Gaels blow St. Gall’s away

Andersonstown SC IHC Semi-Final

Cloney Gaels 4-16 St. Gall’s 0-9

Photographs: Bert Trowlen

Cloney Gaels produced a performance of skill and intensity to blow away the challenge of St. Gall’s in this Andersonstown SC Intermediate Hurling Championship semi-final in the wind and rain at Dunsilly on Friday night.

The heavy rain which began just prior to throw in and increased throughout the opening half made conditions difficult but the Ahoghill men made light of those conditions to produce another high powered performance that the Milltown side just couldn’t live with.

The Milltown Row side led briefly when Mark Napier pointed them ahead in the 2nd minute but Cloney Gaels came back with points from Neil ‘Boris’ O’Connell, Patrick Graham and Eamonn Brady to lead 0-3 to 0-1 with only 8 minutes gone.

Jackson McGreevey closed the gap to one from a ‘65’ but Cloney Gaels were beginning to find their feet in the difficult conditions and Donal Graham with a fine point and James O’Connell moved them three in front before McGreevy from a long range free scored his second and his sides third to leave it 0-6 to 0-3 at the end of the opening quarter.

At this stage the Belfast side were still hanging in there but the Ahoghill men suddenly found another gear and an astute pass from Ronan Graham placed PJ O’Connell who fired to the net from an acute angle.

Naomh Gall were still fighting hard for every ball and Marcus Donnelly and Jackson McGreevey replied with points but the Milltown men were having to work extremely hard for their scores so great was the intensity and closing down of the opposition.

And that intensity began to pay dividends as Fionnbar O’Neill sent a 60 meter free between the uprights before James O’Connell got in for their second goal with a simple tap in after Kurtis McGreevy in the St. Gall’s goal failed to deal with a speculative delivery.

Mark Napier briefly lifted the siege when he pointed a 30 meter free in the 25th minute but Boris O’Connell and James O’Connell replied with late point to see the South West side lead 2-8 to 0-6

If St. Gall’s were going to get back into this game then they needed a score and they finished the half on the offensive and looked in for a goal but Antoin McCaffery’s effort was blocked for a ‘65’ which came to nothing as Ciaran McCloskey sounded his half time whistle.

Patrick Graham extended the ‘Gaels’ lead at the start of the second half as Stephen O’Connell briefly replaced Bernard Graham who took a heavy knock as a few heavy challenges went in but the Ahoghill centre half back was able to resume after treatment.

The Ahoghill side continued to play with a great intensity as they moved the ball around accurately and were quick to close down the opposition when they gained possession and James O’Connell extended their lead from a 9th minute free.

St. Gall’s were living on scraps as Sean McAreavey replaced Gregory McGreevy and Mark Napier raised their first white flag of the half in the 10th minute but once again the Cloney side responded emphatically as Eamonn Brady and Patrick Graham combined in a sharp passing move to place Donal Graham for their third goal.

PJ O’Connell from play and James O’Connell from a free moved the Ahoghill side 12 ahead by the 14th minute as St. Gall’s rang the changes but it had little or no affect and when an 80 meter free from Fionnbar O’Neill deceived Kurtis McGreevy in the St. Gall’s goals with Donal Graham possibly getting a touch, it was over.

It was the turn of Cloney Gaels to ring the changes as they gave game time to Stephen O’Connell, Eoin Graham, Owen Neeson, Colla McDonnell and Gerard Graham but it failed to disrupt their rhythm and PJ O’Connell added two points in the 25th minute.

Paddy Friel pulled one back for St. Gall’s but the game was long gone at this stage but Cloney Gaels kept the intensity going right to the end with Colla McDonnell seeing his first time ground shot come back of an upright before James O’Connell and Neill O’Connell concluded the scoring with late points.

I predicted in my preview during the week that Cloney Gaels would win this one but suggested that they would find it difficult to reproduce the high scoring totals that have been their trademark all season but despite the difficult conditions they proved me wrong.

The Ahoghill side took a time to get into their stride but when they did there was only going to be one winner. Their pace and movement coupled with some excellent scores was breath taking under difficult playing conditions and after a few celebration pints tonight I’d expect quite a few of them to be in Cushendall tomorrow to run the eye over Cushendun and Glenariffe who play in the second semi-final.

Cloney Gaels: 1 Francis Neeson, 2 Harry O’Donnell, 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’Connell, 14 Donal Graham, 15 James O’Connell. Subs: Stephen O’Connell, Eoin Graham, Owen Neeson and Colla McDonnell

St. Gall’s: 1 Kurtis McGreevey, 2 Ewan Rush, 3 Ruairi Wilson, 4 Niall O’Neill, 5 Lorcan O’Ciarain, 6 Ryan Irvine, 7 Ciaran McCaffery, 8 Jack Hopkins, 9 Jackson McGreevy, 10 Tomas O’Ciaran, 11 Gregory McGreevy, 12 Aodhan Gallagher, 13 Marcus Donnelly, 14 Antoin McCaffery, 15 Mark Napier. Subs: Sean McAreavey, Paddy Friel, Connla McCarthy, Owen McIlhatton, Cormac Sheehan.

Referee: Ciaran McCloskey (Loughgiel)

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