Senior Hurling League
Dunloy 1-16 Ballycran 0-13
Sunday June 19
Brendan McTaggart reports from Pearse Park, Dunloy
Dunloy recovered from eight points adrift just after half time to record a six point win over Ballycran on Sunday afternoon. This wasn’t one for the hurling purists among us with both sides struggling to find any rhythm. The visitors to Pearse Park couldn’t deal with the elements, despite a bright day in the north Antrim village, the wind was causing havoc with Ballycran hitting a number of glaring wides in the opening 30 minutes.
Despite this, they were well worthy of their seven point half time advantage. The Cuchullains were restricted to just three points in those opening 30 minutes while their first score didn’t come until the 12th minute of the game. The home side regrouped at half time however and played more to their abilities in the second half. They were helped with Ballycran being reduced to 14 men, Michael Hughes seeing red just three minutes after the restart.
The only goal of the game came in the 37th minute, Deaglan Smith finishing an excellent move that halved the Ballycran lead while Nicky McKeague’s accuracy from frees allowed the home side to chip away into the Ballycran lead. The Dunloy midfielder would top score with 0-8 beside his name, seven from placed ball while Gabriel McTaggart’s four points was just reward for the mountain of work he had gone through.
With county players Ryan Elliott, Aaron Crawford and Phelim Duffin all making a return to the Dunloy starting team, the Cuchullains defence was stronger than it had been in recent league games, yielding just 13 points in an hour of hurling with a number of those coming from distance in the first half while just four from placed ball. The Cuchullains full back line in particular tenacious throughout.
On a day were graft and work rate were king, style and finesse came second. Ciaran Elliott, Kevin Molloy, McTaggart and Eoin McFerran all rolled their sleeves up for the home side.
Ballycran will look at the opening 30 minutes to this game and realise this is where the game left them. So many glaring wides at a time when they were well on top, allowed the Cuchullains to remain in touch. Defensively they were organised and astute in possession. Conor Woods immense at half back while he was ably assisted Aaron Dorrian and Gerard Hughes before he had to come off injured. Phelim Savage was at his impish best and had an intriguing battle with Ciaran Elliott in the middle of the field. The Dunloy man following Savage everywhere as the Cuchullains set about nullifying his creativity.
Up front, Stuart Martin and Scott Nicholson did the lions share of the scoring for the Ardsmen. Martin with the first three points of the game while Nicholson gave the Cuchullains defence plenty to think about.
The momentum visibly swung after Ballycran were reduced to 14 men. The visitors led by eight points at that stage and nine minutes later the Cuchullains were back on terms. A run of 1-7 without reply gave the home side the ascendancy and Ballycran never really recovered.
McKeague’s frees, defensive dominance and some glittering scores from McTaggart in the final quarter allowed the Cuchullains to take the league points on offer.
The Cuchullains travel to Naomh Eanna on Wednesday night for their next game while Ballycran will welcome Cushendall to their turf on the same evening.
Dunloy: Ryan Elliott; Eamon Smyth, Phelim Duffin, Oran Quinn; Aaron Crawford, Kevin Molloy, Dara McMullan; Nicky McKeague, Ciaran Elliott; Nigel Elliott, Gabriel McTaggart, Eoin McFerran; Chrissy McMahon, Deaglan Smith, Oisin Elliott
Subs: Ryan McGarry for O Elliott (HT); Conor Kinsella for D McMullan (53); Conall Kelly for D Smith (55)
Scorers: N McKeague 0-8 (7f’s); G McTaggart 0-4; D Smuth 1-00; C McMahon 0-2; O Elliott 0-1; E Smyth 0-1
Ballycran: Stephen Keith; James Clarke, Sean Ennis, Lukas Boyd; Aaron Dorrian, Conor Woods, Gerard Hughes; Michael Hughes, Phelim Savage; Ben Arthurs, Stuart Martin, Niall Breen; Scott Nicholson, Ayrton Gleeson, Christopher Egan
Subs: Conor Gilmore for G Hughes (15)
Scorers: S Nicholson 0-4 (2f’s); S Martin 0-3; P Savage 0-2; C Woods 0-2 (2f); A Dorrian 0-1; C Egan 0-1
Referee: Ciaran McCloskey (Loughgiel)