Clooney’s Ulster journey begins

Ulster Junior Club Hurling quarter-final

Clooney Gaels 5-16 Mullahoran (Cavan) 0-2

A few days ago we featured Clooney Gaels Antrim Junior Hurling Championship final success over keen rivals, St. Mary’s Rasharkin in 2006 and today we begin their journey to a first Ulster success the same year. Cavan champions Mullahoran were the opposition at Corrigan Park but they proved to be no opposition to the rampant Ahoghill side.

It was evident from the outset that the Clooney men had great determination and organisation. John Friel gathered possession at half-back and sent a cross-field ball to Aidan Graham and Aidan sent over the first point in the opening minute of play.

The Gaels pressed on and fought for possession at every opportunity and in doing so really got to grips with the game early on. Sean O’Connell picked off a point in the second minute for the Antrim champions and when Cousins Gerard and Donal Graham added three between them, Clooney Gaels went five ahead with five minutes gone.

Mullahoran looked disheartened and failed to make any impression on the game in the early stages and when Joe Downey set up Aidan Graham the latter fired to the net and Mullahoran were in serious trouble.

Clooney Gaels were now totally dominating their opponents and were scoring at every opportunity and Aidan and Gerard Graham picked off another two points before play maker, Gerard Kelly found Sean O’Connell just before the interval and he fired to the net to put his side 2-7 to 0-0 ahead as referee Ciaran McGennis brought an end to first half proceedings.

Mullahoran entered the second period of play with a mountain to climb but with the Clooney Gaels determined to get the job done there was no way back as they continued to dominate every area of the field. Donal Graham added another to his tally one minute after the restart and no sooner had the Mullahoran keeper pucked the sliothar out than the Cavan champions were in further trouble.

Aidan Graham gathered the sliothar and passed it on to Sean O’Connell who raised the Green flag for the third time and at this stage the game was out of reach of the Cavan champions. Mullahoran managed their first score of the day in the thirty-fifth minute when centre-back Anthony Sheridan converted a free but his effort was to no avail as John Friel launched a long ball into Donal Graham and the corner forward made no mistake for his first goal.

Donal’s goal paved the way for a Clooney onslaught as they effectively wiped the floor with Mullahoran. Neil O’Connell led the way with a long range point which was followed by six unanswered points through Donal and Aidan Graham, Sean and P.J. O’Connell and Joe Downey taking the honours.

Mullahoran managed a second point and it was again Anthony Sheridan who converted from another free but it was only a consolation score as Aidan Graham fired home yet another goal with four minutes remaining. Clooney’s Sean O’Connell scored the final point of the game with one minute remaining leaving the final score 4-16 to 0-2 in favour of the Ahoghill men.

This was a great start for the Clooney Gaels in their Ulster campaign and they will now play Fermanagh champions Lisbellaw in the semi-final. Best on the day were the Graham brothers Aidan and Donal who between them notched up an impressive 3-7. Captain Sean O’Connell showed great class with a personal contribution of 2-3 and Gerard Graham showed great poise with his free taking skills.

The Clooney defence were not really tested on this occasion but when the situation arose they cleared the danger with relative ease. Declan Scullion in goals marshalled his defence well. The mid-field pairing of Joe Downey and Dominic Neeson ran riot throughout and Dominic deserves special credit for the ground he covered, both in defence and attack.

Clooney Gaels: Declan Scullion, Francis Neeson, Brian Kelly, Pearse Close, Neil O’Connell (0-1), Bernard Graham, John Friel, Dominic Neeson, Joe Downey (0-1), Declan Graham, Sean O’Connell (2-3), (1 free), Gerard Graham (0-3 frees), Donal Graham (1-4), Aidan Graham (2-3), Gerard Kelly. Subs: Malachy Friel for Gerard Graham, Sean McMahon for Joe Downey, PJ O’Connell for Gerard Kelly, Jerard Keenan for Pearse Close, Diarmaid Graham for Donal Graham.

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