Ruairi Og’s withstand late rally to collect 15th title

Bathshack Antrim Senior Hurling Championship final

Cushendall Ruairi Og 1-20 Loughgiel Shamrocks 1-19

Ruairi Og’s, Cushendall collected their 15th title when they withstood a late rally from Shamrock’s Loughgiel in an excellent Bathshack Senior Hurling final at a sun kissed Corrigan Park on Sunday.

The Ruairi’s looked to be heading for a comfortable victory when they led 1-18 to 0-15 with 8 minutes of normal time remaining but Loughgiel finished strongly and a goal from James McNaughton, four minutes into injury time closed the gap to the minimum.

Loughgiel’s top scorer James McNaughton punches the air after scoring an early point

McNaughton had the chance to tie the contest with the last piece of action of the day but his well struck free from distance, out near the touchline went agonisingly wide of an upright.

In near weather these sides served up a memorable final in front of a packed Corrigan Park that was in near perfect conditions with the Shamrocks determined to overturn an embarrassing defeat to the same opposition in the group stages and they started the game at blistering pace.

James McNaughton, who was to turn in a man of the match performance got them on their way with two early points before Paddy Burke got Cushendall off the mark with a point in the third minute. The Shamrocks looked the sharper at this stage with McNaughton’s blistering pace causing problems and he hit his third of the game to move his side two clear again.

The men from the north Antrim coast had been slow to settle but they struck in devastating fashion after five minutes and a long delivery from Christy McNaughton was played across goal by Joe McLaughlin and Fergus McNaughton finished to the net from close range to put his side ahead for the first time.

Loughgiel goalkeeper Chrissy O’Connell makes a despairing dive as Fergus McCambrige fires in the Cushendall goal

The game was being played at a fast pace as Christy McGarry replied immediately with a point at the other end to tie the contest again and further points from Fred McCurry for the ‘Dall’ and a long range effort from Declan McCloskey for Loughgiel maintained the status quo.

The large crowd at Corrigan were certainly getting value for their money as Neil McManus and James McNaughton exchanged further frees, McNaughton’s a superb effort from 60 meters before the same player briefly edged his side ahead from another conversion.

Things began to swing in favour of Ruairi Og’s however as Joe McLaughlin levelled and Neil McManus restored their lead from a free in the 19th minute before Paul Boyle restored parity once more with his first of the evening.

It was Cushendall who would finish the half the stronger however as Niall McCormick struck a fine point after being set up by Fred McCurry and further points from Joe McLaughlin, McCormack and McLaughlin again had the men in Maroon four in front with 8 minutes remaining to the break.

Loughgiel captain Declan McKillop in action against Cushendall’s Fergus McCambridge

Paul Boyle was then shown Yellow as a bit of frustration began to creep into the Loughgiel play but the Shamrocks had an excellent chance to get back into contention but Rian McMullan’s goal attempt was easily dealt with after he had been set up by a strong James McNaughton run.

McManus edged the Ruairi’s five in front with a point in the 28th minute, just after Scott Walsh had limped off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury to be replaced by Ruairi McCollam, with a James McNaughton converted free as the game edged into injury time leaving four in it at the break.

Corner back, Paddy Burke struck a great point on the restart to extend the Cushendall lead with Conor McAlister coming to the Ruairi Og’s rescue for a second time as he denied Paul Boyle at the other end.

It was Cushendall who were creating the better chances but they were guilty of a number of poor wides and Loughgiel responded with points from Enda Og McGarry, Paul Boyle and Shan McGrath to eat into the Cushendall lead.

Things were certainly livening up as both sets of supporters urged their sides to greater effort and substitute Ed McQuillan obliged with an excellent point with virtually his first touch of the ball to move his side six in front by the 12th minute.

It wasn’t looking good for the Shamrocks at this stage but they responded well through James McNaughton, Rian McMullan, McNaughton again from an 80 meter free and another from closer range in response to one from Ryan McCambridge to keep their side in touch.

It all seemed in vain however as Cushendall came roaring back with Paddy Burke’s second of the evening, Ryan McCambridge and Burke again had the Ruairi Og’s six ahead with eight minutes remaining.

Cushendall’s Eoghan Campbell solos out of defence during Sunday’s final over Loughgiel at Corrigan Park.

It looked over at this stage but Loughgiel threw caution to the wind and points from Daniel McCloskey, Shan McGrath and Paul Boyle left just a goal between the sides.

Neil McManus replied from a free and then set up Ryan McCambridge for another from play to move his side five in front by the 28th minute but James McNaughton replied from a free and then finished to the net from close range to keep the men in Red’s hopes alive.

The superb McNaughton would have one last opportunity to send the game into extra time but his long range free in the 6th minute of injury time tailed just wide of the upright with Colum Cunning sounding his full-time whistle.

There were scenes of celebration as the Ruairi Og’s gained some compensation for their defeat to Dunloy at the same stage last year and they will now go forward to represent Antrim in the Ulster’s

Skipper Neil McManus paid tribute to their greatest supporter, John McKillop, who sadly passed away this year in his acceptance speech and dedicated this win to the man who was always with them in victory or defeat.

Cushendall’s Ryan McCambridge and Neil McManus celebrate during the County Antrim senior hurling final 2023 at Corrigan Park.

Cushendall Scorers: N McManus 0-5 frees), P Burke 0-4, F McCambridge 1-0, R McCambridge 0-3, J McLaughlin 0-3, N McCormick 0-2, F McCurry 0-2, E McQuillan 0-1

Loughgiel Scorers: J McNaughton 1-10 (0-6 frees), P Boyle 0-3, S McGrath 0-2 (1 free), R McMullan 0-2, C McGarry 0-1, Declan McCloskey 0-1

Cushendall: Conor McAlister; Paddy Burke, Liam Gillan, Martin Burke; Scott Walsh, Eoghan Campbell, Aidan McNaughton; Fred McCurry, Ryan McCambridge; Ronan McAteer, Neil McManus, Fergus McCambridge; Niall McCormick, Christy McNaughton, Joe McLaughlin.

Subs: Ruairi McCollam for Scott Walsh (24), Sean McAfee for C McNaughton (37), Ed McQuillan for R McAteer (41), Paddy McGill for F McCambridge (55), Stephen Walsh for R McCollam (57)

Loughgiel: Chrissy O’Connell; Tiernan Coyle, Rory McCloskey, Ruairi McCormick; Declan McCloskey, Damon McMullan, Caolan Blair; Enda Og McGarry, Ryan McKee;  Dan McCloskey, James McNaughton, Rian McMullan; Shan McGrath, Paul Boyle, Christy McGarry.

Subs: Jack McCloskey for P Boyle (60+1), Ben McGarry for R McKee (60+4)

Referee: Colum Cunning (Dunloy)

The main man! terence Sambo McNaughton wore a special T shirt bearing a photo of Wee John McKillop as the Ruairis won their 15th title, but their first without John being there

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