Ardoyne hurlers bring years of famine to an end

Junior B Hurling Final

Ardoyne 0-18 Loch Mor Dal gC ais 1-11

Success may have been a long time coming for the hurlers of Ardoyne Kickhams, but they completed a historic double with a win in the Junior B hurling championship over Loch Mór Dal gCais at Musgrave on Saturday afternoon to build upon their earlier league success.

Last year, the North Belfast side fell to St Brigid’s in the decider and they were in no mood for a repeat, finding a way over the line in a game that was extremely hard going for both teams as the rain poured throughout, cutting up the well prepared pitch as the game progressed.

The previous game between these two sides in the round robin stage and played in similar dismal conditions finished in a draw, so anticipation was high to see if Loch Mór could bring the Ardoyne men’s unbeaten run to an end in the final game of the season.  It was apparent from early on in this highly competitive match though that the men from the north of the city were determined to bring the championship home after several years of near misses.

Conditions were not favourable to the forwards and while the majority of the scores came from placed balls that was a credit to both free-takers who missed very little with Ardoyne’s Aran Stewart finishing with 14 points to his name – 13 from frees – while Loch Mór’s Darragh Turley converted nine of his chances.

Despite the atrocious underfoot conditions, both sides served up a highly entertaining game.

Loch Mór opened well and Bailey Graham put them on the board when pulling on a loose ball that just about cleared the bar.

Stewart replied with his first point from frees and then Oisin MacAnBhiocaire split the posts from a tight angle to put Ardoyne into the lead and went on to have one of his best displays in an Ardoyne jersey that galvanised the Ardoyne team.

Ardoyne led by two points after 12 minutes, but Turley stroked over four frees in succession to put Loch Mór ahead by the same margin. Aran Stewart then stepped up to the mark for Ardoyne and responded with a display of free taking that was inspiring in the atrocious conditions.

At the half time whistle Ardoyne were ahead by 3 points as both teams headed for the shelter of the dressing rooms.

Half Time: Ardoyne 0-11 Loch Mór 0-8

The second half could not have started better for Loch Mór as Turley lined up a free from inside his own half just a minute in but this time it dipped and Ferdia Carson rose to get a deft flick and divert it into the net. However, a subsequent point from play from MacAnBhiocaire left the minimum margin between the two sides.

Stewart and McAuley engaged in their own private sharp shooting duel with Stewart pushing the Ardoyne men ahead anytime Loch Mór looked like pulling back their lead. While Ardoyne exerted increasing pressure on Loch Mór, the conditions were such that their lead was always vulnerable. However, two moments of inspiration put the game beyond any remaining doubt. Substitute Enda Slattery scored an exquisite point from a narrow angle for Ardoyne that was followed by a wonder catch from the inspirational Paul Baker in the Ardoyne full back line.

As the final whistle blew, the years of frustration for the Northenders had come to an end and the celebrations were about to start. “Going into that last quarter, there was no way we were going to lose,” said manager Conor Barnes, “We went down into the trenches there, quite literally because of the state of the pitch, and the players were super right to the end. We’ll enjoy our day today – it’s amazing.”

Man of the Match was a close contest between Stewart and MacAnBhiocaire for Ardoyne. Given the former’s display of free taking along with his inspirational display of skill and commitment the honour narrowly goes to Aran Stewart.

Given the extreme conditions, credit must be given to both teams who gave full commitment and the game was played in a great spirit. The match officials allowed the game to flow and contributed to a great game of hurling. Special thanks to St Brigid’s for having the pitch well prepared to withstand the atrocious conditions for this County Final.

Ardoyne: 1 JP Agnew, 2 Pascal Clarke, 3 Paul Baker, 4 Cathal Clarke, 5 Sean Searle, 6 Caolan Wallace, 7 Micheál McGreevey, 8 Dean Goodall, 9 Paul McGuigan, 10 Oisin Mac An Bhiocaire 0-3, 11 Cahal Keown, 12 Pearse Hull, 13 Matt McKillen, 14 Aran Stewart 0-14 (0-12f), 15 Jim Og McAuley, Cormac Barnes, Paul O’Halloran, Joe McDowell, Conor Flannery, Stephen Hill, Eoghain Mac An tSearraig, Eamon MacLochlainn, Matthew Crommie, Patrick McGreevy, Padraig O Deorain, Cormac Curran, Enda Slattery 0-1

Subs: P McGreevy for C Keown (42), C Barnes for M McKillen (55), E Slattery (0-1) for P Hull (57).

Loch Mór: 1 Cathan O hEireamhoin, 2 Brogan Graham, 3 Sean Burke, 4 Aaron Monaghan, 5 Declan Phillips, 6 Conor Jones, 7 David McAreavey,  8 Martin Branniff, 9 Cormac Dwyer, 10 Cal Burke, 11 Matthew Jones, 12 Darragh Turley 0-10 (0-10f) 13 Bailey Graham 0-1, 14 Ferdia Carson (1-0), 15 Michael McCullough

Subs: M Robb for C Burke (38), R Bannon for A Monaghan (38), P Molloy for D McAreavey (55).

Referee: Chris Brown

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