Andersonstown Social Club Intermediate Hurling Championshp Final
Saturday – 4-00pm Dunsilly
Cloney Gaels v Robert Emmet’s
Saturday’s Andersonstown Social Club IHC Final between Cloney Gaels, Ahoghill and Robert Emmet’s, Cushendun looks too close to call. Arguments can certainly be made on the merits of both sides to lift the trophy but in the end I believe it will be down to which side produces their ultimate performance on the day.
Cushendun played their hurling in Division 1 of the ACHL this year after gaining promotion from division 2 last year and it has proved to be a difficult season for the North Antrim side who failed to win any of their league games.
Having lost out in last season’s Intermediate championship at the semi-final stage they had something to focus on to lift the gloom, and though their championship campaign started badly, when they lost to Saturday’s opponents in Ahoghill, they have turned things around. They stand only one game away from an Intermediate title, but it is a title they will have to work for.
Standing in their way is the considerable hurdle of Cloney Gaels Ahoghill who have been the outstanding side in this year’s Intermediate Championship and under the guidance of Hugh Dobbin and Shea O’Hagan have turned in consistently high scoring performances.
Cloney finished second in division 2 of the ACHL this season with 12 wins and one draw from 16 starts, a point behind eventual winners, Cathaoir an Ri who they defeated heavily in Cloney in the league but lost to in Ballyvoy.
Saturday’s finalists were drawn together in Group 2 of the Intermediate Hurling championship and it was the Ahoghill side who got off to the better start when they defeated Emmet’s in a high scoring game in Cloney on the 3d August by 3-18 to 1-17, despite being short one of their star men, PJ O’Connell.
Cloney Gaels went on to top the group with wins over Gort na Mona, Tir na nOg and St. Paul’s with Robert Emmet’s finishing second on score difference to Tir na nOg after wins over Gort na Mona and St. Paul’s and a vital draw with Tir na nÓg at Whitehill.
As group 2 winners Cloney Gaels were drawn against St. Gall’s in the semi-final at Dunsilly while Robert Emmet’s faced what looked a difficult semi-final draw against group 1 winners, Oisin, Glenariffe in Cushendall the following day.
Both sides nothched up resounding victories with Cloney Gaels recording a 4-16 to 0-9 win over the Milltown men at Dunsilly and the Emmet’s outscoring Oisin’s 5-15 to 2-16 in Cushendall.
Both sides have been prolific in their scoring throughout the championship with Cloney Gaels hitting 18 in the group stages and adding another 4 in their semi-final win over St. Gall’s while Cushendun only managed 11 in their group games but scored five against Glenariffe in the semi-final which suggests they may be peaking just at the right time.
Gareth McGhee brings a wealth of experience in goals for Cushendun and Aidan Corbett, Tom Scally and Donal O’Hara are accomplished defenders.
Conor McHugh is likely to figure at mid-field while Conlaoth ‘Loaf’ McNeill and the Kilgore’s, Harry Calum and David carry a considerable threat in attack.
Like the Emmet’s, Cloney Gaels are likely to field along familiar lines with Frankie Neeson a strong and reliable net-minder and James Magee, Fionnbar and Dan O’Neill and Bernard Graham anchoring a defence who don’t usually give much away.
At mid-field the power of Neil O’Connell and the pace of Eamonn Brady complement each other while the O’Connell’s, James and PJ are prolific scorers and Thomas McGlone and Patrick and Donal Graham are all capable of weighing in with vital scores.
As I said at the start of my preview, this one looks too tight to call but if I were forced to make that call then I would give Cloney Gaels a tentative nod.