Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship – Quarter-Final
St Johns 2-21 Loughgiel 1-22
Sunday September 12
Brendan McTaggart reports from Pairc Ui Cheallagh, Portglenone
St John’s and Loughgiel just don’t do dour and drab encounters, do they? Under the floodlights of Pairc Ui Cheallagh, they laid out a feast of championship hurling for the big crowd to devour. It was an epic, titanic tussle that had everyone gripped from the first whistle. In the end, goals from Conor and Ciaran Johnston proved to be the telling scores, one in each half as the Johnnies edged Loughgiel by two points to finally come out on top of a close contest.
In recent seasons, St John’s have been involved in so many battles with extra time and replays coming and going with the Corrigan Park side coming out on the wrong side of them. They didn’t need extra time or a reply on Sunday evening but this was every bit the gargantuan battle we expected beforehand.
Loughgiel came into the game with something to prove to themselves after their performance against Rossa seven days ago and they improved immeasurably. James McNaughton was once again their star man with a breath taking display, roaming all over the pitch but the inside forward duo of Chirsty McGarry and substitute Rian McMullan brought the Shamrocks to life while Ciaran McKay was tireless from half back. The Shamrocks are backing their youth and how they responded to the belief instilled in them. Eleven minutes into the second half and St John’s looked to be taking control of this quarter-final with Ciaran Johnston’s brilliant goal helping them to an eight point lead but Loughgiel responded by scoring 1-4 in the space of five minutes and but for the brilliance of Simon Doherty between the posts, it could have been more. Rian McMullan with the goal while Paul Boyle’s rasping drive was saved superbly.
If anything the Loughgiel momentum was staved by the second half water-break. They were in full throttle and with the wind at their sails but St John’s dug in once again in the final quarter of a match they were never behind in. From racing into an early four point lead by the seventh minute to opening a six point lead after Conor Johnston’s goal, the Johnnies always had an edge on the scoreboard. Conor Johnston’s goal coming after great work from Michal Dudley down the right.
It was a night for leaders and both sides had them in spades. Domhnall Nugent didn’t need to do his Roger Federer impression this time around but he was immense at centre half for the Johnnies while Michael Bradley and Michal Dudley were always in the thick of the action. Ciaran Johnston was quite brilliant also and his goal typified his performance. Quick feet, powerful running, composure to evade tackles and a rasping drive when he had the half a yard he needed. Tony McCloskey and Shan McGrath both in close attendance but his goal was unstoppable.
At the other end of the pitch, Loughgiel looked to the youthful exuberance of Christy McGarry and Rian McMullan. Both made an absolute nuisance of themselves every time the sliotar went into the danger area and both had a hand in the Shamrocks goal. Paul Boyle delivering a ball into the inside forward line with Christy McGarry contesting. He couldn’t get the sliotar cleanly but Rian McMullan was on hand to sweep home in the 46th minute.
The Shamrocks could have had another goal with the next attack but Christy McGarry’s effort came back off the foot of the upright just before the water break.
In a game where scores were taken from all angles and on a breathless night where it seemed like distance didn’t matter when it came to chances, there was none better than James McNaughton. 13 points to his name, four from play and one of the scores of this and any championship. His feet were touching the whitewash of the side line and close to half way, McNaughton struck off his back foot and under pressure from two St John’s defenders. It mattered little to the Shamrocks star man. A point from the Gods as he looked to lead the Loughgiel challenge against a defiant St Johns team.
The Corrigan Park men showed their attacking prowess once more with Shea Shannon brilliant and metronomic from placed ball. Conor Johnston at his fleet footed best while they used the sliotar intelligently to create chances.
Chances that came and went for both sides, especially at the end of the first half where Loughgiel will look back on a series of wides that with hindsight, cost them dearly as the Johnnies always held that edge.
The closing stages were nervy with the Shamrocks throwing everything they had in their armoury. Simon Doherty was called into action and stood tall for his side when Rian McMullan had another sniff of a goal but this was the Johnnies time.
They progress to the semi-finals and another meeting with Dunloy in two week’s time as Loughgiel’s championship dream ends for 2021.
St Johns: Simon Doherty; Aidan McMahon, Ryan McNulty, Jack Bohill; Conal Bohill, Domhnall Nugent, Conall Morgan; Michael Bradley, Oisin Donnelly; Michal Dudley, Shea Shannon, Conor Johnston; Donal Carson, Ciaran Johnston, Peter McCallin
Scorers: Shea Shannon 0-11 (8f’s, 2’65s); Conor Johnston 1-3; Michal Dudley 0-3; Domhnall Nugent 0-1; Conal Morgan 0-1; Michael Bradley 0-1; Peter McCallin 0-1
Loughgiel: Chrissy O’Connell; Seamus Dobbin, Tony McCloskey, Ronan McCloskey; Ciaran McKay, Damon McMullan, Declan McCloskey; Dan McCloskey, Shan McGrath; Donal McKinley, Eddie McCloskey, Paul Boyle; Michael McGarry, James McNaughton, Christy McGarry
Scorers: James McNaughton 0-13 (8 f’s, 1 ’65); Christy McGarry 0-3; Rian McMullan 1-00; Eddie McCloskey 0-2; Ciaran McKay 0-2; Donal McKinley 0-1; Paul Boyle 0-1
Referee: Mark O’Neill (Armoy)