and so it begins….

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Bathshack.com Senior Hurling Championship

Preliminary Round (first leg)

O’Donovan Rossa vs McQuillan’s, Ballycastle

Rossa Park, Belfast

Throw in: 7.30pm

Referee: Colm McDonald (St Gall’s)

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We stand at the gate, the entrance to and off another journey. The great battle of our time is upon us and it’s time to get the war gear on.  No, it’s not the prologue for The Lord of The Rings but the feeling every gael with clubs in the senior hurling championship will be feeling now.

Today marks 271 days since Cushendall overcame Loughgiel at Park Mac Uílín to claim the Volunteer Cup and tonight Rossa and Ballycastle get the race for ‘Big Ears’ underway once more. Rossa Park the venue for the championship opener as the Town and the Jeremiah’s get the senior hurling championship up and running.

Two giant clubs with history steeped in senior hurling within Antrim and two sides as evenly matched as you are likely to see. Their two league matches this year have seen both sides claim an away win each, the most recent of those just seven days ago.  Rossa claiming the win but both were missing a who’s who of their sides, neither Chris McAuley nor Colly Murphy will be reading too much into that result.  Rossa doing enough without ever really going through the gears while Ballycastle resembled a side who needed to get through the game without much incident.

Both went onto record wins since that have all but secured their Division One status for the 2020 season. Rossa with five points to spare over St Gall’s while Ballycastle had a three point winning margin over Ballycran on the same day.

In June, Ciaran Clarke hit 13 points (10 frees) of Ballycastle’s 1-22 as the McQuillan’s went on to record a five point victory – Thomas Morgan and Owen Kinney with the majors for both sides. Ballycastle pulling away in the second half after the sides were tied at the break.

Looking a bit further back, we don’t have to delve too far into the history books for more recent meaningful games between these sides.

Two years ago 1-7 from Deaglan Murphy and another goal from Thomas Morgan helped Rossa to condemn Ballycastle to relegation. Another edge to an already intriguing championship game if it were needed.  Yet and perhaps more significantly, the last time these two teams played in the championship was two years ago also.  A late penalty from Clarke the difference with the McQuillan’s edging that contest with two points to spare in Pearse Park.  Rossa looked to be heading for a semi-final with James Connolly in particular in irresistible form on that occasion but Ballycastle had other ideas and unfortunately for the Jeremiah’s, it looks like Connolly will be forced to sit out tonight’s first leg with doubts also hanging over Eoghan O’Neill, Ciaran Orchin, Dominic McEnhill and Micéal McGreevy.

From the championship of two years past, Ballycastle have gained promotion from Division Two and look like sustaining their status in the top tier for next season also. They’ve shown progress under Bamba McAuley and his team while breathing fresh legs into their squad from their youth set up.  Players like TT Butler and Conor Boyd have become more prominent and central figures in the Ballycastle team while the experience of Mattie Donnelly and Ciaran Clarke is invaluable.

If they have an ace in their pack, it’s the mercurial talents of Saul McCaughan. On his day, he can be devastating.  Lightning speed and could turn his opponent in a phone box.  A player that championship occasions like this, you just feel that it’s made for him.

Rossa have a strong defence and in Gerard Walsh and Cricky McGuinness they have two lads who could grace any team in the county. They have work rate in midfield while in attack the Murphy brothers, Tiarnan and Deaglan are more than a handful.  Their wild card could be Thomas Morgan who has shown in recent meeting that he doesn’t mind coming up against the McQuillan’s and has had a healthy scoring rate.

Who will win, is anyone’s guess and unlike last year, I can’t see this one being decided after the first leg. St John’s held a 14 point cushion after the first contest with Ballycastle last year and I can see nothing more than a poc of the ball between these sides.

Has anyone checked for what happens if the scores are tied over two legs?

We may just need to bend the ear of some county officials before the final whistle blows on 11th August.

A ’65 shootout anyone?

I hope it doesn’t boil down to it but don’t be surprised if it does.

Anyhow, time to submerge ourselves in the buzzing excitement of championship hurling once more. Embrace the madness, go with the flow and let the games commence.

