Twin threat seals victory for Cloney Gaels

Andersonstown SC IHC Group 2

Cloney Gaels 4-15 Tir na nOg 0-18

The twin threat of the O’Connell brothers, James and PJ and a helping hand from big brother Boris were vital factors in this 9 point win for Cloney Gaels over visitors Tir na nOg in the Andersonstown SC IHC Group 2 in Ahoghill today.

In a tough and physical game of championship hurling where no quarter was asked or given it was the two man full-forward line of the O’Connell’s who provided that extra bit of class and scoring power to see the Cloney side through with a bit to spare.

James O’Connell got the Gaels on their way when he pointed a 70 meter free in the opening minute and PJ O’Connell followed from another much closer to goal before Tir na nOg’s ace marksman, Sean Duffin replied with a point from play with only four minutes gone.

The home side were edging the opening exchanges and Patrick and Donal Graham extended their lead to three by the 11th minute but a Sean Duffin point from play and another from a free closed the gap to the minimum once more by the 13th minute.

It was typical championship hurling with space at a premium and the challenges coming in hard and fast as James O’Connell moved the home side two ahead again but once again Sean Duffin responded for the visitors and Eamon Og McAllister followed with another to leave it 0-5 apiece after 16 minutes.

Duffin edged the visitors ahead for the first time in the 21st minute and increased that lead to two from another free with four minutes remaining to the break and the Whitehill side looked to be gaining control but once again the Cloney side found a response.

James O’Connell pointed a couple of late frees and PJ O’Connell struck a great point from play to give them the lead once more but the home side had their keeper, Aiden Graham to thank as he pulled off a courageous blocking save to deny Sean Duffin what looked a certain goal with Duffin pointing the resulting ‘65’ in the last piece of action of the opening half to leave it all square.

The visitors wasted a couple of chances to move ahead as the second half action got underway before James O’Connell sent over a fine point from near the sideline to restore the Cloney Gaels’ lead in the 4th minute.

The home side had started on the front foot and a great move involving several players saw Donal Graham race clear for the game’s opening goal as the Tir na nOg defence was split open and it was to prove a turning point in the game.

Three minutes later PJ O’Connell looked in trouble but released an astute hand pass to Neill O’Connell who found himself in space and ‘Boris’  fired past Kevin Sheerin for his side’s second major and got himself booked in the over exuberant celebration that followed.

The balance of play had swung very much in favour of the Ahoghill men as Sean Duffin finally opened Tir na nOg’s second half account from a pointed free and he added another from play in the 10th minute to reduce the home side’s lead to five.

Ronan Graham replied for the Ahoghill men before Colum Duffin came back with a similar score at the other end and it was to provide a pattern for a time with Sean Duffin for the visitors and Ronan Graham for Cloney Gaels exchanging further points to keep the gap at six after 19 minutes.

Sean Duffin and James O’Connell exchanged further minors before Aaron McNeilly and Duffin again pointed for the Whitehill side to close the gap to four as they battled to get back into contention but an unbelievable piece of individual magic by PJ O’Connell put paid to that notion.

O’Connell robbed Manus Smith as he attempted to gather the sliotar before cutting along the bye line and firing past Kevin Sheerin from an almost impossible angle in the 28th minute.

A minute later PJ turned provider as he robbed keeper Sheerin and sent the ball across the square where Ronan Graham gratefully bundled the sliotar to the net and finished in the net himself.

There was still a couple of minute to play and Tir na nOg went looking for the goal that might resurrect their challenge but the Cloney defence stood firm as they repelled everything that came their way with that man Duffin having to settle for a late consolation point.

This win moves Cloney Gaels above today’s opponents on score difference but the Whitehill side have played a game more. The Gaels travel to Gort na Mona on the 2nd September and finish with an away game at St. Paul’s while Tir na nOg’s might need something from their final game at home to  Robert Emmet’s on the 3d September to secure a qualification place.

Cloney Gaels: 1 Aiden Graham, 19 Stephen O’Connell, 3 James Magee, 4 Diarmaid Graham, 5 Fionnbar O’Neill, 6 Bernard Graham, 7 Dan O’Neill, 8 Eamonn Brady, 9 Neil O’Connell, 10 Ronan Graham, 11 Thomas McGlone, 12 Patrick Graham, 13 PJ O’Connnell, 14 Donal Graham, 15 James O’Connell. Subs: Harry O’Donnell for Fionnbar O’Neill, Colla McDonnell

Tir na nOg: 1 Kevin Sheerin, 2 Tony Martin, 3 Daniel Martin, 4 Brandon McLarnon, 5 Ciaran O’Neill, 6 Caoimhin Duffin, 7 Manus Smith, 8 Aaron McNeilly, 9 Connor McCamphill, 10 Eamon Og McAllister, 11 Christy Sheerin, 12 Sean Duffin, 13 Kevin McCann, 14 Colum Duffin, 15 Josh Higgins. Subs: Niall Devlin for Josh Higgins.

Referee: Darren McKeown (St. Gall’s)

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