Antrim Hurling League- Round 7
Ballycran 1-15 Ruairí Óg 0-20
By Sean Gilmore
The Ruairí’s made the long trip down to the Ards Peninsula on Sunday afternoon to try and take a step closer to the league title, and although they eventually secured the win, it was hard work against a Ballycran team featuring some of their returning county players.
Cushendall got off to a flying start, registering 6 points without reply in the first 10 minutes before a Huw Flynn free in the 12th finally got Ballycran off the mark. Cushendall were dominant in the first quarter, the home side were struggling to get to grips with the movement of Ryan McCambridge and Niall McCormick was proving to be a thorn in the side of the Cran defence. At the first water break, Cushendall lead by 6 and it looked like the arduous journey to McKenna Park was going to turn into a bit of a stroll for the men in maroon. However Ballycran then popped over 3 points without reply immediately after the water break and seemed to grow in confidence.
The teams traded scores before a flurry of scores from the visitors deep in 1st half injury time gave them a 6 point lead at the break, 0-12 to 0-6.
Ballycran came out in the 2nd half looking to use the breeze to their advantage, however they were almost trying too hard and struck 2 consecutive wides to begin the half. These wides were responded to by 2 monster scores from Ryan McCambridge against the wind which put the Ruairí’s up by 8 and looked to have killed the game.
Ballycran weren’t deterred and struck 1-4 without reply leading into the 2nd water break which brought the deficit back to the minimum. This included a goal from James Clarke after a fantastic catch by substitute Francis Caldwell as well as 2 monster scores from Conor Woods on his own 45.
The chance then came for Cushendall to bury the game. A fantastic team move ended with Niall McCormick put through on goal only to be met forcefully by Cran Keeper Declan Ennis. The referee judged that the forward had been fouled and awarded a penalty. Emmet Laverty stepped up and struck it well but his effort was matched by Ennis in goal which kept Ballycran only a point down.
The water break brought about the introduction of some of Cushendall’s own county contingent, Paddy Burke was first to come on followed shortly by Neil McManus. This substitution was to prove crucial. The teams traded scores right up until the 60th minute and then, with Cushendall winning by a point, Neil McManus stepped up with 2 massive scores to put 3 between the sides and leave Ballycran desperate for a goal. The final score of the match was rather impressive, albeit didn’t help the home team in the end. Declan Ennis’ attempt to put a high ball into the mixer for the Cran forwards ended up bouncing in the 6 yard box and going straight over the bar. The deficit was reduced to 2 and that is where it would stay. As has happened so many times over the years, Neil McManus stepped up once again when needed and dragged the Ruairí’s over the line.
This result leaves Cushendall top of the table on 14 points, they welcome Portaferry to Páirc Mhuire on Wednesday evening with a win securing the spot on top of the table.
Ballycran travel to Corrigan Park to take on St John’s before welcoming Na Seamróga to McKenna to finish out their campaign.
Ballycran Team: D Ennis; R Brown, G Hughes, S Ennis; B Nicholson, C Woods, A Dorrian;
S Nicholson, M Ennis; S Martin, P Savage, L Savage; H Flynn, C McAlister, J Clarke
Ballycran Subs: F Caldwell for H Flynn, P Hughes for G Hughes, L McCarthy for A Dorrian
Ballycran Scorers: J Clarke 1-2, H Flynn 0-4 (0-4F), S Nicholson (0-3), C Woods 0-3 (0-1F)
P Savage 0-2, S Martin 0-1
Cushendall Team: E Gillan; S McKenna, M Burke, L Gillan; S Walsh, A Graffin, R McCollam;
Alex Delargy, R McCambridge; C Carson, E Laverty, Andrew Delargy; F McCurry, N McCormick, F McCambridge
Cushendall Subs: Paddy Burke, Neil McManus, Senan Black
Cushendall Scorers: Alex Delargy 0-3, C Carson 0-3, F McCambridge 0-3, R McCambridge 0-3
E Laverty 0-3 (0-2F), N McManus 0-2, N McCormick 0-1, L Gillan 0-1
F McCurry 0-1