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GORT STRIKE LATE TO DOWN CUCHULLAINS

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Team Captains Patrick McCaffrey (Gort na Mona) and Nigel Elliott (Dunloy) with Referee Paul Hanna (Glenavy)

ACFL Division 2

Sunday June 25

Pearse Park, Dunloy
Dunloy 1-10 Gort na Mona 1-11

By Brendan McTaggart
Gort na Mona made it two wins from two against South West Antrim opposition in four days on Sunday afternoon after beating Dunloy with one point to spare. After a controversial win against Rasharkin on Wednesday night, the Gort’s were involved in more drama with the home side claiming Padraig McHugh’s injury time winner going to the left of the uprights. Referee Paul Hanna took his time and gave the point much to the delight of the visitors.
Coming into Sunday’s match, Dunloy were on an unwanted run of no win in four games but after back to back draws against Tir na nOg and more recently Naomh Bríd, the Cuchullains were beginning to look like the team that started the season so impressively.
Playing with a strong wind at their backs in the opening half, the home side made all the early running but with the Gorts impressive in defence, scoring chances were at a premium. Two frees from last year’s minor starlets Conal Cunning and Keelan Molloy got the Cuchullains off and running before Conor McKinley scored the first point from play in the ninth minute.
With Gort holding all the aces in the aerial exchanges in the middle third, they started to get a foothold on the game. David McErlean marshalling the Gort defence superbly, Dermott McCabe and Caoimin Magee took control at midfield. Some patient play and good ball retention from the Gorts yielded their first score of the match, Patrick McCaffrey splitting the posts in the 15th minute before Padraig McHugh scored his first of three points over the hour to leave the minimum between the sides.
Molloy and Cunning were creating havoc in the Gort defence with Karl Fitzpatrick and McKinley making strong runs from deep, Dunloy finished the half strongly. McKinley scored a magnificent point from the side line only for McHugh to cancel out from placed ball moments later. The Dunloy centre half forward took his first half tally to four points with a brace in the closing stages to give the home side a three point lead at the short whistle.

GORT COMEBACK
Three points was a slender lead for the Cuchullains. The visitors had would have been more than happy with their first half performance and with the wind at their back in the second period, they started the second half with more attacking intent. A brace of frees from Dermott McVeigh brought them to within a point of the home side before Molloy got the Cuchullains off and running again in the second half with a free in the 36th minute.
Gort corner forward McCaffrey scored the first goal of the game and he won’t score an easier goal the rest of the year. McVeigh sent a high ball to the edge of the square where Dunloy full back Duanne Scott and ‘keeper Sean Doherty both contested. Gort full forward Christopher Carson managed to break the ball into McCaffrey’s path and the Gort man finished into an empty net to give the visitors the lead for the first time in the match.
The Turf Lodge men had another chance moments later and it came under similar circumstances. A long ball, this time from McHugh was broke down by Carson but Doherty managed to squeeze McCaffrey’s effort to safety.
A close call for the home side but with their next attack, the Cuchullains dealt a blow to Gorts hopes. A flowing move involving Oran Quinn, McKinley and Molloy resulted in Conal Cunning in space. ‘Coby’ was still 25 yards from goal but the Dunloy man unleashed a rasping drive high to the back of Thomas McCaffrey’s net after 14 second half minutes to restore the Cuchullain lead.
Like the visitors, the Cuchullains had a golden chance with their next attack to double their goal tally. Cunning finding Molloy in space but his effort flashed wide with Kevin McAllister in space at the back post. A chance missed and the visitors hit back. Three unanswered scores, substitutes Dessie McClean and Niall Mullaney splitting the posts before McVeigh added his third free of the match to give the visitors a one point lead with less than eight minutes to play.
Molloy scored his third of the match, fisting over from an acute angle to tie the sides for the second time in the match but Gort had the bit between their teeth in the closing stages. McClean scored his second of the match with a composed finish under pressure and McVeigh pointed for his fourth of the half to give Gort na Mona a two point lead with time running out.
The home side abandoned their sweeping tactics with Ryan Elliott pushing further up the pitch in an attempt to get back into the game and two frees, one each for McKinley and Molloy in the 58th and 60th minutes looked to have earned the Cuchullains a third draw in succession.
Gort mustered one last blow though with Padraig McHugh swinging over the winning score in injury time with the home side adamant that the ball sailed wide. With the game in the melting pot in the closing stages, tempers threatened to boil over but referee Paul Hanna did well to regain control and there was still time for the Cuchullains to tie the sides again but Gort held out for a hard earned victor by the narrowest of margins.
It’s now no wins in five for the Cuchullains and when the league resumes in a fortnights time they host local rivals Rasharkin in what promises to be a cracking game while Gort na Mona will welcome All Saints on the same day.

