Antrim Hurling League Division 2
Naomh Eanna 3-23 Eoghan Ruadh Dungannon 1-17
John McIlwaine reports from Hightown
Naomh Eanna clinched the Division 2 Hurling League title on Tuesday evening at Hightown when they beat visitors Dungannon Eoghan Ruadh in the final game of the campaign. Twelve points separated the side in the end, which would suggest an easy victory, and though it was convincing in the end for long periods the Tyrone men matched their hosts and certainly made them work for their win. Three early goals were the scores that really won it in the end for the Glengormley men, all three of them coming in the first ten minutes, two from Killian Jennings and one from Dermot Maguire after Eoghan Ruadh had got off to a flyer. That gave them a bit of breathing space but when Lorcan Devlin came back with a goal for the visitors in the twelfth minute they were very much back in the game, trading score for score with the home team and it took a late scoring flurry from Naomh Eanna to give themselves a six point cushion at half time.
The third quarter of the game saw the Tyrone men remain competitive but there was no let-up with Naomh Eanna and they really got on top in the final quarter when they hit eight points without reply to seal the win and seal the league title.
After the game team manager Terence Sambo McNaughton, who just took over at the start of the season, spoke of his satisfaction on achieving what he feels is the first goal for the team. The Ruairi Og and Antrim legend felt the team had gradually improved as the season went on and that he felt it took a bit of time to get his way of thinking through to some of the players. “Look there was good players here before I came and this club has done great work for hurling over the years. I just tried to get them to approach it in a more professional way and show a bit more commitment.” When I put it to him about how much they had improved since their heavy defeat to fellow contenders Sarsfields at the Bear Pit early in the season he replied “You would need to have been here every evening in the past few months just to see how much that improvement has been. If I was to describe it in my terms I felt they treated hurling in the same way I treat playing golf, a bit of fun without taking it too serious. I tried to get it through to them that it had to be treated a lot more seriously and to be fair they took that on board. I told them that if they were really serious about this they would have to commit to the team, to the club and to the man beside you on the pitch and they have done that to be fair”
Looking forward to Saturday Intermediate Championship opener McNaughton was at pains to point out that winning the league will have no bearing on what is ahead. “I just stressed to the player there that we have to park tonight’s win here and that Saturday will be a different game altogether. Cloney Gaels part nobody soft and it will be a major task to get past them on Saturday.”
VISITORS START WELL
Dungannon got away to a flying start on Wednesday evening and had three points on the board inside three minutes, two from sharpshooter Damian Casey and one from Lorcan Devlin. Edward O’Connor opened the Naomh Eanna account with a sweetly struck point from sixty meters in the fourth minute and they took the lead seconds later when centre forward Manus Mullan put corner forward Killian Jennings in for the opening goal. Casey replied with a point for Eoghan Ruadh but goal number two came soon afterwards, Jennings again hitting the target, and the third soon followed when the other corner man Dermot Maguire broke through to finish in style.
At this stage you felt that the home team were going to pull away but that was far from the case as points from Casey and Mulgrew were followed by a Lorcan Devlin goal on twelve minutes which brought the deficit down to a single point. The next fifteen minutes saw the teams trade score for score as Casey hit a few beauties for Dungannon and Ruairi Donaghy, John McGoldrick, Manus Mullan and Killian Jennings replied for the home side. Naomh Eanna had edged four in front by the 25th minute when Casey sent over a free from inside his own half to cut the gap to three, but Naomh Eanna finished strongly and points from Cormac Ross, Killian Jennings and Ryan Bogue gave them a six point cushion at the break.
During the third quarter the gap remained around the six point mark with Dungannon getting it back to five occasionally and the home team stretching it out to seven at times, but you felt if the Tyrone men could get a goal they were still very much in the game. When Casey hit a superb point on the run in the 45th minute the gap was back to five again, but that was to be the visitors last score as Naomh Eanna hit their stride in the final quarter, hitting eight on the trot, some of them right out of the top drawer, to seal the league title in style.
NAOMH EANNA: Philly Curran, Niall O’Connor, Rian Gillan, Ruairi Diamond, Cormac Ross, Mark Donaghy, Joe Maskey, Ryan Bogue, Ruairi Donaghy, Jason Higgins, Manus Mullan, Edward O’Connor, Dermot Magurie, John McGoldrick, Killian Jennings
Subs – Brendan Cormican, Patrick Ross
EOGHAN RUADH: Ciaran McCrudden, Shaun Donaghy, Stephen Donnelly, Padraig Mallon, Padraig McHugh Mark Winters, Jos Ferguson, Mark Devlin, Lorcan Devlin, Damian Casey, Ben Gormley, Cathal McErlean, Matthew Mulgrew, Piaras McErlean, Duibhir Marshall.
Referee – Darren McKeown (Naomh Gall).