McMahon major seals Dunloy’s four-in-a-row

Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship Final

Dunloy 1-20 Cushendall 2-11

Sunday 16 October

Brendan McTaggart reports from Corrigan Park, Belfast

Corrigan Park played host to one of the biggest roller coaster finals in living memory on Sunday afternoon with Dunloy and Cushendall going toe to toe for the right to take the Volunteer Cup back up the M2.

In the end, it was the Cuchullains who edged the Ruairi’s in the closing stages to make it four in a row but they were pushed to the pin of their collar by a Cushendall side who threw everything they had at them.

Keelan Molloy salutes the Dunloy fans in the Corrigan Park stand after scoring a spectacular points as the game entered injury time

In 60 minutes of enthralling championship hurling, the sides were tied no less than seven times and the game was still in the melting pot going into injury time.  The Cuchullains held a three point lead before substitute Chrissy McMahon held his nerve to score Dunloy’s only goal of the game and seal their 16thcounty crown.

The score board certainly didn’t so the Ruairi’s justice.  This was a titanic tussle between Antrim’s two heavy weights of the game and neither were willing to take a backward step.  In the cauldron like atmosphere of Corrigan Park, these two sides pushed each other to their limits.  Moments of brilliance and heroic defending.  Stylish scores and magnificent turnovers.  It was everything you would want in a final with the Cuchullains and Cushendall delivering in spades.

In the end, Dunloy’s vice like grip on the Volunteer Cup remains, but they wont have many harder assignments in living memory than the test Brian Delargy’s men asked of them on Sunday.

Cushendall showed three changes from their semi-final victory over Loughgiel, Ronan McAteer, Cormac McClafferty and Fred McCurry coming into the 15 while Dunloy had Eoin McFerran in for the injured Deaglan Smith.

The Ruairi’s made a dream start with a goal inside 20 seconds and straight from the training ground.  A high delivery was broken into the path of Neil McManus and while he didn’t strike his effort cleanly, Ryan Elliott couldn’t clear the danger and McClafferty finished from close range.

No yard was given nor spared in the opening exchanges as both sides upped the intensity from the get go. Cushendall had Mr Reliable, McManus on frees and keeping the scoreboard ticking while Eoghan Campbell scored a point that brought a roar from the terraces either side of the stand.

Conal Cunning’s free taking was being tested but he answered with a series of sumptuous scores from all ranges while Aaron Crawford and Keelan Molloy also chipped in to leave the sides tied midway through the first half.

The Cuchullains stretched into a two point lead with Cunning’s frees, Eamonn Smyth and Nigel Elliott splitting the posts while McManus fired over a brace of frees.  The Cuchullains looked to be finding their rhythm but Cushendall hit another major blow in first half injury time.  The Cuchullains had just passed up a major opportunity of their own with Ryan McGarry’s effort agonisingly going to the left of the post. Cushendall responded with their second major.  A free from McManus dropping in the heart of the Dunloy defence where Sean McAfee doubled on the sliotar in mid-air and found the onion bag.

Sean McAfee celebrates Cushendall’s second goal just before half-time

Dunloy responded with Cunning’s seventh score and fifth free of the half to leave the minimum between the sides at half time, 2-6 to 0-11 in favour of the Ruairi’s.

The second half started with the same hair raising intensity as the first.  You couldn’t take your eyes off the game with end to end, high octane action with both sides looking, searching for that level which would take them clear.

Mid way through the second half Cushendall still held a one point lead but incredibly they would only find the target one more time in the 14 minutes of the hour plus injury that would remain.  Their accuracy left them when they needed it while the Cuchullains defence found another level.  They forced turnovers and turned the screw at the other end of the pitch with Keelan Molloy showing his class.  

Chrissy McMahoon sends over a second half point

The Ruairi’s hit five wides in succession while Cunning (free), McGarry, McMahon and Seaan Elliott split the uprights to hive Dunloy a three point lead.

McManus hit his seventh point of the game, second from open play to leave two between the sides but it was going to take another major for Cushendall to reeel the Cuchullains back in.  Fergus McCambridge had a chance but the Cuchullains defence scrambled, the sliotar fell to Niall McCormick but Phelim Duffin was the Dunloy hero with Elliott out of position, Duffin stopped McCormick’s effort and cleared the danger.

Keelan Molloy’s third point of the final followed, a super score to give the Cuchullains a bit of breathing space but the fate of the Volunteer Cup was sealed with McMahon’s major in injury time.  Claiming a cross-field ball from Ronan Molloy, McMahon showed all the composure and class needed to seal the Cuchullains victory.

Four in a row, five in seven years.  The Cuchullain Village are still Kings of Hurling in the Saffron County.

Joint captains Ryan Elliott and Paul Shiels hold the volunteer Cup aloft after Dunloy’s win over Cushendall in Sunday’s Antrim Senior Hurling Final at Corrigan Park, Belfast.
Dunloy celebrate after completing their 4-in-a-row


Dunloy: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin, Ryan McGarry, Oran Quinn; Aaron Crawford, Kevin Molloy, Eamonn Smyth; Paul Shiels, Eoin McFerran; Ronan Molloy, Gabriel McTaggart, Nigel Elliott; Keelan Molloy, Conal Cunning, Seaan Elliott

Subs: Conor Kinsella for Kevin Molloy (blood sub 14 reversed 16); Anton McGrath for R Molloy (blood sub 15 reversed 17); Chrissy McMahon for G McTaggart (24); Conal Kelly for S Elliott (57); Anton McGrath for N Elliott (60)

Scorers: C Cunning 0-11 (9fs 1’65); C McMahon 1-1; Keelan Molloy 0-3; R McGarry 0-1; A Crawford 0-1; E Smyth 0-1; N Elliott 0-1; S Elliott 0-1

Cushendall: Eoin Gillan; Liam Gillan, Paddy Burke, Martin Burke; Scott Walsh, Eoghan Campbell, Ronan McAteer; Alex Delargy, Ryan McCambridge; Cormac McClafferty, Sean McAfee, Niall McCormick; Aiden McNaughton, Neil McManus, Fred McCurry

Subs: Christy McNaughton for S McAfee (38); Fergus McCambridge for C McClafferty (44)

Scorers: N McManus 0-7 (5fs); S McAfee 1-1; C McClafferty 1-0; E Campbell 0-1; N McCormick 0-1; F McCurry 0-1

Referee: Kevin Parke (Naomh Eanna)

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