Thirty years ago Dunloy hurlers made the long awaited breakthrough when they beat Rossa in a replay at Casement Park to claim the club’s first Senior Hurling title
Antrim Senior Hurling Championship final 1990
Dunloy Cuchullian’s 2-10 O’Donovan Rossa 1-10
What is seldom, is wonderful and surely it is wonderful to record that Dunloy’s long quest for a senior hurling championship has final been recorded.
Eighty-two years they have striven since their foundation in 1908. Five times they have tasted defeat in the final at the final hurdle but on Sunday last at Casement Park, Belfast, all of those years of frustration were finally washed away when their young team swept to victory over O’Donovan Rossa in superb fashion to win the Volunteer Cup for the very first time.
Scenes of jubilation
The scenes at the final whistle when their huge crowd of supporters came onto the field to greet their heroes were the greatest, I have witnessed in my years of covering our games. Grown men who had seen their hopes dashed so often in the past, wept unashamedly with joy as players and team selectors were carried shoulder high by ecstatic fans.
Forty minutes after the final whistle had sounded, the celebrations were still ongoing on and around the pitch. It was great and joyous occasion and one that will live long in the memory.
The game itself was a real thriller and for that Rossa must take great credit. They gave their all in their quest to secure the Volunteer Cup but, in the end, they had to yield to the great fighting spirit of a younger and fitter team, who simply would not settle for second best.
Just as in the drawn match 2 weeks ago, the final minutes were heart-stopping, as one team, then the other, gained the upper hand. Eight minutes from time, Dunloy looked good as they opened a two-point lead nut they were rocked back on their heels one minute later when Rossa full forward Jim Reilly goaled to give his team the lead.
However, this young Cuchulainn team once again displayed the spirit which has been the hallmark of their play throughout this championship run and back, they came with an Alister Elliott goal and Tony McGrath point to record a historic win.
Rossa wind assisted
Dunloy faced the fresh breeze in the first half and though Alister Elliott gave them the lead with a point in the 3rd minute Rossa began to make the wind advantage tell.
Ciaran Barr, who had a tremendous game, opened their scoring with a point from thirty yard and three minutes later Jim Reilly shot them ahead with a close-range point. Noel Murray converted a free in the 12th minute , Ciaran Barr hit one from thirty five years two minutes later and straight from the puck out Barr set up Noel Murray for a point to leave it 0-01 to 0-03 at the end of the opening quarter.
The pace was now hotting up and straight from Dominic McMullan’s puck out the ball broke to Michael Maguire who reduced Dunloy’s deficit with a well taken point on the run.
Goal not allowed
Less than a minute later Alister Elliott rattled a superb drive to the net but the referee John Gough had already blown for a free which Allister’s brother Jarlath duly converted. Jarlath was again on target to bring Dunloy within a point of Rossa, but the city men responded swiftly, and another typical Ciaran Barr catch set up Jim Close for a fine point.
A tremendous overhead strike by Donal Armstrong and a point from a free by Noel Murray restored Rossa’s four-point advantage with just three minutes left in the half.
Dunloy’s hopes received a tremendous boost before the interval when Alister Elliott drove low to the Rossa net after good work by Gregory O’Kane to leave just a single point in it at the short whistle.
TIT FOR TAT
Just twenty seconds after the restart Alister Elliott again eluded the Rossa defence to fire over the equaliser and the scene was set for a great second half. Ciaran Barr was fouled going through and Noel Murray pointed he resultant free to restore Rossa’s lead but Dunloy’s captain Seamus McMullan brough his side back on terms when he pointed a ’65 in the 38th minute.
Two minutes later Jarlath Elliott dispossessed Rossa’s second half sub Adrian Murray, before sending Seamus Boyle away for a well taken point. Collie Murphy restored parity when he sent over from about fifty yards.
Dunloy regained the lead ten minutes from time when Seamus McMullan converted a mighty free from beyond midfield and Jarlath Elliott put them two clear after his brother Alister had been fouled.
Just when it seemed as if Dunloy were gaining an advantage Rossa hit back in style when Jim Reilly rifled the ball to the back of the Dunloy net to give his team the lead.
For a few minutes it appeared that Dunloy’s hopes were fading as a couple of chances to level matters slipped away. First Jarlath Elliott fumbled the lift and the ball came off his foot and Tony McGrath shot wide when well-placed thirty-five yards out.
The score which gave Dunloy back the lead, and ultimately the title, was one worthy of winning any championship. As Rossa defenders struggled to clear a loose ball about twenty yards out, Dunloy’s 19-year-old right half forward Alister Elliott struck a tremendous ground shot which rocketed the Rossa net.
Collie Murphy had a chance to pull one back for Rossa in the final minute but he completely miss hit a twenty metre free and hero of the drawn game, Tony McGrath, made things safe for his team when he sent over a lovely injury time point from out near midfield to secure a historic victory.
SHANE THE HERO
When Dunloy look back on this historic win, one man who will surely rank high in the honours list is their little great goalkeeper Shane Elliott. On Sunday last he again guarded the goals with great distinction ad one tremendous save he made from a kicked effort by Donal Armstrong was to prove vital.
Right back Brian Og Cunning had his best game in the green jersey; full back Dominic McMullan was safe and disciplined and in the left corner Sean McIlhatton had another fine game.
The wing half backs of Seamus McMullan and Sean Mullan blocked out their opposite number and, while Ciaran Barr did a lot of damage, Gary O’Kane at centre back had some great spells.
TONY ON TOP
Tony McGrath was the midfield hero and while his midfield partner Nigel Elliott could not reproduce the form of the drawn game, he tried hard, nevertheless.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Man of the match Alister Elliott’s contribution of 2-02 speaks for itself and though his three-quarter line partners Seamus Boyle and Michael Maguire weren’t as effective, they still hit very important points each.
In the full forward line, Gregory O’Kane and Jarlath McGrath worked hard while full forward Jarlath Elliott again shown some nice touched and took his frees well.
Paddy Quinn could not be faulted for the Dunloy goals while the full back line of Sean Murphy, Chris Condon & Mark Barr coped well.
Gerard Rogan had a great game at centre half back as did his brother Paddy on the left.
Gavin Kennedy played very well at midfield and went through a mountain of work. Ciaran Barr played superbly on the 40 and ran Alister Elliott very close for the main of the match award but he was too often left to fight a lone battle with only full forward Jim Reilly really giving consistent support.
Shane Elliott, Brian Og Cunning, Dominic McMullan, Sean McIlhatton, Seamus McMullan (captain), Gary O’Kane, Sean Mullan, Tony McGrath, Nigel Elliott, Michael Maguire, Seamus Boyle, Alister Elliott, Gregory O’Kane, Jarlath Elliott, Jarlath McGrath