Creagh Concreate Minor Hurling Championship semi-final
Rossa 1-16-1-17 Ballycastle
Kevin Herron reports from Dunsilly
Ballycastle had just the minimum to spare as they edged a breath-taking semi-final with Rossa 1-17-1-16 on Thursday evening to progress to the final of the Creagh Concreate Antrim Minor Hurling Championship.
Seamus McAuley accounted for six of his sides first-half scores as the north-Antrim side led 0-10-1-05 at the break and just after the restart McAuley saw his free deflected to the net.
Rossa battled back and nudged ahead through an Owen May point but they failed to hang on and a nip and tuck encounter eventually swung the way of Ballycastle- who advance to meet Loughgiel in next week’s decider.
Both sides went into this evenings encounter in positive mindset with very little to separate the teams on paper.
Ballycastle advanced straight into the last four after topping their group- whilst Rossa took the hard road to the last-four after defeating Dunloy in the quarter-final seven days previous.
It was Ballycastle who were quickest to settle with Seamus McAuley landing successive free’s inside the opening five-minutes.
Midfield partner Reuben McClean then floated over a further point with McAuley converting a 65’ to give his side a 0-04 advantage early-on.
Daire Murphy replied for Rossa through a converted free and a nailed a 65’ in the aftermath to half the deficit.
Just before the first-half water break Ballycastle restored their four-point advantage, Seamus McAuley landed his first point from play with Joe McToal conjuring up another soon after.
Rossa had made a rocky start to proceedings but were back in contention as they hit the opening goal of the game.
On 18 minutes a defensive clearance from Diarmuid Rogan was seized by Eoin Trainor who burst into a wide position and rifled to the net past Tiernan Smith to reduce arrears to a single point (0-06-1-02).
Seamus McAuley replied with successive frees for the second time in the half, with Daire Murphy keeping his side in contention from the same scenario.
The sides equally traded the final four points of the half- McToal twice moving his side three-points to the good, only for Murphy (free) and Ruairi Murray to respond on each occasion.
Rossa also had Ben McAuley to thank for making a terrific double goal-line clearance in first-half injury-time to ensure his side trailed by two at the midway point (0-10-1-05).
A Caolan O’Dubhfinn point gave Rossa the perfect start to the second period, but the Shaws Road side would suffer a fresh set-back on the 32nd minute.
Seamus McAuley saw his free float dangerously towards the target and with a help of a deflection via a Rossa hurl; McAuley’s effort dropped to the net to give his side a 1-10-1-06 lead.
McAuley then landed his fifth point from frees in the aftermath and Rossa had a mountain to climb.
But they attempted the comeback trail with Ruairi Murray conjuring his second score of the evening.
O’Dubhfinn then angled over his second point of the half and Daire Murphy floated over his first point from play of the evening.
Confidence was returning and back to back scores from Ruairi Murray and Daire Murphy (free) ensured the sides were on level terms for the first time in the game with 17 minutes left on the clock.
Ballycastle almost had their second-goal from a close-range McAuley free that was deflected behind by namesake Ben on the Rossa goal line.
Rossa made it six scores on the spin and edged ahead for the first-time in proceedings through a superb Owen May point.
The lead didn’t last for long however as Callin O’Connor slipped a pass to big Jack Egan who levelled the game at 1-12 apiece.
Castle goalkeeper Tiernan Smyth then landed a free from around the halfway line with McAuley scoring from the same scenario shortly after.
Rossa went about their business quietly and levelled thanks to back to back frees from the accurate stick of Murphy.
Further points were exchanged between McAuley and Jay Burns before goalkeeper Tiernan Smyth and midfielder McAuley opened up a two-point lead for Ballycastle with time ticking down.
Rossa had a late-goal chance when. Murphy opted for a short free to Eoin Trainor, but his shot was saved brilliantly by Tiernan Smyth in the Ballycastle goals and eventually scrambled clear at the second time of asking by the keeper.
Jay Burns picked out Caolan O’Dubhfinn from a side-line cut and O’Dubhfinn floated it over to cut the deficit back to a single score again and with less than 60-seconds to play man of the match Tiernan Smyth ran down the clock with a solo run out beyond midfield as Ballycastle hung on to claim a place in the decider.
Rossa: A Carey, A McLean, B McAuley, D Rogan, J Burns (0-01), D Murphy (0-08, 0-06f, 0-01 65’), D Magee, E Trainor (1-00), R Murray (0-03), O May (0-01), C Boyle, R Murray, D Murray, P Short, C O’Dubhfinn (0-03). Subs: F McIlroy for D Magee (HT).
Ballycastle: T Smyth (0-01f), P McAllister, L McCollum, M McClean, E Boylan, R Laverty, J McGowan, S McAuley (1-10, 1-07f, 0-01 65’), R McClean (0-01), J Egan (0-02), C O’Connor, F McKiernan, D Kelly, J Bakewell, J McToal (0-03).
Referee: Darren McKeown (St Galls)