Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship
Rossa 4-18 Cushendall 3-20
Sunday September 26
Brendan McTaggart reports from Dunsilly
The clock had just ticked into injury time at the end of a pulsating second half when it looked like Cushendall had performed another Houdini act. Substitute Paddy McGill fired the Ruairi’s third goal of the game and give them a three point lead against a Rossa side who had commanded the second half. The Shaws Road team had opened a five point lead with four minutes of the hour remaining when Cushendall dug into their reserves to leave themselves on the brink.
Not so. Rossa hit back with a goal from their own substitute four minutes into injury time. Dara Rocks with the finish after Mick Armstrong’s assist to put the Shaw’s Road men into their first county final since 2004.
In a close first half, Cushendall held a slender one point lead at the half time whistle. Paddy Burke’s 23rd minute goal giving the Ruairi’s the advantage but the second half was championship hurling in its rawest form. Chances, big scores, changes, impact subs, momentum swinging like the proverbial pendulum and intensity beyond belief. Rossa and Cushendall put it all on the line and gave everything they had for their club but in the end it was Colly Murphy’s side who edged just did enough.
Moving Michael Armstrong to the edge of the Cushendall square proved to be pivotal for Rossa. Playing in defence and Neil McManus’ shadow in the first half, Armstrong excelled in the second half with two goals of his own as well as setting up what was effectively the winner for Dara Rocks. Armstrong is a ball winner no matter where he is on the pitch and his impact was monumental.
The Ruairi’s had their own talisman with McManus again putting in an incredible performance while Scott Walsh’s performance didn’t deserve to be on the losing side. Three points from half back and another commanding performance, his reputation continues to burgeon within the county.
The Ruairi’s spirit shone in the second half as they battled back. Each time Rossa looked to pull away, Cushendall found another response. Armstrong’s two majors came in the third quarter as the Ruairi’s stuttered after the restart with Christy McNaughton’s usual accuracy from placed ball leaving him but the last quarter was as pulsating as it was frenetic with both sides throwing caution to the wind.
McManus took over the free taking responsibilities for his side and scores from Eoghan Campbell and Walsh brought Cushendall to within two points after Armstrong’s double but Rossa’s knack for scoring vital goals at pivotal moments struck again. Stephen Beatty this time managing to get the sliotar beyond Eoin Gillan but it was just the starter for the main course that was to follow.
Cushendall responded, this time with Fred McCurry. Paddy Burke launched a free that landed in the danger area with Rossa strugling to clear their lines, McCurry fired home. A life line for the ‘Dall and when Alex Delargy followed up a score from distance to leave one between the sides with three minutes remaining.
Scott Walsh’s third point of the game was followed by a fine score from substitute Fergus McNaughton before McGill struck. A long ball again causing mayhem in the Rossa defence with Rossa at six’s and seven’s allowing McGill to take advantage and give Cushendall a three point lead for the first time in the game.
It looked for all the world like Cushendall had performed yet another great escape but Rossa showed incredible hunger and desire to hit back. Gerard Walsh landing his second point of the contest before Rock’s took centre stage. Again, Armstrong in the thick of things as he found Rocks in space and the Rossa substitute made no mistake.
An incredible ending to an absolutely absorbing second half as Rossa book their place in their first county final for 17 years.
Rossa: Donal Armstrong: Ciaran Orchin, Adrian Kinneally, Aidan Orchin; Stephen Shannon, Michael Armstrong, Chris McGuinness; Gerard Walsh, Deaglan Murphy; Daire Murphy, Seaghan Shannon, Aodhan O’Brien; Tiarnan Murphy, Stephen Beatty, Dominic McEnhill
Scorers: Deaglan Murphy 0-6 (3f’s, 1 ’65); Michael Armstrong 2-00; Stephen Beatty 1-3; Dara Rocks 1-00; Gerard Walsh 0-2; Adrian Kinneally 0-1; Stephen Shannon 0-1; Daire Murphy 0-1; Aodhan O’Brien 0-1; Tiarnan Murphy 0-1; Conall Shannon 0-1; Eoin Trainor 0-1
Cushendall: Eoin Gillan; Ryan McCambridge, Martin Burke, Joe McCurry; Scott Walsh, Arron Graffin, Ruari McCollam; Eoghan Campbell, Alex Delargy; Paddy Burke, Christy McNaughton, Aidan McNaughton; Fred McCurry, Neil McManus, Niall McCormick
Scorers: Neil McManus 0-6 (2f’s); Christy McNaughton 0-4 (4f’s); Fred McCurry 1-1; Scott Walsh 0-3; Paddy Burke 1-00; Paddy McGill 1-00; Eoghan Campbell 0-2; Alex Delargy 0-1; Aidan McNaughton 0-1; Niall McCormick 0-1; Fergus McNaughton 0-1
Referee: Colum Cunning (Dunloy)