Bathshack.com Senior Hurling Championship Final
Dunloy 2-20 Loughgiel 2-13
Sunday September 13
Brendan McTaggart reports from Páirc Mac Uílín
Dunloy retained the Volunteer Cup on Sunday afternoon as they disposed of Loughgiel with seven points to spare. A second half blitz by the Cuchullains put daylight between the sides but the Cuchullains foundation for their success was laid from their defence.
Opting to play against the substantial wind blowing a gale in Páirc Mac Uílín in the first half, the Cuchullains put in a huge performance full of work rate, endeavour, pressure and turning over Loughgiel attacks that frustrated the Shamrocks. They went into the interval tied with Kevin Molloy’s 30th minute major helping them on their way.
The second half belonged to the Cuchullains as they turned the screw. Eight points in the first quarter were answered by just two from the Shamrocks with Keelan Molloy putting on a masterclass. Scores from outrageous angles and playing with such style and verve it made him impossible to get to grips with. Five points from play over the hour in a tantalising performance where he covered every blade of grass on the Ballycastle pitch for his side.
But he had plenty of support as the Cuchullains played with the attacking brilliance during the second half that they have threatened in this year’s championship. Eoin O’Neill with one of the best points of the day from a ridiculous angle was an example of the confidence they played with while Seaan Elliott, Gabriel McTaggart and Conal Cunning provided able support. ‘Coby’s’ point midway through the half where he caught the sliotar from the clouds and split the posts from close to halfway one of many memorable scores throughout the hour by the Cuchullains.
A doubt beforehand, captain Paul Shiels was key for his side. Organising, dictating, leading by example. ‘Shorty’ was at his imperious best. Described by manager Gregory O’Kane as a ‘Rolls Royce’, he was pivotal in a deeper roll in the first half as Dunloy’s defence kept Loughgiel at bay while his distribution from deep in the second was outstanding. But again, he had support. Ronan Molloy, Phelim Duffin and Conor McKinley excelling.
The Cuchullains got their matchups right on the day. Duffin kept James McNaughton scoreless from play while Woody’s battle with Liam Watson was every bit as mouth-watering as promised. The Loughgiel legend finished with 1-3, his goal coming at from a trademark free in the 58th minute.
The Shamrock’s didn’t have the same fluency in attack as the Cuchullains however. Shan McGrath had a permanent shadow in Aaron Crawford and while he showed glimpses of the brilliance he can produce, they were fleeting with Dunloy tactically getting it right on the day.
Kevin Molloy’s goal gave the Cuchullains one hand on the cup as he blazed his way through the Loughgiel defence, he sidestepped the challenge of Chrissy O’Connell before hammering home. The Dunloy lead went to 10 points with just five minutes of the hour left.
Loughgiel never gave up and laid siege on the Dunloy goal in the closing stages. Watson’s goal gave them hope but Dunloy’s defence were imperious in the face of any Loughgiel pressure. Woody and Ryan McGarry excelling when Loughgiel tried to turn the heat on the Cuchullains and test the metal in their defence. Benny McCarry scored the Shamrock’s second goal in the fifth minute of injury time but it did little to take the gloss off an superb display from the Cuchullains who have become the last winners of the Volunteer Cup and the first to have their name engraved on the Fr Fitzpatrick Cup. A third title in four years and the first time the Cuchullains have retained the crown as Antrim champions since 2003.
Some say it’s the beginning. Going by Sunday’s match, the Cuchullains show no sign of stopping their assault on the Antrim championship and remain the team to beat.
Dunloy: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin, Aaron Crawford, Conor Kinsella; Ronan Molloy, Conor McKinley, Ryan McGarry; Paul Shiels, Nicky McKeague; Seaan Elliott, Kevin Molloy, Keelan Molloy; Conal Cunning, Gabriel McTaggart, Eoin O’Neill
Subs: Eamon Smyth for N McKeague (52); Chrissy McMahon for G McTaggart (56); Kevin McKeague for A Crawford (inj)
Scorers: Conal Cunning 0-8 (5f); Keelan Molloy 0-5; Eoin O’Neill 0-2; Kevin Molloy 2-2; Seaan Elliott 0-2; Paul Shiels 0-1 (1f)
Loughgiel: Chrissy O’Connell; Tiernan Coyle, Neil McGarry, Seamus Dobbin; Declan McCloskey, Damon McMullan, Tony McCloskey; Donal McKinley, Dan McCloskey; James McNaughton, Callum McKendry, Eddie McCloskey; Shan McGrath, Liam Watson, Shay Casey
Subs: Ryan McKee for C McKendry (46); Benny McCarry for S Casey (46); Odhran McFadden for T McCloskey (56)
Scorers: Liam Watson 1-3 (1-00f); James McNaughton 0-4 (4f); Donal McKinley 0-3; Benny McCarry 1-00; Eddie McCloskey 0-1; Shan McGrath 0-1; Shay Casey 0-1
Referee: Darren McKeown (St Galls)