Loughgiel and Ballycastle contest today’s Minor final

Creagh Concrete Minor Hurling Final

Throw-in 1pm in Armoy

Loughgiel Shamrocks bid to retain their title when they take on Ballycastle in Saturday’s Creagh Concrete Minor Hurling final in Armoy. The Shamrocks will be appearing at this stage of the competition for the third year in a row after losing out to Dunloy in 2018, and have a wealth of experience behind them. In last year’s decider they beat Saturday’s opponents so these two side have seen quite a bit of each other over the years and with over half of the two teams all playing together for Cross & Passion College for the past four years, they will know each other’s game inside out.

Both teams topped their group in the qualifying stages with Ballycastle recording wins over Oisins, Dunloy and Corpus Christie Gaels to set up a semi-final meeting with Group 2 runners-up Rossa, conquerers of Dunloy in the quarter final.

Rossa had impressed in their final group game against competition favourites Loughgiel and held the upper hand for good periods of that game, only to lose out in injury time as the Shamrocks showed their killer instinct to win by two.

In last week’s semi-final at Dunsilly the Ballycastle boys saw just how good Rossa were when the two went toe to toe in the semi-final. The boys from The Town appeared to be in a bit of bother when they turned to face a stiff breeze in the second half, but they showed great character when their backs were against the wall and came through to win a brilliant game by a single point. In that semi-final Ballycastle played Tiernan Smyth in goals, which proved a vital switch for the young man, who has played all season in the forward line, proved a revelation with a series of excellent saves. He also showed his free takings skill late in the game when he came out to send over a great point from distance.

Team captain Seamus McAuley was the main man though, hitting a series of great points from frees and from play ,and ended with 1-10 to his name, while Joe McToal hit three great points and Jack Egan two.

Loughgiel’s semi-final turned out to be a lot simpler when they beat Cushendall by 1-120 to 2-8 in Armoy. Cushendall had beaten neighbours Glenariffe in the quarter final but Loughgiel proved a bridge too far for the Ruairis. The Cushendall boys had started well and were two points up in the early stages but Loughgiel’s talented forward division clicked into gear and they hit back with points from Conor O’Mullan, Christy McGarry, Rian McMullan and Ronan McCollum  to take a two point lead. Soon afterwards corner forward McCollum got the first goal of the game from here on the Shamrocks were dominant.

They pushed on from there and with centre-half back and team leader Enda Og McGarry adding two points from distance they went on to win by nine in the end.

As I said earlier these two teams have seen a lot of each other in recent years and the games have always had an edge to them. Discipline will be a key factor and it is imperative that both side concentrate on the game.

Loughgiel go in as favourites, having already beaten their opponents in the Darragh Cup earlier in the season. However if their meetings in recent years is anything to go by there will be little between the sides in the end. Loughgiel are bidding to put titles back to back while Ballycastle are looking to claim the club’s first minor title in 30 years.

The likely starting teams should be

LOUGHGIEL – Kevin McAuley, Finn Henry, Ruairi McCloskey, Ruairi McCormick, Conal McCloskey, Enda Og McGarry, Conor Dickson, Christy McGarry, Eunan Laverty, Conor McCormick, Dylan Devlin, Ronan McCollum, Rian McMullan, Conor O’Mulan

BALLYCASTLE – T Smyth, P McAllister, L McCollum, M McClean, E Boylan, R Laverty, J McGowan, S McAuley , R McClean, J Egan, C O’Connor, F McKiernan, D Kelly, J Bakewell, J McToal.

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