Cloughmills cling on for victory

Casement Social Club Junior Hurling Championship – Group 2

Friday 5th August

Report by Niall Kelly 

Glen Rovers Armoy 1-10      Saint Brigid’s Cloughmills 0-14

Ryan O’Reilly’s final whistle will have prompted significant sighs of relief from the Cloughmills faithful. With ten minutes to go, they seemed to be in cruise control. Six points up, a man to the good and playing some slick hurling, they looked destined to coast home and bolster their lead further. However, as cliché as it may be, Championship is a different animal. An Owen Kinney goal to narrow the gap to three ignited the touch paper for a spirited come-back attempt from Armoy. The ‘Biddies’ though managed to hang on in there and their defence stayed resolute when it mattered most.

This was always going to be a tough one to call. Some may have given the visitors a slight edge on their superior league finish but a ten-point victory for Armoy against the men in orange and black a little over a month ago would suggest that it would be exceptionally tight. That is exactly how it transpired.

The opening quarter of the game would pit Trever Linton and Liam Kearns dead ball abilities against one another. Kearns shot Cloughmills into an early two-point lead before the Glen Rover’s full-forward responded with two of his own. The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges of the half and the ever-dangerous Stevie Smyth was causing havoc in the Armoy defence with his movement and trickery a constant thorn in their side.  As he looked to surge through once more, Smyth was brought down and Kearns duly despatched with ease again from the dead ball before Ciaran McKenna responded for Amoy finding the target from a sixty-five.

The hosts soon began to click in attack themselves. Centre forward Thomas Burns bulldozed his way through a number of challenges on the left flank before blasting over from an acute angle on the 20th minute. Trevor Linton then increased the gap to two with another well-taken free.

Momentum continued to sway to and fro with before Cloughmills talisman Michael Devlin made his presence known. ‘Micky D’ certainly had his scope fixed perfectly as he unleashed two monstrous scores from range to level things up again. Two pinpoint frees from Liam Kearns and yet another long range effort this time from the hurl of Eoin Dobbin saw Cloughmills establish a three-point advantage. With the imminent sounding of the short whistle though, Armoy cut the deficit back to a point with white flags being raised from the hurls of PJ McBride and that man Trever Linton yet again.

Having taken stock and analysed proceedings over the half-time team-talks, it was Cloughmills who emerged with a fire in their bellies. They dominated the first fifteen minutes and it took until the 48th minute for Armoy to register their first score of the half. James Doherty’s blistering pace was a menace to the hosts and he fired home a superb point from range three minutes into the half.

The industry and tenacity of Stevie Smyth continued to be the detriment of Glen Rovers. They couldn’t seem to nullify his threat and his hard work was central to the next few scores for his team. Conor Laverty split the posts from range before the ever-reliant Kearns fired over yet again from a free.

Cloughmills were purring now and a well-deserved score from Smyth himself increased the gap further. Passions spilled over though not long after. There were some rather unsavoury scenes as an altercation off the ball between Liam Dillon and James Doherty escalated into somewhat a melee. Referee Ryan O’Riley had no other option but to brandish the red card to Dillon and it appeared this spelt the end for Armoy’s hopes of an opening win with ten minutes remaining on the clock.

Armoy however were not to follow the script and mounted a serious come back. Trever Linton replied to a Liam Kearns free before substitute Owen Kinney announced his arrival to proceedings in the most emphatic fashion as he latched on to a handpass and steered the ball into the despairing Chrissy McKernan’s net. The hosts now seemed to have wrestled the initiative back and began attacking in waves. Trever Linton despatched one from close range to cut the gap to two.

Cloughmills were struggling to maintain possession or make any penetrative passes and Armoy continued on their offensive.  Thomas Burns was pivotal in their attacks and his catching ability was unrivalled throughout and after plucking yet another ball out of the sky, he found the target from range to reduce the deficit to a single point with three minutes still to go.

The onslaught continued but to no avail as the Cloughmills defence, marshalled well by Aaron Smiley and Séan McKendry, refused to breach further and the ‘Biddies’ held on to stagger over the line.

Make no mistake about it, Championship hurling is all about ‘getting over the line’ and Cloughmills will be delighted to have clung on. It could well be an important two points considering the company of Group Two with league champions Glenarm and Lámh Dhearg also vying for the two semi-final spots. Armoy will no doubt be gutted at the marginal deficit of their defeat. They showed patches of promise and with more consistency in their next games will still fancy their chances of progressing out of the group stages.

Teams:

Glen Rovers Armoy:

C Devlin; C Coyles, S Devlin, E O’Hara; L Dillon, A Devlin, T McBride; J McFetridge, PJ McBride (0-01;) C McKenna (0-01,) T Burns (0-02,) E O’Boyle; C Lordan, T Linton (0-06,) C Watterson

Subs: O Kinney (1-00)

Naomh Bríd Cloughmills

C McKernan; M Dobbin, S McKendry, R Watt; J Duffin, C Laverty (0-01,) J Smyth; R Laverty, G Óg Laverty; J Doherty (0-01,) M Devlin (0-02,) E Dobbin (0-01;) A Smiley, L Kearns (0-07,) S Smyth (0-01)

Referee – Ryan O’Reilly

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