Antrim Division Two hurling title climax at The Riggs

Cushendun Emmet’s 1-24 St Gall’s 0-16

Report by Denis O’Hara

Pics by Micky Morgan

CONLAOTH ‘Loaf’ McNEILL produced a master class in sharpshooting to make sure the Emmet’s closed out their Division Two title-winning campaign on a top note from this stormy tussle at The Riggs..

The supremely talented forward bagged 1-10, his first half goal significantly turning the action firmly in favour of the Emmet’s when playing into a stiff breeze..

Loaf’s almost leisurely ability to pick off scores, the excellence of teenage centre half Sean McKay and the bravery of young deputy goalkeeper Eoin ‘Cubby’ Magee helped the Emmet’s to dig deep – and celebrate the clinching of the Division Two title.

“We knew it would be a tough test against St Gall’s, but the boys rose to the challenge to prove they are worthy league champions. Now the target is the Championship,” said Emmet’s manager Rory McQuillan, after the trophy was presented to home skipper Jack McKay by, ironically a St Gall’s club member, Sinead Mullan – the County Assistant Secretary,

St Gall’s came with mean intent to make sure the Antrim Coast side would earn their trophy success, even though the title race ended 24 hours earlier when Glenariffe surprisingly lost at home to Ahoghill’s Clooney Gaels.

There was nothing meaningless about the end fixture as St Gall’s came smartly out of the traps and with wind advantage the home heroes had to grind out an early spell when second best for much of the opening quarter.

The accuracy of Jackson McGreevy and Cushendun natvice Leo Morgan had the city side moving nicely until the Emmet’s upped the ante in the 16th minute.

An exceptional save by St Gall’s Kurtis McGreevy, who had an outstanding game, from Harry Kilgore, hinted at better things to come for the locals as Colm McKeegan angled over a superb point.

Indeed, after his exceptional bravery to halt James Morgan and a Harry Kilgore follow-up from entering the net, the Emmet’s took the lead for the first time in the 23rd minute.

‘Loaf’ McNeill cutely palmed home a lengthy lob from the rapidly maturing centre half Sean McKay.

Seconds later, St Gall’s tried to remedy the situation but home ‘keeper Eoin ‘Cubby’ Magee, standing in for the unavailable Gareth McGhee, blocked a Mark Napier effort with his forehead and required treatment.

Generally, Cubby had the comfort of a stubborn wall in front of him – Jack McKay, Aidan Corbett and Sean Hamilton.

This little cameo of crucial events turned the game in favour of the high energy Emmet’s, who bagged 1-5 before turning 1-9 to 0-8 clear.

The second half belonged to the stunning accuracy of Loaf McNeill, plonking over long-distance frees from all angles. Not far behind in the scoring spree were 24-year-old winger James Morgan, the ever ready wing half Callum Kilgore, midfielder Conor Bannon, leggy winger Harry Kilgore, crafty corner man Colm McKeegan and centre forward, Fintan McQuillan.

One player rose above all the tension, the impressively athletic centre back Sean McKay, a 17 year old schoolboy full-back rugby star for Ballymena Academy.

McKay, an outstanding hurling prospect, took over the pivital role at number six, for the injured Donal O’Hara.

St Gall’s hugely talented Jackson McGreevy, was a constant thorn in the Cushendun sides. He had superb support from goalkeeper Kurtis McGreevy, centre half Jeff Frampton, midfielder Jack Hopkins and livewire corner forward Napier.

CUSHENDUN Emmet’s: E Magee; J McKay (c), A Corbett, S Hamilton; T Scally, S McKay, C Kilgore; D McQuillan and C Bannon; H Kilgore, F McQuillan, J Morgan; C McKeegan, C McHugh, C McNeill.

Subs used-D Sharkey, O McMahon, D Kilgore, C McDonnell.

Scorers: C McNeill 1-10 (nine frees) J Morgan 0-3, C McKeegan, H Kilgore, F McQuillan 0-2 each, C Kilgore C Bannon, D Sharkey, C McHugh, D Kilgore 0-1 each.

BELFAST St Gall’s: K McGreevy; D Churchill, C McCartan, E Flush; G MacAdian, J Frampton, D MacLiam; J Hopkins and S McGreevy; J McGreevy, C Sheehan, D Delaney; F Donnelly, L Morgan, M Napier. Subs used-O Kelly,T McAleenan.

Scorers: J McGreevy 0-10 (nine frees), M Napier, L Morgan, D MacLiam, J Frampton, F Donnelly, S McGreevy 0-1 each.

Ref-Terence Mulvenna (Bredagh)

Cushendun captain Jack McKay receives the Antrim Hurling League Division 2 trophy from county assistnat secretary Sinead Mullan after his team’s final game of the season on Sunday. Pic by Mickey Morgan

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