They didn’t make the senior debut until 1990 but during the 80s Dunloy were on the rise and in 88 they won their fifth minor title of the decade and their second in a row, but they were pushed to the limit by arch rivals Loughgiel in a thrilling final at Leyland Road, Ballycastle
Antrim Minor Hurling Championship Final 1988
Dunloy 3-13 Loughgiel 1-09
Though he was well held in the first half the class and scoring power of Dunloy star Alister Elliott shone through in the second, and in the end proved to be the difference as Dunloy captured their fifth minor title of the 80’s at the expense of old rivals Loughgiel in a great minor decider at Benmore Park, Ballycastle.
During that first half Loughgiel full back Joe Butler had put the shackles on the Dunloy scoring ace restricting him to just two points from frees, but when Elliott moved to the half forward line in the second half he revelled in his new found freedom, scoring five lovely points from play and two from placed balls as his side fought off the great hearted challenge to take their second title in a row.
But do not think that this was a one man show by Dunloy, far from it, for they had many stars in their ranks like goalkeeper Shane Elliott, full back Declan Heggarty, midfielder Alister McGilligan and corner forward Gregory O’Kane.
The Loughgiel team also had their stars like full back Joe Butler, centre half Martin McGarry, midfielder Enda McGarry and my man of the match, team captain Seamus Dobbin.
The diminutive Dobbin covered every inch of the field in his attempt to lead his team to victory and particularly in the second half he gave his marker a testing time.
The opening quarter was surprisingly tame as both teams found it hard to settle, with nerves obviously playing a big part. Nicolas McMullan opened Dunloy’s scoring after three minutes but with their danger man Alister Elliott being kept on a tight reign by Joe Butler the Dunloy forwards line lacked power and squandered several chances.
Elliott notched his first point from a free in the eleventh minute to put Dunloy 2-0 ahead but a well struck free by Enda McGarry soon afterwards brough Loughgiel to life and further points from Niall O’Hagan and Brian Gillan put the Shamrocks ahead.
Allister Elliott was again on target from a placed ball in the eighteenth minute to level scores but Loughgiel hit the front again with a well struck point off the ground by Donal Gillan. John Nolan put them two ahead with a nice point in the twenty third minute but within thirty seconds Dunloy hit back with a vengeance when centre half forward Nicholas McMullan struck a great goal off the ground to give them a lead which they were never to lose.
Gregory O’Kane put them two clear in the twenty fifth minute but Loughgiel fought back with points from Enda McGarry and Sean McIlhatton (a lovely score on the turn) to gain parity at the interval 0-07 to 1-04.
Dunloy with Alister Elliott now operating at left half forward started the new half brightly with a point from Gregory O’Kane and one from an Elliot free inside two minutes.
Elliot was now starting to make his presence felt and he increased Dunloy’s lead when he kicked over a point in the ninth minute. Straight from the puck-out team captain Gary O’Kane collected and sent a long clearance to his brother Gregory who rifled in a great goal to put the holders six up. But within sixty seconds Loughgiel responded when an Enda McGarry solo run set up his brother Brendan for a lovely point.
The pace was now fast and furious as Elliott restored Dunloy’s six-point advantage from a free but Enda McGarry (who was now playing some inspired hurling despite a bad hand injury) brought it back to five again within a minute.
With McGarry and Dobbin in tremendous form Loughgiel had a great spell of pressure but they missed several chances as a solid Dunloy defence held out. They did however make the breakthrough in the nineteenth minute when corner forward Niall O’Hagan took advantage of a rare defensive mix up to hand pass a goal past the advancing Shane Elliott to cut their arrears to just two points.
It looked anyone’s game at this stage as Dunloy struggled to contain their challengers but just when the crown seemed to be slipping Elliot’s class shown through.
Between the twenty fifth and twenty ninth minutes he slotted over four great points to kill off the Loughgiel challenge and just to put the icing on the cake for the champions Sean Stewart slammed in a goal in injury time following a goal mouth melee to leave them winners by nine points.
Apart from those already mentioned Dunloy had good players in Damien McKee, Gary O’Kane, Nicholas McMullan and Sean Stewart. Loughgiel’s other stars were Paul Carey, John Nolan, Niall O’Hagan and Brendan McGarry.
S Elliott, D McKee, D Heggarty, G Cunning, A McIlhatton, G O’Kane, M Gillan, A McGilligan, M Maguire, S Stewart (1-00), N McMullan (1-01), P Traynor, G O’Kane (1-03), A Elliott (0-09), C Reilly Subs – P Molloy
P Carey, P McMullan, J Butler, M McNaughton, S Connelly, M McGarry, P Dillon, J Nolan, E McGarry (0-03), B Gillan (0-01), S Dobbin, B McGarry, S McIlhatton (0-01), D Gillan (0-01), N O’Hagan (1-01) subs – P McGarry, P McGarry
Ref – Tom Donnelly (Gael Uladh)