ACHL Division 1
Cushendall 1-8 Loughgiel 0-19
Sunday March 24
Brendan McTaggart reports from Páirc Naomh Mhuire, Cushendall
Loughgiel coasted to victory on the opening weekend of the club hurling season with eight points to spare over Cushendall. In cold, wet and windy conditions that suited nor favoured anyone, it was James McNaughton who shone for the Shamrock. The Loughgiel star forward finished the match with an astonishing 0-16 to his name, raising five white flags from open play in a peerless performance.
Cushendall held a slender lead at half time with their 27th minute major giving them the advantage but Loughgiel and McNaughton were a different animal after the restart. Sharper to the ball all over the field, the Shamrocks were worthy of their eight point win after a near faultless second half performance to get the reign of new manager Hugh McCann of to a flying start.
Having come off the back of a long winter training for their All-Ireland campaign, a match against their rivals and the side they beat in the championship final five months ago was never going to be an easy task for the Ruairi’s. They played well in the first half and showed glimpses of the form that took the Volunteer Cup back to Cushendall but as the match progressed, Loughgiel looked a fresher side and were more clinical when it counted.
The Shamrocks held a three point lead as early as the ninth minute with McNaughton (three) and the lively Shan McGrath splitting the uprights, Fergus McNaughton’s third minute effort all the home side had to show for their efforts in the opening exchanges.
A mammoth free from Eoghan Campbell and a typical score from Ryan McCambridge got Cushendall firing and while both defences were largely on top, both saw goal chances come and go. Shan McGrath setting up Declan Laverty with a deft touch, only for the Loughgiel man to fluff his lines when through on goal, while Fergus McCambridge and Alex Delargy were denied by Chrissy O’Connell, the Loughgiel shot stopper showing great reflexes to deny the Ruairi’s.
The goal when it came had a hint of fortune with Fergus McCambridge playing the sliotar across the Loughgiel goal mouth only for O’Connell to parry the ball over the line. The Shamrock’s ‘keeper had to deal with the ball, the Ruairi’s had men over with the goal at their mercy but the goal gave Cushendall the lead for the first time and one they would hold onto until half time.
Cushendall 1-5 Loughgiel 0-7
The second half belonged to the Shamrocks and James McNaughton in particular. He would land 11 of his sides 12 points after the interval in a top display of attacking movement, guile and unerring accuracy from placed ball.
Cushendall scored their first point after the half time break in the 36th minute with Neil McManus landing his first free of the contest but that would be the Ruairi’s last score for ten minutes with the Shamrocks raising five white flags in the same time.
Two McManus points (one free) by the 50th minute brought Cushendall to within two points of Loughgiel but the Shamrocks finished the match on top. Indeed McManus’ fourth point of the match would be the Ruairi’s last score of the match as Loughgiel coasted to victory.
Four further McNaughton points (three frees) and Eddie McCloskey’s first of the match opened an unassailable lead for the Shamrocks before McNaughton fittingly had the last say of the contest when he split the uprights with his 11th free of the hour.
There will be better to come from both sides but it’s a winning start to the 2019 season for the Shamrocks who travel to Portaferry for their next match on April 7th while Cushendall travel up the coast for to Páirc MacÚilin to play Ballycastle on the same day.
Cushendall: Eoin Gillan; David Kearney, Arron Graffin, Francis McCurry; Eoghan Campbell, Paddy Burke, Stephen Walsh; Aiden McNaughton, Ryan McCambridge; Paddy McGill, Fergus McCambridge, Cormac McClafferty; Alex Delargy, Neil McManus, Niall McCormick.
Subs: Scott Walsh for R McCambridge (49); Ed McQuillan for A McNaughton (53)
Scorers: Neil McManus 0-4 (2 f’s); Fergus McCambridge 1-1; Cormac McClafferty 0-1; Ryan McCambridge 0-1; Eoghan Campbell 0-1 (1 f).
Loughgiel: Chrissy O’Connell; Declan McCloskey, Tony McCloskey, Odhran McFadden; Declan Gillen, Damon McMullan, Cathal McMullan; Tiernan Coyle, Mark McFadden; Seamus Dobbin, Declan Laverty, James McNaughton; Dan McCloskey, Eddie McCloskey, Shan McGrath.
Subs: Donal McKinley for D Gillen (39); Shay Casey for D Laverty (54); Cormac McFadden for M McFadden (60); Ryan McKee for S McGrath (60).
Scorers: James McNaughton 0-16 (11 f’s); Dan McCloskey 0-1; Eddie McCloskey 0-1; Shan McGrath 0-1
Referee: Mark O’Neill (Glenrovers, Armoy)
Pics by Sean Paul McKillop