Majestic McManus Steers ‘Dall to Victory

Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship – Group 2

Cushendall 1-20 Loughgiel 1-15

Sunday August 21

Brendan McTaggart reports from Antrim Training Complex, Dunsilly

As the old adage goes, form is temporary but class is permanent.  Neil McManus continues to be the man for the big occasion and Sunday was no different.  Mr Cushendall steered the Ruairi’s to a five point victory over Loughgiel with a masterclass in the second half.  He would finish the hour with 12 points beside his name in a flawless performance from placed ball and almost singlehandedly dragging Cushendall back into this championship tie.  He had plenty of support with Alex Delargy chipping in with three points and Eoghan Campbell peerless at centre half as Ruairi’s overcame a sluggish start to take the honours against their old rivals.

Loughgiel’s Paul Boyle sends over one of the four points he scored during the opening half.

Loughgiel started this tie superbly and had the measure of the Ruairi’s in the opening 20 minutes.  Paul Boyle in particular impressing, scoring four of the Shamrocks opening six points with an awesome display which would see Loughgiel running into a six point lead by the 18th minute.  Cushendall’s challenge was hurt by a number of wides and goal chances coming and going.  Francis McCurry twice denied but he would make no mistake the third time when the chance came his way.  Campbell running through the Loughgiel defence, playing a one-two with Alex Delargy smartly got his shot away but Chrissy O’Connell saved.  McCurry somehow got to the rebound to squeeze the sliotar over the line.

‘Fred’s’ goal reduced Loughgiel’s lead to just two points and proved to be the catalyst for his side as they never looked back.

Neill McManus sends over a point from a free late in the first half

Loughgiel held a slender one point at the interval, 0-11 to 1-7 and while substitute Maol Connolly fired the opening score of the second half, it would be the Shamrocks last score for 19 minutes as Cushendall dominated.  Loughgiel had a goal disallowed with referee judging Ryan McKee’s pass to Shan McGrath was illegal before he would find the back of the net but Cushendall turned the screw.  Defensively they were immense with the positional sense of their half back line allowing them to build pressure and with McManus imperious from placed ball, Cushendall began to build an unassailable lead.  He would score five points unanswered himself, the pick of which coming in the 40th minute.  Receiving the sliotar wide on the right, McManus leaned back and firing over his shoulder despite the best efforts from the Loughgiel defence to deny him.  An inspiring point that visibly lifted his side.

It was the ‘purple patch’ the Ruairi’s needed and Loughgiel needed something special to get back into the tie.  They found that through James McNaughton.

James McNaughton goes high to catch a ball shortly after being introduced as a substitute

Having just returned from the States during the past week, McNaughton was introduced ten minutes into the second half as the Shamrocks looked for another edge in attack.  Six points separated the sides with eight minutes remaining and McNaughton gave the Shamrocks a glimmer of hope with a wonderous goal.  Donal McKinley providing the assist but McNaughton was fully 30 yards from goal when he unleashed an unstoppable drive to the bottom corner of the net.  Substitute Maol Connolly added his fifth point of the match moments later to reduce the Cushendall lead to just two points with plenty of time remaining but the Ruairi’s regrouped to control the time that remained with points following from McManus (free) and Ronan McAteer to open a five point lead.

Loughgiel had further chances for majors with substitute Eddie McCloskey, McGrath and Connolly all bringing the best out of Eoin Gillan in the Cushendall goals but it was too little too late for the Shamrocks who’s match with Naomh Eanna in two weeks time is effectively a knock out tie while Cushendall and St John’s will play to decide who avoids a quarter-final tie and books a place in the semi-final.

Loughgiel centre back Declan McCloskey hand passes the ball away as Fergus McCambridge challenges.

TEAMS

Cushendall: E Gillan; L Gillan, P Burke, R McAteer (0-1); M Donaghy, E Campbell (0-1), S Walsh; A Delargy (0-3), R McCambridge (0-1); D Delargy, F McCambridge, A McNaughton; P McGill (0-1), N McManus (0-12, 9 frees 1 ’65), F McCurry (1-1). Subs: C McNaughton for P McGill (49), S Wlash for F McCurry (57)

Loughgiel: C O’Connell; T Coyle, T McCloskey, R McCloskey; E Og McGarry, D McCloskey (1 free), R McCloskey; S McGrath (0-1), R McKee (0-1); R McMullan, D McKinley (0-1), P Boyle (0-5); C McGarry, D McCloskey, S Casey. Subs: M Connelly (0-5, 2 frees 1 ’65) for R McMullan (20); J McNaughton (1-00) for S Casey (39); O McFadden (0-1) for T McCloskey (40); E McCloskey for R McKee (48); S O’Boyle for C McGarry (60).

Referee: Colm McDonald (St Galls)

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