Four-midable Cuchullains back to their best

Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship – Group 1

Sunday August 23

St John’s 1-17 Dunloy 4-19

Brendan McTaggart reports from Corrigan Park, Belfast

“That’s why we’re county champions, boys.”  The words of Dunloy manager Gregory O’Kane as the Cuchullains gathered after a morale boosting win and significantly improved performance from his side.

It was more like the Dunloy we have become accustomed to seeing for the past three seasons.  Precision and speed in abundance but it was the work rate and graft that forced errors in the St Johns defence and chances.  4-14 from play, nine different scorers and a direct route to the semi’s.  Dunloy performed like champions.

The Johnnies struggled to cope with the movement in the Dunloy forward line.  Coby Cunning and Eoin O’Neill were at their scintillating best and were constant dangers throughout.  The Corrigan Park side had their own danger man in Shea Shannon on their inside forward line and he top scored for the Johnnies with 0-7.  Lightning stickwork and a turn of pace that would frighten the tightest of defences, but Shannon had little support. 

Domhnall Nugent started the hour on the half forward line and finished it on the edge of the square.  His goal on the 16th minute was a piece of brilliance but his tussle with Dunloy’s Ryan McGarry was a fascinating sub plot.  The Dunloy man followed Nugent like he was his permanent shadow and nullified his considerable threat. 

St John’s employed Michael Bradley as a sweeper in the first half but when they had to chase the game, Dunloy took advantage.  The forwards get the limelight but the delivery of ball from deep by the Cuchullains was on another level.  Every ball had St Johns on the backfoot with Paul Shiels and Nicky McKeague delivering with incredible accuracy time and again.

The game defining period came shortly after the restart of the second half.  Dunloy held a five point lead at half time but two goals in less than five minutes put them in control and a grip on the contest they never looked like releasing.  Seaan Elliott and Kevin Molloy with the majors and Dunloy cruised the remainder of the half.

The Johnnies started brightly and but for the reflexes of Ryan Elliott, they could have scored the opening major in the third minute.  Conor Johnston’s drive bringing the best out of the Dunloy shot stopper.  They held a one point lead when Keelan Molloy scored the first major of the contest at the other end of the pitch in the eighth minute.  Cunning putting the Johnnies defence under pressure and with the sliotar lose, Keelan Molloy pounced and made no mistake.

A two point lead soon became four at the midway point of the half before Domhnall Nugent bagged the Johnnies goal.  Shea Shannon recycling possession with Conor Johnston before Nugent found a yard of space to crash the ball beyond Ryan Elliott.

Dunloy went through the gears after the first half water break.  Four points in six minutes unanswered sent them on the charge, briefly halted by a superb side line from Shannon.

Cunning’s accuracy from frees and open play along with scores from Seaan Elliott, Keelan Molloy and Nicky McKeague stretched the Cuchullains into a five point half time lead – 1-11 to 1-6.

Five points was far from an insurmountable lead but Dunloy went through the gears at the start of the second half.  Their lead was four before Seaan Elliott scored the Cuchullains second goal.  Shiels passing inside where Elliott sidestepped his marker superbly and drifted through before finishing with aplomb.

The Cuchullains third goal came three minutes later.  Kevin Molloy catching a long ball from a crowd and in the clouds before driving forward.  He had support inside but he went himself and put his side into a 10 point lead.

Dunloy’s fourth major came just after the second half water break and ended any hopes of a St Johns comeback.  Eoin O’Neill sending the sliotar Crossfield to Cunning and he did the rest.

Both sides emptied their benches with players showing signs of their dual commitments and a tight schedule but Dunloy were relentless.  A marker laid down by the reining champions as booked their place in the semi-final and a meeting with either Cushendall or Rossa in the last four.  St Johns have a quarter-final spot to look forward too with city rivals St Galls and the possibility of a date with Loughgiel semi-final.

TEAMS

St John’s: Declan Cregan; Sean Wilson, Ciaran Johnston, Jack Bohill; Stephen Tierney, Simon McCrory, Ryan McNulty; Domhnall Nugent, Aidan McMahon; Padraig Nugent, Conor Johnston, Peter McCallin; Michael Bradley, CJ McKenna, Shea Shannon

Subs: Aaron Bradley for P McCallin (25); Jimmy Peoples for A McMahon (HT); Cónall Morgan for P Nugent (34); Donal McKernan for Conor Johnston (43); Danaan McKeogh for CJ McKenna (55)

Scorers: Shea Shannon 0-7 (2f 1’65); Domhnall Nugent 1-1 (1f); Michael Bradley 0-3; Conor Johnston 0-2; Aaron Bradley 0-2; Jimmy Peoples 0-1; Ciaran Johnston 0-1

Dunloy: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin, Aaron Crawford, Oran Quinn; Ronan Molloy, Ryan McGarry, Conor Kinsella; Paul Shiels, Nicky McKeague; Keelan Molloy, Kevin Molloy, Seaan Elliott; Eoin O’Neill, Gabriel McTaggart, Conal Cunning

Subs: Liam McCann for S Elliott (50); Ciaran Elliott for N McKeague (50); Chrissy McMahon for Keelan Molloy (53); Eamon Smyth for A Crawford (58)

Scorers: Conal Cunning 1-7 (5f); Keelan Molloy 1-2; Seaan Elliott 1-2; Kevin Molloy 1-00; Eoin O’Neill 0-2; Paul Shiels 0-2; Nicky McKeague 0-2; Chrissy McMahon 0-1; Eamon Smyth 0-1

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