Shamrocks retained their U21 title in 1997

The 1997 Under 21 Hurling final was played in Fr Healy Park, Loughgiel, the teams having tossed the previous year when they also met in the final. Dunloy won the toss for that one, but lost the game, and so it was the Shamrocks turn to host the decider. On a damp and dull day, wiht the pitch cutting up more and more as the game went on, a wasteful Dunloy side only led by two at half time after having played with a strong breeze. It was a tough hard game, which ended in a bit of a brawl, but Loughgiel were deserving winners. (thanks to Kieran O’Connell for the match report)

Kevin ‘Swevy’ McGarry breaks through to score a spectacular late goal during the 1997 U21 final in Loughgiel

This is how the Ballymena Guardian reported the game.

1997 U21 Hurling Championship final


Loughgiel Shamrocks 2-8 Dunloy Cuchullains 0-7

Loughgiel Shamrocks retained their Under 21 Hurling title in fine fashion, beating great rival Dunloy in a game that didn’t really see them get into full flight until the closing stages.

This always looked like being a close run thing and so it turned out. Dunloy headed the champions at the half way stage but once Aidan McCloskey levelled matters in the early stages of the second half it was clear that the trophy would remain in Loughgiel hands. Slippery underfoot conditions made it difficult for both sides, but Dunloy have no excuses for failing to convert the chances which came their way in the first half. With the strong wind at their back they missed the target nine times, scores which would have given them a comfortable half-time lead.

Thomas McGilligan breaks through the Loughgiel defence

As it turned out they were only two to the good, leading by 0-5 to 0-3. Seamus McClements had given them the start they had hoped for when he pointed in the opening minute, but Aidan McCloskey had Loughgiel level when he pointed a free at the other end six minutes later. Liam Richmond added points in the ninth and sixteenth minutes to put Dunloy back on top, but Aidan McCloskey was always going to be a threat. He pointed again from a free in the 25th minute to cut the Dunloy lead to just one, after a period of time when neither team looked capable of finding the target. Three minutes later Emmet McFadden brought Loughgiel level with a good point from play, but after not scoring for almost twenty minutes Dunloy struck twice before the break through Liam Richmond and Thomas McGilligan to lead by 0-5 to 0-3 at the break.

Benny McGarry played well in the Dunloy goals

Dunloy must have known even at this stage they had blown it, with a stiff wind to face and a Loughgiel midfield pair who were always on top and soon they were to see just how fragile their slender lead was. Mark Traynor pointed for Loughgiel in the fifth minute and when Aidan McNaughton added a point from a 65 the Shamrock were back on terms with just four second half minutes gone. A goal two minutes later, which appeared to be the work of Steven McGarry, put the champions in front and they were never to look back.  

Despite Seamus McClements getting a Dunloy point in the seventh minute Emmet McFadden and Aidan McCloskey got points for Loughgiel to make it 1-7 to 0-6 by the 41st minute. Liam Richmond, by far Dunloy’s most effective forward, had his side’s final point at the end of the third quarter, at which stage the champions took off.

McCloskey added his fifth point of the game in the 47th minute for a 1-8 to 0-7 lead, and while the y did labour somewhat for a spell, they ended on a high note when Brendan McGarry soloed through for a brilliant individual goal.

Aidan McNaughton’s faultless free taking was a major factor in Loughgiel’s win

Loughgiel were the much better balanced side and were strong in all departments. In defence Joey Quinn, Karl Casey and Paul Gillan shone, while Kevin McGarry and his partner Emmet McFadden had much the better of things in midfield. Of the forwards Mark Traynor and Steven McGarry were most effective while Aidan McCloskey’s free taking was top drawer.

Dunloy’s strength lay at the back. Benny McGarry in goals contained the dangerous Shamrocks attack, while Damian McMullan, Martin Currie, Conor Cunning and Mark Brogan worked tirelessly to contain the Loughgiel attack. Justin Magee and Michael McClements never threw in the towel at midfield but were always up against it, while Liam Richmond was the only forward to test the Loughgiel defence.

Liam Richmond was the pick of the Dunloy forwards

Loughgiel scorers – Aidan McCloskey 0-5; Steven McGarry 1-0; Kevin McGarry 1-0; Emmet McFadden 0-2; Mark Traynor 0-1.

Dunloy scorers – Liam Richmond 0-4; Thomas McGilligan 0-1, Michael McClements 0-1, Seamus McClements 0-1

LOUGHGIEL – DD Quinn, Jerome McKendry, Joey Quinn, Karl Casey, Shane O’Connell, Paul Gillan, Seamus McMillan, Kevin McGarry, Emmet McFadden, Mark Traynor, Steven McGarry, Ciaran Connolly, Kieran O’Connell, Aidan McCloskey, Liam McMullan.

DUNLOY – Benny McCarry, Damien McMullan, Cormac Cunning, Paul McLean, Martin Curry, Conor Cunning, Ryan Brogan, Justin Magee, Michael McClements, John Paul McQuillan, Liam Richmond, Seamus McClements, Thomas McGilligan, Ciaran McGrath, Paddy Richmond.

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