Glenravel victorious against the odds.

Casement Social Club Junior Hurling Championship

Glenravel 2-12.  Glenarm 0-09

By Aodh O’Loan

Con Magees Glenravel ripped up the form book to win the Casement Social Club Antrim  Junior Hurling Championship by beating strong favourites Glenarm in an entertaining encounter in Glenariffe.  This was the 6th time Glenravel won the junior championship; their first victory achieved back in 1975 against Ardoyne in the same venue.  Glenarm had justified their favourites tag having beaten Con Magees well in both league and Championship round robin series. But form mattered little as Glenravel set about de-constructing the men in blue, no doubt buoyed on by those defeats earlier in the season.

Team captain Johnny Fyfe shows his delight at the end

Glenravel setup with full forward, Sean Burns deployed as sweeper from the start. This worked well for them as it gave the Green & Whites a spare man in defence to clear up loose ball but it also allowed their corner forwards, Declan Traynor and Conleth O’Loan, space to attack the Glenarm defence which they did  to great effect through the game.

A strong cross field wind led to a low scoring first half where both sides squandered goal scoring  chances. Con Magees were guilty in the opening minutes but their opponents also missed green flag opportunities and we were left to ponder what might have been had those chances been converted.

Glenarm started stronger and were four points to the good after twenty minutes with frees from Ciaran Magill and Darren Hamill from placed balls augmented by a lovely score from play by Dylan McLoughlin. At this point, all was going according to script. Niall Donnelly opened Glenravel’s account on twenty minutes but Ciaran Magill replied for Glenarm, restoring their four point lead on twenty three minutes and it looked like the game would follow the pattern of previous encounters.  How wrong were we to think that. From that point to the end of the game, Glenarm would only add a further four points, whilst the sea of green and white returned a total of 2-11! Con Magees got a great break when corner forward Declan Traynor fired to the net on twenty four minutes. That was followed up by points from Johnny Fyfe and Niall Donnelly before Traynor added another point in first half injury time to leave Glenravel in front at half time 1-04 to 0-05.

Glenarm’s Patrick McAuley in action against Glenravel’s Niall Donnelly

In the second half, Conleth O’Loan assumed free taking duties for Glenravel and this paid dividends when he pointed from a tight angle within three minutes of the restart. Glenarm replied with a score one minute later and then the very impressive Cathal Hynds started to exert his authority on the game with a well taken point. Darren Hamill put over a 65 to keep the gap to two points but O’Loan increased that to three points with another tight angled free from the other side with ten minutes played in the second half.  Glenarm were piling on the pressure at this point and indiscipline in Con Magees defence gifted two frees which Ciaran Magill gratefully accepted to leave the minimum between the teams as Glenravel led 1-07 to 0-09 with twenty minutes of normal time remaining. The silverware could go anyway at that time but Glenravel finished stronger in the home straight to secure victory. Conleth O’Loan pointed a free on forty six minutes and Declan Traynor added to that one minute later to leave three points between the teams. The axis of Traynor and O’Loan were proving too hot to handle for Glenarm and when Conleth was upended on route to goal with less than five minutes remaining  the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. This resulted in a battle of the Niall’s as Glenarm’s Niall Hamill saved Glenravel’s Niall Donnelly piledriver. Unfortunately for the men in blue, the first guy on the scene was Cathal Hynds who  made no mistake.  As the umpire raised a green flag it seemed that Glenarm knew their fate. The ref declared eight minutes of injury time so Glenarm may have felt there was still time but the Glenravel defence closed up – and whilst Glenarm went in search of goals, the men in green and white  were giving nothing away. Indeed they went on to return two further points from Conleth O’Loan and Cathal Hynds and the trophy was heading ‘up the glen’.

Declan Traynor punches the air after scoring Glenravel’s first goal while team mate Conleth O’Loan joins in the celebrations

In truth this was a well deserved victory for Glenravel. They had stronger panel of players and when it mattered – everyone turned up. You would be hard pushed to pick a Glenravel player who didn’t perform at 100% on the day. But this is sport and you can always look back at spurned chances. Glenarm had several one on one chances but Glenravel keeper, Ronan Donnelly worked miracles at thwarting them. One couldn’t help but hark back one week, when Ronan’s sister Orla was starring in goals for Antrim minors Camogs in their All Ireland victory over Offaly.  Their father John, himself no stranger to Croke Park where he competed at county level, must have been immensely proud.

When analysing this game you could point to Glenravel’s forward power where Cathal Hynds, Declan Traynor and Conleth O’Loan each contributed five points each. You could single our there defence; Ronan Donnelly, Shanlee Kerr, Brian and Padge O’Neill were outstanding. Captain Jonathan Fyfe  was a colossus throughout the sixty minutes. But the real difference between the teams was that Glenravel had good hurlers across all positions and a passion to atone for previous defeats. That is what got them over the line the end. Team manager Ciaran McKernan must take a lot of credit too for turning things around this season. His move from the Bear Pit to Fr Maginn Park at the start of this season has certainly made a difference. His assistant Martin Scullion, former Shamrocks star, has also played a bit part, and club secretary Henry Duffin deserves a mention for his efforts in bring Ciaran McKernan to the club.

Cathal Hynds celebrates after scoing Glenravel’s second goal.

Glenarm will be wondering how they ended the season empty handed. They played some great hurling this season and were rightfuly favourites for Sunday, but things didn’t go their way on the day. They will be back and with brilliant minor Niall McGarel joining the senior ranks next season, they will take a lot of stopping.

A word of praise to Osian’s Glenarrife in staging the game. They are naturally blessed with the finest setting any hurling match could ever take place in – that is outside their control. But the state of the pitch and the handling of crowds entering and leaving the grounds is very much in their control – and they managed this with total professionalism.

CON MAGEES

Ronan Donnelly, Brian O’Neill, Shanlee Kerr, Michael McQuillan,  Padgraig O’Neill, Rian Lennon, Michael McDonnel, Charlie Henry, James Duffin, John Fyfe, Niall Donnelly, Cathal Hynds, Declan Traynor, Sean Burns, Conleth O’Loan

GLENARM

Niall Hamill, Paul Magill, Barry Hamill, Declan McDermott, Patrick McAuley, Darren Hamill, Kieran O’Boyle, Aidan Scullion, Ben O’Boyle, Ciaran Magill, Daniel Black, Dylan McLaughlin, Kevin O’Boyle, Sean O’Boyle

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