Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Dunloy 1-19 St Johns 0-13
Sunday September 26
Brendan McTaggart reports from Dunsilly
It wasn’t quite the classic these sides put on three weeks ago but it will matter little to the people of Dunloy as the Cuchullains booked their place in this years county final. The reigning champions led this semi-final from start to finish but were undoubtedly helped with St John’s being reduced to 14 men with barely three minutes on the clock. The red mist descended on Ciaran Johnston and an uphill battle became an attempt to climb Mount Everest for the Johnnies.
The Corrigan Park men did everything they could to stay with the Cuchullains and brought the best out of Ryan Elliott on a number of occasions but after the stop start nature of the first half, the Cuchullains went through the gears after the restart and Keelan Molloy’s goal after the water break sealed the win in monsoon like conditions at Dunsilly.
While plenty has been made about Dunloy’s attacking unit, Sunday’s win was built upon an outstanding defensive display, limiting a talented St John’s attack to just 13 points over the hour. Conor McKinley was exceptional on the edge of his own square while Kevin McKeague’s battle with Domhnall Nugent was a fascinating subplot that you could tell both men relished. The Dunloy half back line excelled in the second half with their positional sense and Ronan Molloy taking the Man of The Match honours in an exquisite display.
Up top, Conal Cunning excelled. He finished top scorer with six of his eight points coming from placed ball while Keelan Molloy added three points to his goal.
The Johnnies were without the services of Oisin Donnelly but defensively they held Dunloy and it wasn’t until the final 10 minutes that the Cuchullains pulled away. Aidan McMahon, Conal Bohill and Stephen Tierney all putting in a huge shift for the Corrigan Park men while Shea Shannon and Conor Johnston always looked like causing Dunloy problems.
The weather conditions didn’t allow for free-flowing hurling and the Johnnies attempted to break up the play as much as possible. Neither side could play their usual brand of hurling but it was effective for the Johnnies as they hung onto the coat-tails of the Cuchullains despite their numerical disadvantage.
With Nugent in the mood for causing mayhem, St John’s always had a chance. His ability to catch primary possession was key to how the Johnnies went about their business but with Conor Johnston and Shea Shannon working in the breakdown, St John’s always had a threat. Substitute Aaron Bradley led the fight for the Johnnies with four white flags after coming on in the 22nd minute.
The first half was a slow burner with the Cuchullains leading 0-9 to 0-7 and as the heavens opened the second half, so did the space in the St John’s defence as their efforts physically began to take its toll. It was going to take a herculean effort and the Johnnies gave everything they had. Dunloy moved the sliotar with precision for a lot of the game and with the speed of Seaan Elliott and Conal Cunning they reaped the rewards. The introduction of Deaglan Smith injected further strength and pace into a Cuchullain attack who were beginning to purr.
The Johnnies created late chances and had a Domhnall Nugent goal not been disallowed with referee Kevin Parke calling a pass as a throw ball before Keelan Molloy’s major while Shea Shannon’s injury time penalty was superbly saved by Ryan Elliott in the Dunloy goals. But the Cuchullains were well worthy of the win and a fourth county final in five years while St Johns fall at the semi-final hurdle yet again.
DUNLOY: R Elliott; P Duffin, C McKinley, C Kinsella; R Molloy, A Crawford, R McGarry; E McFerran, Keelan Molloy (1-3); E O’Neill (0-2), N McKeague (0-1), P Shiels (0-2, 1 free); C McMahon, C Cunning (0-8, 5 frees, 1 65), S Elliott (0-2).
Subs: K McKeague for P Duffin (8), Kevin Molloy for N McKeague (HT), D Smith (0-1) for C McMahon (45), A McGrath for P Shiels (55).
ST JOHN’S: S Doherty; A McMahon, R McNulty, S Tierney; Ciaran Johnston, C Morgan, C Bohill (0-1); S Shannon (0-6, 4 frees), J Bohill; M Dudley (0-1), D Nugent (0-1), M Bradley; D Carson, Conor Johnston, P McCallin.
Subs: A Bradley (0-4) for D Carson (22), C Carson for C Morgan (30+2).
REFEREE: Kevin Parke (Naomh Éanna)