St John’s and Rossa start as favourites


St John’s v Ballycastle at Dunsilly: Throw-in 1pm

Group 2 runners up St John’s take on Ballycastle, who finished third in Group 1, this Sunday at Dunsilly in the first of the two Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship quarter finals. St John’s started their campaign on a high with a 0-25 to 1-20 win over Loughgiel at Corrigan Park back in August and followed it up two weeks later by beating St Enda’s by 2-30 to 0-14 at Rossa Park in round two. The perfect start but in the bid to claim an automatic semi-final spot they came up just short against a Christy McNaughton inspired Cushendall side at Pairc Mhuire, losing out in the end by 1-21 to 1-16 in a hard fought game.

Ballycastle’s route to Sunday’s quarter final has been starkly different. After losing heavily in their opening game in Group 2 to champions Dunloy by 1-16 to 2-29 at Paric MacUilin, they were even more disappointing in the second round game when Rossa beat them by 0-8 to 0-26 at Dunsilly. After all the work the team had put in under new managers KB McShane and Shane Staunton spirits could have been much lower, and with star man Ciaran Clarke out for the season through injury things looked very bleak. Written off by most pundits going into their final game against next door neighbours Carey Faughs they found the spark that had been missing and following a fast start they went on to produce their best performance in a long time by running out winners by 5-26 to 0-13 to keep their championship hopes alive.

Now St John’s are a different kettle of fish to Carey, but that win must surely give them some confidence that they can put on a better show than they did in the last visit to Dunsilly. St John’s have been knocking at the door for a few years now and were unlucky not to reach a final a couple of times in the last few years. They will go into Sunday’s game as firm favourites, but this game could be closer than a lot of people think.

Rossa v Loughgiel at Dunsilly: Throw-in 5pm

Rossa, who were runners-up in Group 2 take on Loughgiel in the second game at Dunsilly on Sunday, the game throwing in at 5pm. Rossa had a convincing win over Carey Faughs in their opening game at Rossa Park and were untroubled in their second outing against Ballycastle in their second round game at Dunsilly. They lost out to Dunloy in their final game of the group stages by five points which is a more than creditable showing against the champions.

Loughgiel’s start may not have been impressive, losing out to St John’s at Corrigan in their opening game and then going down against the Ruairi Ogs in Cushendall, but there were times in both games that it looked as if they deserved better. They earned their passage to the quarter final with a big win over St Enda’s and will be looking forward to Sunday’s battle with Rossa with a bit of confidence

With James McNaughton back in the fold, after his summer trip to the USA they are a much better team and Rossa will certainly not be taking them for granted.

Michael Armstrong, hero of last years’ semi-final snatch and grab against Cushendall, is more than likely to miss out on this one after pulling up injured in last week’s football quarter final against Creggan. Armstrong’s skill and experienced would be badly missed but it goes with the territory for clubs like Rossa who have so many dual players in their ranks.

I think this is going to be a great game and though Rossa will start as favourites, Loughgiel will also fancy their chances. Extra time could be a possibility!    

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