Dunloy were pushed all the way by the Johnnies in 1990 quarter final

Today we continue our coverage of Dunloy’s breakthrough in the Senior Hurling Championship in 1989. After beating Cushendall in the opening round they young Cuchullain’s team now faced St John’s in the quarter final, agai at Fr Healy Park, Loughgiel. They were tipped by many to overcome St John’s with a bit to spare but it did not turn out that way as the Johnnies pushed them all the way. The Johnnies were the dominant team for most of the game with man of the match Collie Donnelly running the show with a personal tally of 3-5, but Dunloy grew into the game and hauled back a five point deficit at one stage in the second half to draw level late in the game, before edging through with a pointed free by Jarlath Elliott.

Collie Donnelly who scored 3-5 in his team’s defeat to Dunloy in the 1990 quarter final

Antrim Senior Hurling Champions 1990


Dunloy 2-13 St Johns 4-06

Thirteen minutes from the end of this senior hurling quarter final at Fr. Healy Park, Dunloy’s dream of glory seemed dead and buried yet again they trailed St. Johns by four points and were facing a stiff breeze. However, when the chips were down, they showed admirable character and hit back with a goal and two points. They snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and earned a semi final place against Ballycastle in August.

St. Johns on the other hand will wonder just how they let slip this game after being in a commanding position for so long. They lead by three points at half time despite facing the wind and looking very impressive. Ultimately it was the failure of their forwards (with the notable exception of Collie Donnelly) that was to prove their downfall.

Corner forward Donnelly had a superb game scoring three goals and five points. Of the other five forwards Shane Caldwell was the only one to register a score, while all six of the Dunloy forwards scored.

Dunloy were most people’s favourites before the game and despite starting without the services of Seamus and Dominic McMullan, Michael Maguire, and Niall McCamphill their hurling this season had suggested that they would still prove too strong.

But to dismiss St. Johns in championship at any grade would be a foolish mistake and the Whiterock Road men again proved when the chips are down, they can mix it with the best.

Dunloy started with the breeze and though they lead by four points after fourteen minutes there were signs that all was not well. Their full back line was finding the going tough and when Collie Donnelly pounced on an uncharacteristic mistake by Shane Elliott in nets to tap home his first goal the game took a decidedly different look.

Two quick frees put St Johns ahead and tough Gary O’Kane pointed a long range free to level matters Donnelly again edged his side ahead with a lovely point from play from an acute angle.

Gregory O’Kane temporarily restored parity with a twenty-second-minute point but within a minute Donnelly had struck goal number two to give his side a decisive edge. Sean Mullan pulled one back for Dunloy but Donnelley’s accuracy from frees again proved unwavering when he fired over in the thirteenth minute to give his side a three-point interval lead.

Just how strong the breeze was becoming obvious when St Johns goalkeeper Pat Gallagher hit his first puck-out; a massive effort which bounced on the fourteen-yard line and then then bounced wide at the Dunloy end. Yet despite this Dunloy made a promising star and within two minutes they were level when Jarlath McGrath bit home the rebound after Gallagher had saved well from Alister Elliott.

However, the Dunloy joy was short lived for within thirty seconds the Johnnie’s were back in front. A ground shot by Shane Caldwell sped through the crowded goalmouth to the back of the Dunloy net.

As the tension rose, Dunloy edged their way back in contention with points from Jarlath McGrath and Seamus Boyle to trail by just one and they then drew level again in the thirty-eighth minute with Jarlath Elliot hit over a rebound after Gallagher had saved an Alister Elliott penalty.

The see-saw nature of the game continued when Collie Donnelly out caught his marker before rifling in a superb goal to complete his hattrick. Although Jarlath Elliott pulled a point back almost immediately the city men looked to be heading for victory when Donnelly and Ronan Heenan pointed to put them four ahead with thirteen minutes left to play.

I must admit at this stage I felt that Dunloy were a beaten team, but to their credit, they never once gave up the fight and the battling qualities they showed must be admired.

Alister Elliott gave them the boost they needed ten minutes from time when he soloed through to crack home a goal. Two minutes later his brother Jarlath had the sides level for the sixth time when he slotted over from a free.

The remaining nine minutes proved heart stopping for the large crowd as both teams squandered chances. In the end a pointed free from Jarlath Elliott four minutes from time was to prove the decisive score.

Apart from an early slip Shane Elliott played well in the Dunloy goals. A smothering save from Fergal Collins in the second half was to prove invaluable in the end.

The full back line had a real nightmare though Fergal McCamphill helped things when he came on while in the first half back Sean Mullan and Sean McIlhatton hurled well.

Both midfields had their periods of domination and Tony McGrath had his best spell in the decisive last quarter of the match.

The forward department did not function just as well as in earlier games but the Elliott brothers and Jarlath McGrath all took vital scores.

Pat Gallagher played well in the St Johns goals while in defence Jimmy Darragh, Paul Collins, Micky Carlin and Brendan McGibbon showed well. Ronan Heenan had his moments at midfield while in the half forwards Locky McCurdy gave Gary O’Kane a lot of problems, especially in the first half. Collie Donnelly was a constant thorn in the Dunloy defence while Shane Caldwell also contributed well to his team’s efforts.


S Elliott, C Kelly, D Heggarty, D Quinn, S McIlhatton, G O’Kane (0-01), S Mullan (0-01), T McGrath, N Elliott, S Boyle (0-01), A Elliott (1-01), A McGilligan (0-01), J Elliott (0-05), J McGrath (1-01), G O’Kane (0-02)

S. John’s

P Gallagher, J Darragh, G Cunningham, P Morgan, P Collins, M Carlin, B McGibbon, N Peaden, R Heenan (0-01), P Nolan, L McCurdy, F Collins, C Donnelly (3-05), D Rooney, S Caldwell (1-00)

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