Antrim Senior Hurling Division Two
CUSHENDUN EMMET’S 4-14 CLONEY GAELS 2-15
Goalkeeper Garth McGhee produced an astonishing exhibition during the second half of this rumbustious Division Two top of the table showdown at The Riggs, on Saturday afternoon.
From the 90th second of the restart to the seventh minute of time added on veteran McGee nervelessly placed not only his caman on the line to halt shots but also his entire frame.
The former Antrim netminder made sure the Emmet’s squeezed out a superb five-points victory over their title chasing rivals from Ahoghill and remain top of the table.
Adding to the elation of this win was the celebration of top player Donal O’Hara’s wedding day.
The towering centre half was absent from the team, also his best man – Conrad McDonnell.
Cushendun looked lightweight with the further setback of losing ex-county forward Conor ‘Smiley’ McHugh with ankle damage, yet turned a negative into a tale of the unexpected.
During the first session Cloney players searched for goals but many attempts blocked by the rock steady Aidan Corbett, Sean Hamilton and Thomas Scally – and the super catching and clearing by Jack McKay.
Against the odds the Emmets created great openings and a lob from Loaf McNeill was rifled home by Dominic McQuillan in the third minute.
Loaf, playing his best hurling, set up classy corner forward Colm McKeegan who first timed a laser-like finish to the net.
After eleven minutes the home boys led by 2-1 to 0-1.
Clooney’s first point from play arrived in the 18th minute by Ronan Graham.
Now it was 2-2 to 0-4.
The 29-year-old full back Corbett twice denied Clooney a sniff at the net.
At the other end hare-paced Harry Kilgore and the inimitable Loaf McNeill plundered great points.
After 26 minutes it was 2-7 to 0-8, but Gaels were now firing on all cylinders, now opening up the Emmets – mainly through the speed of livewire Eamonn Brady. Gaels goaled in the 27th minute through P J O’Connell. Loaf replied, and in front of the Clooney bench by clipping a fabulous sideline cut over the bar.
At the interval Cushendun, playing inland, led 2-9 to 1-9.
The second session proved a nail biting affair, a but more physical play – spikey to say the least.
This is where veteran goalie McGhee rose to the occasion super save waist high from P J O’Connell.
Cushendun retaliated with David Kilgore picking the long puck out and driving along angled ball into the paw of the impressive Loaf and a short range blast past Francis Neeson.
Harry Kilgore plonked an angled shot over the bar in the 34th minute to give his team a seven-points lead at 3-10 to1-9.
PJ O’Connell hit the Emmet’s net one minute later, and end to end fireworks.
Then ,just to frustrate the visiting side, and immediate reply through a cracking major score by home number14 Dominic McQuillan, after bouncing the ball on the hard surface let fly a rocket shot to the net.
Clooney pushed hard but all hands to the pumps with home full forward McQuillan reverting to help the half back line.
The Gaels piled on the pressure to plunder five points inside nine minutes.
It became hot and heavy with players booked for tough challenges.
Garth McGhee hooked away a close range piledriver. To ease the pressure Loaf McNeill clattered a long-range free over the crossbar.
Cloney’s ever dangerous James O’Connell, in the 56th minute, scampered clear, beat McGhee but his angled shot crashed off a post.
During this period Emmet’s Jack McKay was devastating in the defence and up front James Morgan powered over a great point.
Then it was McGhee at the double, super reaction saves – to prevent PJ O’Connell and Ronan Graham from scoring two minutes into stoppage time.
Classy corner forward Colm McKeegan opted for a safe point and at the death McGee, down on his knees at the base of post to deny PJ O’Connell. Overall a thrilling contest as the Emmet’s put themselves in prime position to collect the league title. They won’t be counting their chickes just yet, but no doubt the result would have added to the celebrations at Donal and Maria’s celebration in the Tullyglass Hotel.
CUSHENDUN EMMET’S: G McGhee; J McKay, A Corbett, S Hamilton;
C Kilgore, S McKay, T Scally; C Bannon and O McMahon; H Kilgore, J Morgan, C McNeill;
C McKeegan, D McQuillan, D Kilgore.
Scorers-C McNeill 1-7, D McQuillan 2-0, C McKeegan 1-1, H Kilgore 0-4, J Morgan D Kilgore 0-1 each.
CLOONEY GAELS: F Neeson; H O’Donnell, J Magee, Diarmaid Graham;
F O’Neill, B Graham, D O ‘Neill; E Brady and C McDonnell; R Graham, E Graham, P Graham;
P J O’Connell, Donal Graham,
Scorers-J O’Connell 0-9, PJ O’Connell 2-0, R Graham 0-2 P Graham, E Brady, F O’Neill 0-1 each.
Referee-Ray Matthews (Rossa).