Rooney makes his point as St. Paul’s advance to final

Casement Social Club Antrim Junior Hurling Championship semi-final

St Paul’s 1-15

Cushendun 0-15

A man of the match performance from St. Paul’s Stephen Rooney edged his side through to a place in the Casement Social Club final when they overcame the considerable challenge of Emmet’s, Cushendun at Quinn Park, Ballymena yesterday.

In a very entertaining game which was in the balance right up to the final whistle, Rooney’s accuracy from the placed ball proved the difference in the end with the former county player hitting 0-11 from frees, and he was at the heart of nearly everything good his side produced

In an end-to-end encounter, both teams served up an entertaining battle and it was the experience and calmness of county star Stephen Rooney that settled matters in favour of the Belfast side.

James Farrell’s early major proved to be the game’s only goal with Cushendun’s Conleth McNeill top scoring for his side with 0-8, including two superbly struck ’65s. Donal O’Hara was also unfortunate to find himself on the losing side after an immense performance at centre back for Robert Emmet’s.

It was Cushendun who got off for the better start when David Kilgore pointed them ahead in the opening minute and Stephen Rooney shot wide at the other end.

It took the Shaw’s Road side a time to settle as they hit 4 wides in succession while their opponents extended their lead through points from Conleth McNeill, one from play and the other a converted free to move three ahead and looking good.

James Farrel wiped that lead out with a stroke of his sliotar as he stepped inside his marker before unleashing his shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

St. Paul’s edged ahead through Rooney’s first point of the game as he converted a 9th minute free but Conleth McNeill replied direct from a ‘65’ to level the contest for the second time.

The momentum was now with the West Belfast men however as Colm McLarnon and Rooney (free) added points to edge their side ahead once more before McNeill replied from another free just after the water break.

It was end to end stuff as St. Paul’s replied through Ó Duibhfinn and Conall Finnegan to move into a 1-5 to 0-6 lead but Cushendun began to get on top in the closing stages of the half.

Eoin Magee hit two for the seasiders and another from Harry Kilgore levelled matters with Stephen Rooney replying for the Belfast side and further scores from McNeill (free) and  Dominic Sharkey had the Emmet’s 0-12 to 1-8 ahead at the short whistle.

Both sides took a time to get going as the second half got under way with a Matthew McCarlin point the only score of the third quarter though the Emmet’s will feel that they could have widened the gap considerably in this period.

Cushendun had the opportunites to put more daylight between the sides but hit 7 wides during a period of dominance and would live to rue those misses.

Rooney and McNeill exchanged frees on 48 minutes and it was Cushendun who held a 0-14 to 1-8 lead going into the final 10 minutes and the Emmet’s looked on their way to the decider but they would only add one further score as St. Paul’s finished with a flourish.

McNeill’s eighth and final point on 57 minutes would be his side’s last of the game as St Paul’s responded strongly and three points from Stephen Rooney frees in a four-minute spell had them level with two minutes of normal time remaining.

The momentum was now very much with the ‘hoops’ as Colm McLarnon sent over an excellent point following a flowing build up and Stephen Rooney fired over from a penalty after Caolan O’ Duibhfinn was dragged down.

The same player hit the final point of the game after being fouled himself to move St Paul’s 1-15 to 0-15 ahead with Cushendun needing a goal to send the game into extra time but the St. Paul’s defence stood firm.

St Paul’s lost defender Frankie Sewell to a second yellow late in the game and things spilled over at the final whistle with both teams getting involved in an unsavoury clash following a game which had been played in a sporting manner.

The West Belfast men will take on Rasharkin in next weekend’s decider and they’ll be hoping their dual players come through Tuesday’s Intermediate Football semi-final against Moneyglass (Portglenone, 7.15pm) unscathed.

ST PAUL’S: J Gillen, D Stevenson, G Carberry, S Bradley; F Gamble, F Sewell, S Lawell; C Finnegan (0-1), D Chapman; C Crossan, N Ó Cairealláin, C McLarnon (0-2); C Ó Duibhfinn (0-1), J Farrell (1-0), S Rooney (0-11, 0-11fs).

Subs: S McCorry for Crossan (25mins), A Gallagher for Stevenson (41mins), A McMorrow for McCorry (45mins).

CUSHENDUN: M Scally; S Hamilton, A Corbett, E McQuillan; J McKay, D O’Hara, T Scally; C McHugh, D Kilgore (0-2); D Sharkey (0-1), H Kilgore (0-1), M McCarin (0-1); P Bannon, C McNeill (0-8, 0-5fs, 0-2 ’65), E Magee (0-2).

Subs: T Kinney for Bannon (35mins), O McMahon for McCartin (46mins), B McCartin for D Kilgore (51mins), C McCormick for McQuillan (56mins).

REFEREE: B Toland (Lámh Dhearg).

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