Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship – Quarter-Final
Cushendall 1-20 Naomh Eanna 0-16
Sunday September 12
Brendan McTaggart reports from Dunsilly, Antrim
Cushendall progressed to the last four of this championship on Sunday afternoon but they were pushed all the way by a determined Naomh Eanna side. The Ruairi’s came into this quarter-final as hot favourites to progress but they came up against a spirited performance from the Naomh Eanna men who looked to upset the odds.
The Hightown Road men will look back at a disallowed goal at the end of the first half and a penalty in the second half that saw Joe Maskey break his hurl as he made contact with the sliotar. Both came at pivotal moments in the game and if Naomh Eanna were going to cause the mother of all upsets, they needed to come out on the right sight of moments like these.
Maskey’s hurl breaking is a freak incident while the square ball call against Philly Curran looked dubious but referee Ciaran McCloskey made the call straight away without hesitation.
The underdogs started superbly with Cormac Ross (free) firing the opening score of the game before Eddie O’Connor took centre stage. Three points in as many minutes gave the Glengormley men a four point lead with Cushendall stuck in neutral.
The Ruairi’s finally got going with Eoghan Campbell, Francis McCurry and Neil McManus (free) all splitting the uprights before scoring the only goal of the game in the 13th minute. McManus playing the sliotar into space where Niall McCormick collected and went on a trademark dangerous run. His finish was emphatic and Cushendall looked to have finally settled into the quarter-final.
McManus and Christy McNaughton (free) fired points either side of a Ruairi Donaghy score for Naomh Eanna to leave three between the sides at the end of the first quarter but Cushendall rallied after the water break.
Philly Curran reduced the lead to two on the resumption but six unanswered points from the Ruairi’s put them in a strong position as they began to make better use of the sliotar. Scott Walsh excelling in the half back line in a man of the match performance while Christy McNaughton’s accuracy from frees was machine like. Paddy Burke chipped in with scores along with Fergus McCambridge but the drama came at the other end of the pitch in the 28th minute.
Naomh Eanna needed to break the momentum Cushendall had gathered and they looked to have landed a perfect punch against the Ruairi’s. Rian Bogue sending the sliotar high to the edge of the square with Philly Curran waiting. He had Martin Burke and Ryan McCambridge for company along with Eoin Gillan but the sliotar evaded everyone and landed in the back of the net with all men ending up on the ground also. Naomh Eanna’s celebrations were short-lived however as referee McCloskey immediately called for a square-ball, much to the annoyance of Curran who felt like he had been fouled as the sliotar made it’s way down the Dunsilly sky.
Scott Walsh and Eddie O’Connor’s fourth point of the half ended the scoring for the first half with Cushendall ahead 1-12 to 0-7 at half time.
Cushendall looked to quell any thoughts of a comeback from Naomh Eanna early after the restart with three quick points. Paddy Burke, Christy McNaughton (’65) and McManus finding the required accuracy for the Ruairi’s.
Naomh Eanna dug deep however and enjoyed their best spell of the game with points from Killian Jennings, Luke O’Connor and Philly Curran coming before they were awarded a penalty. Philly Curran in the thick of the action once again as he collected a long delivery from Joe Maskey. He was hauled to the ground and the Glengormley men had a chance to turn the heat on their illustrious opponents. Joe Maskey stepped up but incredibly his hurl broke as he made impact with the sliotar and Eoin Gillan saved his shot easily. A goal at that stage would have reduced the Cushendall lead to five points and would have given the Hightown Road men a lift but lady luck didn’t shine on them when they needed it.
Cushendall broke their momentum with Ruari McCollam splitting the uprights with a brace of Christy McNaughton frees following. A Philly Curran free the sole response from Naomh Eanna in the same period before the water break.
Naomh Eanna continued to play with great intensity and didn’t let their performance levels dip in the last quarter and outscored Cushendall 0-5 to 0-2. Substitute Eoin Conlon having a positive impact with a brace of white flags while Cormac Ross (’65), Niall O’Connor and Rian Bogue also collected scores. Christy McNaughton’s eighth point of the game and a tidy score from substitute Sean McAfee the response from Cushendall.
The Ruairi’s controlled the remainder of the game without much more incident. Naomh Eanna had another half goal chance late in the day when Philly Curran stood over a 21 yard free but Eoin Gillan was equal to his effort.
A great performance from Naomh Eanna who made light of the odds against them on the day. It was another step on their journey in senior championship hurling and they will look back on the 2021 championship as another breakthrough year for them as a club. In the end, it’s a seven point win for the Ruairi’s who know they will have to find another couple of gears when they face Rossa in the semi-finals in two week’s time in a repeat of last years quarter-final that saw the Shaw’s Road men take a memorable victory. Rivalries will be renewed once more.
Cushendall: Eoin Gillan; Ryan McCambridge, Martin Burke, Shane McKenna; Scott Walsh, Arron Graffin, Ruari McCollam; Eoghan Campbell, Fergus McCambridge; Paddy Burke, Christy McNaughton, Aidan McNaughton; Francis McCurry, Neil McManus, Niall McCormick
Scorers: Christy McNaughton 0-8 (7f’s, 1’65); Neil McManus 0-3 (2 f’s); Niall McCormick 1-00; Eoghan Campbell 0-2; Paddy Burke 0-2; Scott Walsh 0-1; Ruari McCollam 0-1; Fergus McCambridge 0-1; Francis McCurry 0-1; Sean McAfee 0-1
Naomh Eanna: Martin Curran; Ruari Diamond, Rian Gillen, Niall O’Connor; Cormac Ross, Mark Donaghy, Joe Maskey; Rian Bogue, Luke O’Connor; Eddie O’Connor, Ruairi Donaghy, Matthew O’Hare; Killian Jennings, Daniel Lowry, Philly Curran
Scorers: Eddie O’Connor 0-4; Philly Curran 0-3 (1f); Cormac Ross 0-2 (1f 1’65); Eoin Conlon 0-2; Niall O’Connor 0-1; Rian Bogue 0-1; Luke O’Connor 0-1; Ruairi Donaghy 0-1; Killian Jennings 0-1
Referee: Ciaran McCloskey (Loughgiel)