Brendan McTaggart previews the Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship
The county season has come and gone, we dared to dream and Darren Gleeson’s men gave us one heck of a rollercoaster. The boys in Saffron danced with the best the country has to offer this year and after a chance to take a breather, it’s the turn of the clubs.
Who will be the Pride of the Parishes this year? Who will follow in the footsteps of St Pauls and Tir na nOg? Both clubs recorded memorable wins in the Intermediate and Junior championships last September and their crowns are on the line.
Can the Cuchullains retain the senior championship once more? They have won the last two and three of the last four. They are the side with a bullseye on their back and the team to beat this year.
All questions that we will have the answers for by the end of October. After the hectic schedule of 2021, this year there is some breathing space. Unless you’re a dual club with serious aspirations for lifting silverware but that’s a story for another day. You can’t please everyone.
The format for the Senior Hurling Championship has been retained with Tir na nOg replacing St Galls as they return to the senior championship for the first time in a few generations. Dunloy begin the defence of their crown at home to Cushendall before travelling to Randalstown and Corrigan Park to complete their group. The Ruairi’s won the 2021 league after defeating Rossa in the final and being defeated just once. Dunloy had an indifferent campaign but considering the number of players they were without due to county duty, knocks and niggles, it’s unsurprising. Brian Delargy is the man at the helm for Cushendall this year and after last years disappointment, they will hope to make their mark on this years championship early doors.
It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago Domhnall Nugent was performing heroics in Dunsilly with one arm with goals galore and night falling in extra time. What a night that was in such an advertisement for Antrim hurling. An epic and mesmerising double header. The Johnnies came as close as they ever have to finally breaking their semi-final voodoo but Loughgiel denied them. St Johns championship journey begins in unfamiliar surroundings as they travel to Randalstown. The Tir na nOg men were knocking on the door for some time as they attempted to finally win the Intermediate Championship. Tuesday night will be like all their Christmas’ have come at once as they step up to the big leagues and good luck to them. It probably was as tough a group as they could have hoped for but they will relish the opportunity and will look for a scalp given a sniff of a chance.
The other group sees Rossa entertain Ballycastle while Naomh Eanna play hosts to Loughgiel. Rossa will be out to prove last year didn’t happen by chance and dispel any lingering suggestion that they were helped with the pandemic. They should have beaten Dunloy in the group phase last year, some might argue they did but for some peculiar time keeping while they will be sick at the sight of Chrissy McMahon as he scored the equalising point that day and the winner in the semi-final at Dunsilly. Colly Murphy’s side had a solid league campaign, reaching the final before Cushendall held off their second half comeback to take the honours.
Ballycastle’s championship started so well in 2020 and like Rossa, could have beaten Dunloy. The opening round of fixtures saw the McQuillans travel to Pearse Park and once again the Cuchullains got out of jail to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat but disappointing defeats to St Johns and Tuesday evenings opponents, Rossa, meant the McQuillans exited at the group stage.
Last years beaten finalists Loughgiel make the journey up the Hightown Road on Tuesday as they face Naomh Eanna in their first match. The Shamrocks are steeped in the history of the senior hurling championship and will fancy their chances of going one further this year. They have begun to unearth the talent from recent minor championship success’ as the rebuilding continues at Fr Healy. They will go in as hot favourites to win against a Naomh Eanna side who have had their first full year of Division One league hurling completed. A campaign that saw them take the scalp of Dunloy at Pairc Eanna. The Hightown Road men will relish the opportunity to take on the Shamrocks and get their teeth into the senior championship once again.
I’ll put my predictions out there and stick my £1 bet on Dunloy, St Johns, Rossa and Loughgiel. Some might call it predictable given it is the semi-final line up from the 2020 championship but there will be some close calls in there.
Let the games commence…
Fixtures (all games begin at 7pm)
Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship
Rossa vs Ballycastle
Referee: Fionntan McCotter
Naomh Eanna vs Loughgiel
Referee: Mark O’Neill
Dunloy vs Cushendall
Referee: Tarlach Conway
Tir na nOg vs St Johns
Referee: Kevin Parke
Andersonstown Social Club Intermediate Hurling Championship
Glen Rovers, Armoy vs Clooney Gaels
Referee: Ciaran McCloskey
St Galls vs Glenariffe
Referee: Brendan Toland
Gort na Mona vs Carey
Referee: Darren McKeown
Creggan vs Sarsfields
Referee: Vincent Boyle
St Pauls vs St Brigids, Cloughmills
Referee: Ray Matthews
Casements Social Club Junior Hurling Championship
Lamh Dhearg vs All Saints, Ballymena
Referee: Lorenzo McMullan
Rasharkin vs Davitts
Referee: Francis Traynor
Glenravel vs St Teresa’s
Referee: Paul McSparran
Loch Mor Dal gCais vs Shane Ui Neill
Referee: Patrick Tumelty