Creagh Concrete Minor A Hurling Championship
Oisin Glenariff 1-14 Ruairi Og Cushendall 1-19
Colum Thompson reports from Waterfoot
On a terrible night for hurling Cushendall and Glenariffe minors served up a super game of championship action that was played in a great spirit by both teams. The game had originally been fixed for Cushendun but when it was deemed unplayable so the teams decided to toss for venue and the coin came down on the Glenariffe side.
The home side were first to strike with a quick fire point from Seanie McIntosh but Ciaran Magill replied for the visitors as both teams settled into the game. Aidan Scullion was looking dangerous and he put Glenariffe back in front after a mazy solo run but Cushendall again levelled, this time through Calum Kilgore. Both teams were battling manfully in the rain and Cushendall got their noses in front for the first time thanks to a super point from Conleth McKinley but the Oisins equalised and then hit the front with two points in a row from Michael O’Boyle frees but again as no quarter was asked or given the ‘Dall got back on level terms thanks to a wonderful point, off the stick of McKinley from tight to the left sideline. It was becoming a shoot out between O’ Boyle and McKinley and they fired over two points each to leave the scores locked at 0-6 each.
Neither team was really able to establish dominance and hit a purple patch and this was due to the work rate and commitment of both teams, slugging it out, blow for blow like two heavyweight boxers. O’Boyle scored another point from a placed ball but Fintan McQuillan tied the game with a free of his own from an acute angle. Padraig McKillop, who was being well marshalled until this point broke free of his man and pointed to leave Cushendall ahead by the minimum. As you would expect back came the Glenariffe men and with points from O’ Boyle, Scullion and Jack Leech they again went ahead as half time approached. However any notions Glenariff had of leading at the break were quickly put to bed as Cushendall finished the half in style as McQuillan pointed a free, that man McKinley hit another sublime point following a swashbuckling solo run, and just before the half time whistle a long free from Colm McKeegan fell from the sky in the Glenariffe square and Fintan McQuillan rose highest to double the ball to the net. Half time score Ruairi Og 1-9 Oisins 0-9.
Cushendall started the second half in much the same fashion as they finished the first and points from McQuillan, McKinley and Mark Emerson pushed them into a commanding six point lead with ten minutes gone in the half. The Oisins had already had one 20 metre free brilliantly saved by Colm McKeegan and when they were awarded a second the smart money was on Michael O’ Boyle taking his point. The Glenariff corner forward had other ideas and he drove low, the Dall defence parried the initial shot but Aidan Scullion was on hand to finish the rebound to the net and it was game on again. It really was a total slug out but Cushendall responded well to conceding the goal. They worked the ball up field through Shane McKenna to McKinley who won a free which McQuillan converted to put four between the sides. O’Boyle hit two frees in a row but Stephen McAuley fired over a reply from an almost impossible angle for Cushendall.
O’ Boyle replied once again, this time from play to leae two between the teams and the outcome was once again in the melting pot. It was crying out for someone to take the game by the scruff of the neck and that someone was Conleth McKinley. Having taken over the free taking duties from Fintan McQuillan he fired over two from 60 plus yards as well as adding another from play for good measure as Cushendall went five ahead. Daniel Kearney got a point for Glenariff as they pushed forward looking for the game changing goal but it never came, while at the other end McKinley, now back operating as a sweeper, strode forward and thumped over two more frees to put Cushendall six clear. In injury time Glenariffe again threw the kitchen sink at Ruairi Og but they had to be content with a consolation point from Niall McGarel as the game ended with Cushendall five to the good on a scoreline of Ruairi Og 1-19 Oisins 1-14.
How they played:
The Glenariffe players can hold their heads high, they gave everything and battled right to the end in a super game. Despite the conditions it was a great contest, hard but fair and I don’t think there was a dirty stroke all evening. Aidan Scullion was always dangerous, Michael O’ Boyle their scorer in chief. At the back they were best served by Ronan Rodgers and Mark McSparran.
For Cushendall Colm McKeegan had a super game in goals. In front of him Michael Quinn and James McAlister defended well and further forward Stephen McAuley and Fintan McQuillan both put in a good shift. However man of the match goes to the outstanding Conleth McKinley who was an absolute colossus. He hit an unbelievable 12 points, 8 from play in an imperious individual performance. But it wasn’t just this alone. He took over the frees when needed and in the final ten minutes he moved back to quell Glenariff’s goal threat. He was a joy to watch and his performance was as good as I’ve seen from a minor hurler in many years.