O’Connell stars as Gaels beat Faughs in semi-final

Andersonstown Social Club Intermediate Hurling Championship

Cloney Gael 2-18 Carey Faughs 1-18

Cloney Gaels booked their place in the final of the Intermediate Hurling Championship when they beat Carey Faughs in a thrilling semi-final at Dunsilly on Saturday. In a game that would have graced any hurling field in the land the Ahoghill men had that little bit extra on their north Antrim opponents and in corner forward James O’Connell they had a player who was a level above anything else on show. The former county player scored 1-9 of his team’s total, and his ball striking from both play and from frees was exemplary.

Cloney’s Eoin Graham cuts between two Carey defenders

Carey on the other hand were wasteful in front of goal and used four different free takers over the hour, unusual for a team normally so strong in that department. They couldn’t be faulted for their effort, for they gave it 100% from start to finish, but each time they got a foothold in the game it was snatched away from them by the Cloney men, who were able to react any time danger threatened.

A heavy shower of rain just at the start of the game made the pitch slippery underfoot but the players coped well and the scores came thick and fast early on. James O’Connell got the first of the day in the opening minute but the Faughs hit back with two from Shea Hunter to edge in front by the third minute. PJ O’Connell brought Cloney level with a one handed strike from close range before younger brother James gave them back the lead with two pointed frees in the fourth and fifth minutes. Two minutes later the brothers were involved again in a flowing move which ended with centre forward Eoin Graham grabbing the game’s first goal and suddenly they were five clear.

Carey steadied the ship and stopped the flow before a great period of play just before the first half water break and they got themselves back into the game with points from Cathal ‘Doog’ McAuley and Conlith McKinley, and when Caolan McCaughan followed a high ball into the Ahoghill ‘square’ Conor McBride got in to scramble it over the line and leave the game evenly poised at the first break.  

Caolan McCaughan (left) and Conor McBride celebrate Carey’s goal during the first half

After play resumed Cloney Gaels hit the front again when James O’Connell got on the end of high ball which dropped in around the Carey ‘square’ to flick the ball home, but Shay Hunter replied with his third point of the half to cut the deficit back to three. As the game went into first half injury time Patrick Graham put the Gaels four clear when he took advantage of a poor clearance by the Faughs defence, but just before the break Conor McBride fired over from a free to leave just a goal in it at the interval.

Caolan McCaughan, who had played for Ballycastle in the Junior Football semi-final against Ardoyne on the same pitch a couple of hours earlier, got the first score of the second half,  but incredibly it would be his team’s last score for nineteen minutes as the Faughs faltered in front of goal, missing a range of scores from play and from frees. It took Cloney Gaels a while to get going themselves, but once PJ O’Connell got their first score of the second half, with a beautiful wristy strike, they started to flow again. James added one from a free and PJ added another from play, and when referee Kevin Parke blew for the second half water break they were five to the good.

Eoin Graham shows his delight at the final whistle

Conor McBride reduced the gap to four just after things got going again but the Gaels came back strongly with three points on the trot, two from James O’Connell and one from Eoin Graham. It was backs to the wall time for Carey but they got the lift they needed when substitute Conal McGlynn grabbed a point in the 55th minute and a minute later James ‘Rocket’ Black batted a crossed ball to the Cloney Gaels net.

Suddenly there was hope again for the Carey faithful but those hopes were soon dashed at the Ahoghill men struck back in style adding five points in a four minute spell to seal their final place against Tir na nÓg. Carey kept battling away against the odds and two injury time points left just a goal between them but the Gaels were already home and dry.

Carey’s Conlith McKinley in action against Cloney Gaels

CLONEY GAELS

Martin Graham, Stephen O’Connell, Bernard Graham, James Magee, Finbar O’Neill, Diarmuid Graham, Eamon Brady, Francis Neeson, Thomas McGlone, Patrick Graham, Eoin Graham, Gerard Graham, Danny O’Neill, PJ O’Connell, James O’Connell.

CAREY FAUGHS

Stephen McGinn, Kevin Murphy, Sean McBride, Patrick Gillan, Michael Mcveigh, James McCouaig, Peadar McVeigh, Colm McBride, James Black, Conlith McKinley, Cathal McAuley, Shea Hunter, Conor McBride, Caolan McCaughan, Conaire Butler.

Subs – Conall McGlynn for Colm McBride

Referee – Kevin Parke  (Naomh Eanna)


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