands, T Prenter. Subs: C Coulter for T Murray (18 mins), J Murphy for C Coulter (71 mins).
Referee: Colm McDonald (Aontroim)