A century’s heartache forgotten as Tir na nOg lift Intermediate title

Andersonstown SC IFC Final

Tir na nOg 1-19 Cloney Gaels 0-17

The long wait is over for Tir na nOg, Randalstown. In the first year of the second century since their formation the Whitehill side finally got their hands on the Intermediate hurling title when they overcame the challenge of Cloney Gaels in a great final at Dunsilly today.

The Ahoghill side went into this game as slight favourites but it was their opponents who showed the greater level of desire and fighting spirit, coupled with the ability to take their scores that deservedly won the day to lift their first Intermediate title.

The Randalstown side won key battles all over the field with their defence affording the much vaunted Cloney attack little time or space and in Sean Duffin in attack they had a player who hardly missed a chance all day and finished with 0-11 for the winners.

It was Cloney Gaels who made the brighter opening at Dunsilly today as they took the game to the opposition but James O’Connell, Dan O’Neill and Fionbarr O’Neill all shot wide in the opening four minutes and when Niall Devlin stepped inside his marker in Tir na nOg’s first serious attack and fired to the net the scene was set for what was to follow.

Aaron McNeilly followed with a point before Patrick Graham finally opened the Cloney Gaels account with a point in the 8th minute but Eamon Og McAllister replied from the puck out at the other end to restore his sides four point advantage.

The Ahoghill side were busting a gut to shake off the shackles of a tight marking Tir na nOg defence and Tomas McGlone split the posts in the 9th minute but Sean Duffin responded immediately at the other end with his first of the afternoon and his brother Colm added another to open up a five point gap by the 12th minute.

Eamon Og and Sean Duffin added points as the Whitehill side took advantage of the space they were being afforded by the Ahoghill defence to send their side into the first water break with a fairly healthy looking 1-6 to 0-2 lead.

Niall O’Connell replaced the injured Eoin Graham as the second quarter commenced and It was going to take something better if Cloney Gaels were to get back into contention and James O’Connell looked like the man to deliver as he pointed four frees in quick succession before setting up Tomas McGlone for another from play and suddenly the Tir na nOg lead had been reduced to two points.

Sean Duffin stopped the rut with a point for the Randalstown men in the 26th minute and at the other end Cloney Gaels looked to be in for a goal but James O’Connell’s ground shot sailed wide of an upright following a goalmouth scramble.

The final score of the half fell to the excellent Sean Duffin  who sent over a fine point to extend his side’s lead to four at the short whistle and they were good value for that lead though the Cloney side would surely rue the amount of opportunities they had squandered during a lively opening 30 minutes.

On the resumption Sean Duffin added a point in the first minute before Kevin Sheerin pulled off a good save at the other end to deny James O’Connell who raced clear but was forced to shoot from a bad angle before Owen Neeson got his side off the mark with a Cloney point.

Patrick Graham added an excellent score and once again it looked like a Cloney Gaels revival might be on the cards but Tir na nOg were having none of it as they responded with a point from Ciaran Logan to edge four in front with five minutes of the new half gone.

Sean Duffin added another from distance before Shane Donnelly replaced Sean McKinley in the Tir na nOg attack.

The Ahoghill side were doing all in their power to get going again but a Tir na nOg defence superbly marshalled by Christy Sheerin and Caoimhinn Duffin were denying them time and space and always ready to launch counter attacks with Sean Duffin making use of every opportunity.

The youngster of the Duffin clan added points in the 9th and 11th minutes as Tir na nOg moved seven points clear before James O’Connell replied from a pointed free and another from play but the Cloney attack were having to work their socks off for their scores.

Sean Duffin for Tir na nOg and James O’Connell for the Ahoghill side exchanged further points but it was the Whitehill side who were continuing to find the space as Sean Duffin, Ciaran Logan and Duffin again added to their tally with another O’Connell free leaving five in it again as the game moved into the final ten minutes.

The Ahoghill men were badly in need of a goal to ignite their challenge as Owen Neeson added a point and then James O’Connel kicked over another when a half chance presented itself but it was as close as they were to get with the superb Sean Duffin securing matters with two late points.

Scenes of wild celebration followed. The Whitehill men have been knocking at the Intermediate championship door for more than a decade but the men of 2020 finally delivered to herald a bright start to the second century for the club and no one would deny them their celebration.

They were superb all over the field with Kevin Sheerin in goals never putting a foot wrong and Christy Sheerin, Caoimhinn Duffin and Ciaran O’Neill commanding in a defence who gave nothing away.

Aaron McNeilly and Ciaran McKeown worked tirelessly at mid-field while Sean Duffin was the outstanding player on view in an attack where Eamon Og McAllister and Ciaran Logan were always dangerous.

Cloney Gaels gave it everything but never really got going or were allowed to get going but in Bernard Graham, Eamon Brady, Tomas McGlone, Patrick Graham, Owen Neeson and James O’Connell they had player worthy of special mention.

Tir na Nog: Kevin Sheerin, Tony Martin, Christy Sheerin, Daniel Martin, Ryan O’Neill, Caoimhinn Duffin, Ciaran O’Neill, Aaron McNeilly, Ciaran McKeown, Eamon Og McAllister, Ciaran Logan, Sean Duffin, Niall Devlin, Colm Duffin, Sean McKinley. Subs: Shane Donnelly for Sean McKinley, Conor Fitzgerald for Ciaran McKeown

Cloney Gaels: Martin Graham, Stephen O’Connell, Bernard Graham, James Magee, Fionnbar O’Neill, Diarmaid Graham, Eamon Brady, Francis Neeson, Tomas McGlone, Owen Neeson, Eoin Graham, Patrick Graham, Dan O’Neill, PJ O’Connell, James O’Connell

Referee: Colm McDonald (St. Gall’s)

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