Rossa hold off late Ruairis challenge to set up semi-final with Dunloy

Bathshack Antrim Senior Hurling Championship Quarter-Final

O’Donovan Rossa 2-11 Ruairí Óg Cushendall 0-16

Paul McIntyre reports from Páric Eánna, Glengormley

O’ Donovan Rossa caused the first major upset in Antrim hurling for a number of years when they held off a late challenge from Cushendall to book a semi-final spot against champions Dunloy next weekend. The Ruairí Ógs came into this clash as firm favourites but they came up against opponents that with a little bit more luck, could’ve won Group 1 and already be in the semi-finals. A last-minute defeat on day 1 against St John’s before grabbing a draw from the jaws of victory against reigning champions Dunloy may have raised a few eyebrows, but not many outside Pairc Rossa would’ve seen them being victorious today. However the men in blue and gold had total belief in themselves and they showed it on the field, playing with tenacity and skill from start to finish.

Stephen Beatty shows his football skills as he kicks the ball past Cushendall goalkeeper Conor McAlister for the second of his two goals.

Cushendall were never really fluid at any stage and after conceding two goals in the third quarter they were always playing catch up. They did come close at the last and they appeared to be unlucky not to get a free when substitute Shane McNaughton was tackled high late in the game, but overall they can have few complaints as they were beaten by a better team on the day.

With less than a minute on the clock Cushendall’s Aidan McNaughton struck a blistering shot from 21 metres at Donal Armstrong in the Rossa goal, but Rossa half back Chris McGuiness somehow got across and put his body on the line to deflect the sliotar out for a 65. That block set to tone for the rest of the game as the Belfast outfit grafted their way to a deserved one-point victory. From that moment Cushendall, were aiming to reach the Antrim decider for the eight-consecutive year, knew they were in a battle.

Cushendall certainly made them work for their win. They lead by two points at half time but two goals in the third quarter from Stephen Beatty swung the game in Rossa’s favour. After the second half water break the Rossa defence were camped deep in their half and twice they had to clear the ball off their line as substitute Shane McNaughton made a nuisance of himself. Patrick Burke made a telling run into the heart of the Rossa defence only to be denied by a brilliantly timed tackle by Gerard Walsh. And when a further free from Neil McManus was blocked on the Rossa line in the 61st minute, the Ruairí Ógs surely knew then that it wasn’t to be their day.   

Shane McNaughton gets in a tangle with the Rossa defence after coming on as a second half substitute

It was a slow start to the contest with all the early scores coming placed balls. There was eight minutes on the clock when Dominic McEhill scored the first point from play, finishing off a lovely Rossa move involving Aódhan O’Brien and Thomas Morgan. Cushendall continued to rely on McManus for their scores in what proved a difficult day for free takers with a swirling wind causing havoc.

At the midway point of the first half Rossa held a slender two-point lead, 0-5 to 0-3, despite playing into a fresh breeze, but after the first half water break it was all Cushendall.

McManus pointed a retaken free after his original effort went wide before Aidan McNaughton finally landed a score from play, and Eoghan Campbell quickly grabbed a second, but just when it looked like the sides would turn around at the break level, McManus and McNaughton pushed the Ruairí Ógs two ahead to leave the score 0-8 to 0-6 at the break.

Stephen Beatty switched to full forward to give Rossa a much more physical presence on the edge of the square and the switch brought success very quickly. Only two minutes had elapsed when he gathered a high ball, and despite being marked by two defenders and losing a hurl, he still managed to swivel and kick the sliotar to the back of the net.

Jamesie Connolly who contributed 0-6 of this team’s total with a commanding performace at midfield.

Nine minutes later the same tactic worked again. Aidan Orchin took a short puck out off Donal Armstrong and delivered from his own half deep into the Cushendall twenty metre line. From a mass of player emerged Beatty and he ran direct to goal and gave Conor McAlister no chance to put three between the sides.

Those two scores set up a nail-biting finale as both sides went hammer and tong at each other, but try as they did, the Dall couldn’t break the Rossa defence and the Belfast side prevailed in a cracker to book a semi-final clash with Dunloy next week.

Rossa’s last line of defence manage to keep Neil McManus’ twenty metre free out during a thrilling finale to the game

Teams & Scorers:

Rossa: D. Armstrong, D. McEhill (0-1), N. Crossan, A. Orchin, G. Walsh (0-1), C. McGuinness, S. Shannon, S. Beatty (2-1), J. Connolly (0-6 5f), S. Shannon (0-1), A. O’Brien, D. Murphy, T. Morgan (0-1), M. Armstrong, T. Murphy.

Subs: D. Rocks for D. McEhill 42 mins, C. Shannon for T. Murphy 44 mins, E. O’Neill for M. Armstrong 53 mins, D. Murphy for D. Rocks 58 mins, E. McMenanin for A. Orchin 62 mins.

Cushendall: C. McAlister, J. McCurry, M. Burke, A. Graffin, F. McCambridge, P. Burke, R. McCambridge, N. McCormack, E. Campbell (0-3 1 ‘65’), A. McNaughton (0-4), N. McManus (0-9 6f, 1 ‘65’), A. Delargy, P. McGill, C. Carson, S. Walsh.

Subs: D. Delargy for S. Walsh & S. McAfee for C.Carson both HT, S. McNaughton for A. Delargy 47 mins.

Referee: Mr Colum Cunning (Dunloy)

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