Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship – Group 2
Tuesday August 24
Dunloy 1-18 Cushendall 0-21
Brendan McTaggart reports from Pearse Park, Dunloy
There is nothing quite like the intensity of championship hurling. These two sides went toe to toe for the 60 plus minutes in Pearse Park, neither giving an inch with no quarter spared but they couldn’t be separated. Yet again, Dunloy and Cushendall played out a thriller but had to settle for a share of the spoils.
In a game of fine margins, both will feel like they left it behind them, even though it took a late free from Christy McNaughton to bring the Ruairi’s level for the sixth time in the match. Seaan Elliott’s 47th minute major looked to be the decisive score of a game that saw Keelan Molloy purr through the gears, playing close to his brilliant best but Cushendall kept nipping away at the Cuchullains with Christy McNaughton finishing with 12 points beside his name and a watertight defence lead superbly by Arron Graffin. Playing as a sweeper, Graffin was in the right place, at the right time on numerous occasions for Cushendall as Dunloy looked to find a way through in the second half after an early blitz.
Dunloy started superbly with three points on the board inside the opening five minutes as they took advantage of a sloppy start from the Ruairi’s and that lead extended to four by the first half water break. It could have been more but for Coby Cunning’s effort coming back off the foot of the upright but the let off stung Cushendall into action.
The champions handed a senior championship debut to Eoin McFerran with the 18 year old starring, in the first half especially with two points and creating plenty more for his team mates. The Ruairi’s called Shane McKenna into the starting 15 for the first time in the championship and he too had a fine performance in the full back line that allowed Graffin to sweep in front of them.
Elliott’s goal came just after the water break with Cushendall ahead by the minimum. McFerran reacting to Eoin Gillan’s poc out first and finding McMahon. He weaved his way through the Cushendall defence before passing to Elliott and he made no mistake from close range to give the Cuchullains any momentum they could at that time.
But momentum for either side was short lived. This contest ebbed to and fro throughout the hour with the intensity simmering at full pelt in the second half. It wasn’t exactly the purest game of hurling either will have played or been part of and both Brian Delargy and Gregory O’Kane will know they have work ahead but it all added to the occasion. Spilled possessions, misplaced passes, agonising wides and every call by referee Tarlach Conway questioned and examined like never before.
Both sides pushed each other physically to the limit and landed what felt like game changing scores. Neil McManus with a point from a different postcode just before the second half water break gave Cushendall the lead for the first time in the match while some 10 minutes later with the Ruairi’s calling for a penalty in search for a goal, Dunloy and Paul Shiels broke clear. The sliotar found Keelan Molloy wide on the right and with his feet on the whitewash, Molloy fired over his sixth point of the contest from an outrageous angle and under extreme pressure. That did not matter. It seems the more ridiculous the occasion, the more he thrives to do the impossible and it brought the biggest roar of the game and Dunloy a three point lead. Both scores felt significant and game changing but neither side relinquished enough to yield to the other enough in the closing stages.
Majestic as Keelan Molloy’s score was, little did the Cuchullains know that it would be their last score of the game as the Ruairi’s turned the screw. Dunloy lost Paul Shiels to a second yellow card as the game went into injury time and the visitors threw everything they had at the Cuchullains. The home side defended for their lives but Christy McNaughton’s free taking and coolness under pressure ensured both sides shared the championship points on offer.
It’s fair to say championship fever swept through Pearse Park this evening under the summer sun. If this was an appetiser for what lays ahead, we could be in for a treat this year.
Dunloy: Ryan McGarry; Phelim Duffin, Conor McKinley, Conor Kinsella; Ryan McGarry, Aaron Crawford, Ronan Molloy; Paul Shiels, Keelan Molloy; Eoin McFerran, Kevin Molloy, Eoin O’Neill; Chrissy McMahon, Conal Cunning, Seaan Elliott
Subs: Nicky McKeague for E O’Neill (47); Liam McCann for A Crawford (51); Shane Dooey for E McFerran (60)
Scorers: Keelan Molloy 0-6; Conal Cunning 0-6 (4fs); Seaan Elliott 1-00; Eoin McFerran 0-2; Chrissy McMahon 0-2; Kevin Molloy 0-1; Ryan McGarry 0-1
Cushendall: Eoin Gillan; Ryan McCambridge, Martin Burke, Arron Graffin; Scott Walsh, Paddy Burke, Ruairi McCollan; Eoghan Campbell, Alec Delargy; Fergus McCambridge, Christy McNaughton, Paddy Magill; Francis McCurry, Niall McCormack, Shane McKenna
Subs: Neil McManus for P Magill (42); Conor Carson for F McCambridge (48); Aidan McNaughton for N McCormack (53)
Scorers: Christy McNaughton 0-12 (10f 1 ’65); Paddy Magill 0-2; Alec Delargy 0-2; Neil McManus 0-2; Eoghan Campbell 0-1; Francis McCurry 0-1; Niall McCormick 0-1
Referee: Tarlach Conway (Ballinascreen)