Junior B Hurling Final
All Saints 4-11 Loch Mor Dal gCais 0-13
All Saints, Ballymena turned in a strong second half performance to claim the Junior B Hurling title when they overcame the challenge of Loch Mor Dal gCais at a windy Hightown today. The lads from the Lough shore matched their opponent during the opening half and were unfortunate to turn around a point in arrears.
After the break and with the wind at their backs the Quinn Park side upped their game considerably as they denied their opponents time and space while racking up some excellent scores at the other end to pull away for a convincing win in the end.
Playing into the pavilion end and against the wind it was All Saints who threatened first and Cory Little looked in for an early goal but his shot was deflected to safety by Loch Mor keeper, Bailey Graham.
Play switched to the other end as Loch Mor threatened and they had a couple of half chances for a goal of their own but the All Saints defence stood firm under strong pressure. The opening goal did arrive and it was All Saints Benny McDonnell who was the scorer as he soloed through the Opposition defence before firing to the net in the 4th minute.
McDonnell’s goal brought an immediate response from Loch Mor Dal gCais and they hit back with points from Darragh Turley and Cormac Dwyer and they looked to be in for a goal themselves but Ciaran Cassley came bravely of his line to deny Ruairi Bannon, the All Saints keeper sustaining an injury in the process but was able to continue after treatment.
Ciaran Neeson, who was to have a massive influence for the Ballymena side, opened his personal account as he pointed a free in the 10th minute but Loch Mor were enjoying the lion’s share of possession and drawing frees which Darragh Turley was converting into scores.
Just when it looked like the Lough Shore side might be heading to the turnover ahead Ciaran Neeson pulled off a moment of magic as he rose high to field the sliotar and as he landed, turned in one swift movement before firing to the corner of the net.
Loch Mor finished the half strongly with Turley keeping the scoreboard ticking and Ruairi Bannon on target but it was Neeson’s goal who gave All Saints a narrow one point lead as the sides switched ends and it certainly looked anybody’s game at this stage.
Playing into the breeze it was Loch Mor Dal gCais who made the better start to the second half with Lorcan Rooney levelling the contest with a point in the 1st minute before Darragh Turley pointed them ahead from a 30 meter free with three minutes of the new half gone.
Damian Gillan and Ciaran Neeson replied with points to restore the All Saints lead before Turley pointed another free to level matters again at 2-6 to 0-12. The Ballymena side were starting to get on top however as they hunted in packs, denying their opponents space and Ciaran Neeson pointed from a ‘65’ before Cormac Lemon got in for their third goal in the 8th minute to open up a four point lead.
Darragh Turley replied from a free in the 9th minute to close the gap to four but this was to be the last time that Loch Mor would score as the All Saints defence, superbly marshalled by Chris McAfee, Luke O’Rawe and Colum Neeson put the opposition attack in a strangle hold.
Space was beginning to open up as the other end as Neeson sent a ‘65’ between the posts and then hammered a penalty past Bailey Graham following a foul on substitute Cormac Magill and the same player followed with another point from a long range free to move his side 8 ahead at the second water break.
On the restart Loch Mor Dal gCais were offered a lifeline when they were awarded a penalty of their own but Darragh Turley, who had been excellent throughout sent his shot wide of Ciaran Cassley’s upright and with it went his side’s last chance of a comeback.
Ciaran Neeson put the icing on a fine personal performance as he point two late ‘65’s’ to bring his tally for the day to 2-9 and it was fitting that he was the man to step up to receive the trophy.
A good win for a side who started the season badly but have put in a lot of work in recent weeks and today they reaped the reward for that hard work. Ciaran Cassley, Chris McAfee, Colum Graham, Padhraig Magill, Jack Magill, Gary Miskella, Damian Gillan and Ciaran Neeson were excellent in an All Saints team without a weakness on the day and they can now look forward to a tilt at the Junior A title in a few weeks’ time.
Spare a thought for Loch Mor Dal gCais. They were excellent during the opening half and extremely unfortunate not to be ahead at the break. Cormac Lemon’s goal in the 8th minute and Neeson’s second from the penalty spot finally broke their challenge but as Ciaran Neeson eluded to in his acceptance speech, they will be back again to challenge next season and will have learned from the experience.
All Saints: Ciaran Cassley, Dwayne McKee, Christopher McAfee, Kevin Brady, Brendan McDonnell, Luke O’Rawe, Colum Neeson, Padhraig Magill, Vincent Esler, Cormac Lemon, Damian Gillan, Gary Miskella, Jack Magill, Ciaran Neeson, Cory Little. Subs Cormac Magill for Kevin Brady
Loch Mor Dal gCais: Bailey Graham, Aaron Monaghan, Michael Morgan, Oisin O’Boyle, Declan Phillips, Conor Jones, Paul Molloy, Martin Braniff, Cormac Dwyer, Lorcan Rooney, Michael McCullough, Matthew Jones, Murtagh Moran, Ruairi Bannon, Darragh Turley
Referee: Sean Elliott (Lamh Dhearg)
MORE PHOTOGRAPHS TO FOLLOW LATER