Bathshack.com Senior Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Loughgiel 2-31 St John’s 5-18
Sunday September 6
Brendan McTaggart reports from Dunsilly
Seven goals, 49 points, extra time and unrivalled drama. Loughgiel and St Johns played out a classic on Sunday afternoon in another match for the ages. End to end drama from the first whistle and heroic performances every corner you turned, this was an epic battle between two top sides.
In the end, the Shamrocks booked their place in the final with Benny McCarry’s extra time goal pivotal and proving to be the decisive score of what was an outstanding game of championship hurling.
James McNaughton top scored for the Shamrocks with 12 points over the 80 plus minutes while Liam Watson marked his return to the starting 15 with 1-3. Benny McCarry came off the bench to match Watson’s score while defensively, they worked their socks off.
But they had to. For the Johnnies threw everything in their armoury at Loughgiel and in Domhnall Nugent they have not only one of the most gifted hurlers of our time but an absolute warrior. The game was barely 15 minutes old when he went down injured, holding his arm and in agony. Not only did Domhnall see out the entirety of the game, he scored 3-3 with one mobile arm. It was like nothing ever witnessed before and anyone will go far to see such a performance again. He epitomised the Johnnies attitude and determination. His tussle with Tony McCloskey was a fascinating sub plot to an already thrilling contest. Plain and simple, Domhnall Nugent put in a performance of heroic standards.
The Johnnies started slowly as Loughgiel looked to run away with the contest in the opening quarter. Dan McCloskey and Donal McKinley were on top on midfield while Damon McMullan was excellent at centre half. It took a piece of brilliance to get St Johns firing and Domhnall Nugent provided that in spades. His 20th minute goal giving his side the lead before Peter McCallin’s major just two minutes later opened a five point deficit for the Corrigan Park side. They had the Shamrocks rattled but Loughgiel responded superbly. McNaughton’s accuracy from frees and the mercurial Shan McGrath reducing that deficit to two points by the half time whistle.
The second half was more of the same warfare. Brilliant scores coming at either end and pieces of individual genius littered throughout. Loughgiel had turned their two point half time deficit to a two point lead by the midway mark of the half, keeping the Johnnies to just two points in that same period.
The pendulum of momentum swung once again. Two goals in two minutes for the Johnnies, Domhnall Nugent at the centre of it, providing the assist for substitute Aaron Bradley before scoring one handed after brilliant work from Peter McCallin.
With two minutes of normal time remaining, the Johnnies looked like they had finally got over their semi-final hurdle. Three points up and in the ascendancy, the Shamrocks had to dig deep. With the help of over 11 minutes of injury time, not only did they dig deep but they had St Johns searching for an equaliser. Eddie McCloskey instrumental in dragging the Shamrocks from the brink and while substitute Donal McKernan saw his tricky free drift wide, fellow substitute Oisin Donnelly scored the equalising point. The ‘Late Late Show’ it might have been, and some were wondering where the additional time came out of but the only thing that was certain, St Johns deserved the chance to go again.
Extra time belonged to the Shamrocks as St Johns looked dead on their feet. Tired bodies and aching limbs on both sides, the west Belfast side looked the worse for wear. The Shamrocks second major was the telling blow and while it was McCarry who raised the green flag, the pass from Shan McGrath was a piece of genius. Loughgiel held St Johns to just one point in the first half of extra time and went on to build a four point lead.
St John’s came back once again and Nugent’s hat-trick was completed in the fifth minute of injury time to leave two between the sides. With the Johnnies full back line depleted, Loughgiel took advantage with McCarry and Shay Casey splitting the posts to ensure the Shamrocks booked a date with their old rivals Dunloy in the county final.
Loughgiel: Chrissy O’Connell; Tiarnan Coyle, Tony McCloskey, Seamus Dobbin; Declan McCloskey, Damon McMullan, Odhran McFadden; Dan McCloskey, Donal McKinley; James McNaughton, Callum McKendry, Eddie McCloskey; Shay Casey, Liam Watson, Shan McGrath
Subs: Ryan McKee for S Casey (43); Ronan McCloskey for T McCloskey (53); Benny McCarry for C McKendry (53); Ciaran McKay for O McFadden (60); Shay Casey for S McGrath (ET15)
Scorers: James McNaughton 0-12 (10f); Liam Watson 1-3; Benny McCarry 1-3; Eddie McCloskey 0-5; Shan McGrath 0-2; Donal McKinley 0-2; Callum McKendry 0-1; Dan McCloskey 0-1; Ryan McKee 0-1; Shay Casey 0-1
St Johns: Declan Cregan; Sean Wilson, Ciaran Johnston, Conor Carson; Conal Bohill, Simon McCrory, Conal Morgan; Jimmy Peoples, Aidan McMahon; Padraig Nugent, Domhnal Nugent, Andy McGowan; Conor Johnston, Michael Bradley, Peter McCallin
Subs: Oisin Donnelly for A McGowan (HT); Jack Bohill for S Wilson (HT); Aaron Bradley for P Nugent (35); Ryan McNulty for J Peoples (60); Dannan McKeogh for P McCallin (ET3)
Scorers: Domhnall Nugent 3-3; Michael Bradley 0-6 (4f); Aaron Bradley 1-1; Oisin Donnelly 0-3; Peter McCallin 1-00; Conor Johnston 0-2; Conal Bohill 0-2; Padraig Nugent 0-1 (1f)
Referee: Michael Hardy (Rasharkin)