Antrim Hurling League Division 1
Ballycastle 1-17 Ballycran 2-11
By John McIlwaine
A man of the match display by centre half forward Ciaran Clarke which yielded a goal and fourteen points steered Ballycastle to victory over Ballycran in Sunday’s Antrim Hurling League Division 1 at Pairc MacUilin. In a game played in atrocious conditions, heavy rain and driving wind, Clarke gave a display of accuracy from frees and play that proved the difference in the end. Ballycastle won the toss and decided to face the elements in the first half and when they turned around with a one point advantage they were favourites to push on to win with a bit to spare. However the Down men fared much better in the third quarter and when Niall Breen got a goal and a point in the opening three minutes of the second half they were a goal clear. Clarke then had a massive slice of luck when he dropped a 65 into the Ballycran ‘square’ and the ball skidded off the hand of the visitors goalkeeper and ended up in the net. Clarke took advantage to add a series of good points and though Ballycran drew level again with a Christoher Egan goal three more Clarke points saw the Town home for a victory that all but guarantees them Division 1 hurling next season.
Clarke had two points on the board in the first three minutes, both from frees but Christopher Egan had Ballycran level by the fifth, one from play and the other from a free. It was score for score during the next fifteen minutes as Clarke and Scott Nicholson had a bit of a shootout but the men from the Ards appeared to be getting on top when Nicholson (2) and Michael Ennis added points to go a point ahead on 26 minutes. The lead was short lived however as Clarke added two more before the break to give his team a 0-9 to 0-8 lead.
Niall Breen’s two early second half scores pulled Ballycran a goal clear within three minutes of the restart before Clarke’s slice of luck brought him a goal from a 65 and bring his team level. A point from Cormac McAlister edged Ballycran back ahead but one from Dairmuid McShane and three from Clarke gave the home team a three point lead by the three quarter stage. A Christopher Egan goal got Ballycran back into the game but Ballycastle finished strong and Clarke picked off the points to give his team a three point cushion going into injury time. Ballycran had a chance to draw level with the last puck of the game when they were awarded a twenty metre free but ‘Charlie’ McGarry in the Castle goals was equal to Conor Dorrian’s shot and Francis Traynor sounded the final whistle as McGarry cleared.
BALLYCASTLE: Ryan McGarry, Sean Kelly, Matthew Donnelly, Oran Kearney, James McLister, TT Butler, Conor Boyd, Shane McCarry, KB McShane, Ciaran Butler, Ciaran Clarke, Dairmuid McShane, Oisin McAuley, Owen Kinney, Saul McCaughan.
BALLYCRAN: Declan Ennis, Michael Hughes, Padraig Flynn, Padraig Gilmore, Patrick Hughes, Thomas McManus, Brett Nicholson, Scott Nicholson, Brendan Ennis, James Coyle, Michael Ennis, Niall Breen, Rory Brown, Cormac McAlister, Colum McManus.
Referee – Francis Traynor (Loughgiel)