Andersonstown Social Club Antrim Intermediate Hurling Championship
St Paul’s 3-16 Cloughmills 2-18
Cairbe O’Caireallain was the toast of St Paul’s as his last second goal capped off a remarkable comeback to see off a more fancied Cloughmills side in a thrilling contest on the Shaws Road on Tuesday evening writes Paul McIntyre.
It was a victory that for long periods even the most diehard St Paul’s fan didn’t see coming. At half time the visitors were well in control and lead by nine points, but the game turned on its head in the third quarter after two Caolan Crossan goals brought the Belfast men right back into contention.
After playing in the inside forward line in the first half, the decision to bring Stephen Rooney out to the middle third proved pivotal. Cloughmills dominated the middle third in the opening period, but St Pauls’s more than matched them in the second period, particularly in the closing stages when the game was in the melting pot.
But the early exchanges all belonged to the visitors as a lighting start helped establish a healthy seven point lead in as many minutes.
Two goals in less than sixty seconds from James Doherty and Ruairi Laverty had given the Biddies the early initiative at 2-1 to 0-1, and only for the intervention of St Pauls full back, Gerard Carberry, Doherty would’ve had a third goal for his side by the fifth minute.
Instead, they had to settle for a 65 from Michael Devlin and the early signs were not looking good for last year’s junior championship winners.
St Paul’s then hit a purple patch and two scores from Crossan, one a free, and another from Rooney helped cut the arrears to four, but that’s as good as it got in the first half for the Shaws Road outfit.
Devlin brought his tally to three while Eoin Dobbin got in on the scoring to help his side to a five point lead at the first half waterbreak.
The second quarter belonged to Cloughmills as Doherty, Devlin twice and one from Liam Kearns helped open a nine point advantage while at the other end John McGuckian and Johhny Duffin were more than able for anything coming their way, and at half time St Brigids lead 2-9 to 0-6.
Stephen Smyth scored from the first play of the second half to open up a ten point lead, but two minutes later St Pauls were thrown a lifeline.
Half time substitute Conall Finnegan made his presence felt in the full forward line and played in Crossan to crash home from close range.
Crossan then pointed a free before Rooney hit a monster point from near the sideline as St Paul’s started to eat into Cloughmills lead, but Doherty helped stem the tide by landing his second point.
Then in the 42nd minute the pendulum swung in favour of the home team as the comeback found another gear.
After O’Caireallain’s point, Rooney’s clearance found Crossan and the diminutive forward headed straight to the Cloughmills goal and finish to the net. It was now a one point game but Aaron Smiley’s free helped settle the visitors and at the second half waterbreak just two points separated the sides.
It was all to play for now but Cloughmills found another gear and points from Doherty, and two from Devlin helped give their side a five point advantage with eight minutes left on the clock.
But St Paul’s were going to lay down easy and three points from Crossan helped keep his side in the tie, but again Cloughmills replied through Smiley and Devlin.
Again, St Paul’s came roaring back and Rooney, Daire Stevenson and Finnegan cut the gap to just one as the game ticked into injury time, but when Liam Kearns pointed in injury time it looked like Cloughmills had done just enough to claim the points, but with the last play of the game Gerard Carberry’s long ball found O’Caireallain and the St Paul’s forward ended a dramatic tie, in the most dramatic fashion.
Teams & Scorers:
St Paul’s: Joe Gillen, Conor Gallagher, Gerard Carberry, Sean Bradley, Daire Stevenson (0-1), Frankie Sewell, Sean Lawell, Stephen Rooney (0-3), Mark Munce (0-1), Andrew McMorrow, Anthony Gallagher, Caolan Crossan (2-8 5f), Declan Chapman, James Farrell (0-1), Declan McGreevy.
Replacements: Cairbre O’Caireallain for Gallagher (HT), Conall Finnegan for Lawell (HT), Ciaran O’Carroll for McGreevy (49).
Cloughmills: Adam Mooney, Joe Smyth, John McGuckian, Johnny Duffin, Martin Dobbin, Conor Laverty, Aaron Smiley (0-2 1f), Liam Kearns (0-2), Michael Devlin (0-8 5f, 1 65), Reece Watt, Stephen Smyth (0-1), Eoin Dobbin (0-1), James Doherty (1-4), Ruairi Laverty (1-0).
Replacements: Rian Dobbin for Watt (46), Sean McKendry for McGuckian (48), James O’Boyle for Dobbin (55).
Referee: Mr Ray Matthews (O’Donovan Rossa)