O’Connell points Cloney to victory

Andersonstown SC IHC Group 3

Cloney Gaels 1-17 Glenariffe 0-14

James O’Connell gave a masterful display of point taking, both from play and from the placed ball, to lead Cloney Gaels to a deserved first round victory over visitors, Oisin Glenariffe in Ahoghill today.

In a game of real championship hurling the home side’s ability to win more of the dirty ball was instrumental in their win in the end. The sides were level at the half way mark and it looked anybody’s game at that stage but the home side stepped it up a gear on the restart.

A Donal Graham goal, 8 minutes into the second half was the turning point and it came just after Alex O’Boyle had given the visitors the lead for just the second time in the game and it was a score that Glenariffe never really recovered from.

The Cloney side pushed on with some excellent scores from James O’Connell but the best score of the game came from his brother, P.J. who sent a side-line cut between the uprights from 40 yards out.

It was visitors Oisins who gave the visitors the better start with Paul McDonnell hitting a couple of early points and when Alex O’Boyle added a third from a ‘65’ it was looking good for the North Antrim men.

Slowly Cloney Gaels settled however and a couple of pointed frees from James O’Connell and points from Owen Neeson and PJ O’Connel saw them take the lead with 11 minutes gone. James O’Connell then added a great point from play to put his side two in front and they appeared to be taking control.

Youngster, Michael O’Boyle for Glenariffe and James O’Connell for the Ahoghill side exchanged further points and as play swung from end to end, further points from O’Connell and Diarmaid Graham for the home side and one from Alex O’Boyle for the visitors left it 0-7 to 0-5 for the Gales at the first water break.

On the restart Alex O’Boyle pointed a couple of frees to bring matters all square before James O’Connell replied from another free for the Ahoghill side but a massive point from Niall Murray tied the game for the third time with 27 minutes gone.

Both sides were battling for every ball with Dan O’Neill and the superb James O’Connell for Cloney Gaels and Michael and Alex O’Boyle for the visitors exchanged further points to leave the half time score 0-10 to 0-10.

Oisins made two changes for the second half with Oliver Kearney coming on for Paul McDonnell and Conor Kerr replacing Dan McKillop. There had been little between the sides in the first half and when Alex O’Boyle pointed the visitors in front in the 5th minute they must have fancied their chances.

Three minutes later the home side replied with the game’s only goal. A slick move opened up the Glenariffe defence with Seanan McToal stopping O’Connell’s initial effort but Donal Graham followed up to bury it in the net.

Owen Neeson followed with a point and suddenly Cloney were winning the personal battles all over the field and Diarmaid Graham followed with another to put his side five clear by the 13th minute and the visitors were badly in need of a response.

Niall Murray tried to get his side going with a fine long range point and Michael O’Boyle struck an excellent effort between the posts to leave three in it at the second water break and it still looked anybody’s game for the taking.

The Ahoghill side pushed forward on the restart however and the visitors quite simply could not match the intensity of their play and a couple of great points from James O’Connell put them in control.

Alex O’Boyle replied with an Oisin’s point before a sublime side-line cut from PJ O’Connell restored his side’s five point advantage with nine minutes remaining and it was hard to see any way back for the Waterfoot men.

They gambled by moving Randal McDonnell from full-back to the edge of the square and started to launch long ball into him but a well organised home defence crowded him out before James O’Connell replied with his 10th point of the game and that was that.

Glenariffe went looking for the goal that might salvage something for them and Caolan O’Connor came close but his shot from the right of goal sailed narrowly wide of Martin Graham’s left hand post.

Glenariffe play hosts to Gort na Mona next Sunday while Cloney Gaels travel to the same opponents a week later and last year’s Junior champions could provide both with a stiff test but on the evidence of today’s performance  it’s the Ahoghill side who now look favourites to top the group.

Cloney Gaels: Martin Graham, Stephen O’Connell, Bernard Graham, Diarmaid Graham, James Magee, Neill O’Connell, Eamon Brady, Francis Neeson, Thomas McGlone, Owen Neeson, Eoin Graham, PJ O’Connell, Dan O’Neill, Donal Graham, James O’Connell.

Glenariffe: Seanan McToal, Michael Haughey, Randal McDonnell, Conan McToal, Shane O’Connor, Conor Patterson, Niall Murray, Seamus McDonnell, Caolan O’Connor, Dan McKillop, Michael O’Boyle, Paul McDonnell, Alex O’Boyle.

Referee: Eamon Hasson (Derry)

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