TEAMS
Dunloy:
Sean Doherty; Conor Kinsella; Duanne Scott; Jamie McFerran; Christopher McMahon; Karl O’Kane; Oran Quinn; Miceal Murphy; Karl Fitzpatrick; Nigel Elliott; Conor McKinley; Kevin McAllister; Keelan Molloy; Ryan Elliott; Conal Cunning
Scorers: Conor McKinley 0-5 (1 free); Keelan Molloy 0-4 (3 frees); Conal Cunning 1-1 (1 free)
Gort na Mona:
Thomas McCaffrey; Conor Connolly; Thomas McGoran; Christopher Devlin; Padraig Mulvenna; David McErlean; Declan McComb; Dermott McCabe; Caoimin Magee; Dermott McVeigh; Sean Doyle; Sean Campbell; Patrick McCaffrey; Christopher Carson; Padraig McHugh
Scorers: Dermott McVeigh 0-4 (3 frees); Patrick McCaffrey 1-1; Padraig McHugh 0-3 (1 free); Dessie McClean 0-2; Niall Mullaney 0-1

Referee: Paul Hanna (Glenavy)

 

GORTS EDGE RASHARKIN AT DREEN

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Referee Thomas McGilligan who started the Rasharkin vs Gort na Mona match but didn’t finish it with team Captains, Cathal Mooney and Thomas McCaffrey

ACFL Division 2
Rasharkin 1-8 Gort na Mona 2-7

By Brendan McTaggart

Two referees, one dubious penalty, one really dubious goal, one red card and two points to the visitors. You could be forgiven for wondering what on earth was happening at St Mary’s Rasharkin on Wednesday evening but after an entertaining hour of football, Gort na Mona took the points on offer.
With the match scheduled for an 8:15pm throw in there was still no referee at the Dreen Road venue so Thomas McGilligan stepped in to fill the void having officiated the prior reserve fixture between the two sides with both managers keen to get the game started with the dimming light a major factor. Eamon Hamill finally arrived after 10 minutes and by that stage the home side were two points ahead on the score board having come out of the blocks quickest. Ryan Lynch and Enda McFerran proving a handful on the inside forward line for the hosts with Shane Hasson lively on the ’40. The visitors always looked threatening going forward and worked possession well on numerous occasions in tight spaces but lacked composure in front of the target in the opening quarter.
Dermott McVeigh was carrying a huge threat for the Gorts and it was he who created the first goal for the west Belfast men. Collecting a pass wide on the right, McVeigh drilled a high ball to the edge of the Rasharkin six yard box that Christopher Carson punched to the back of Ryan Doherty’s net.
Carson’s major gave the Gorts the lead for the first time in the match and ultimately they wouldn’t relinquish that tag but it also proved to be the beginning of the Gorts purple patch. McVeigh added his second point of the match when referee Hamill awarded the visitors a dubious penalty. Aidan McDonagh was certainly fouled when bearing down on the Rasharkin goal but the discretion looked to have happened outside of the box. Despite the protests of the Rasharkin players and management the penalty stood and Padraig McHugh duly despatched the resulting kick straight down the middle with power for the Gorts second goal inside three minutes.
With the Gorts applying all the pressure, the game threatened to get away from Rasharkin but they responded well with McFerran and Lynch adding points to cut the deficit but the visitors lead at the interval 0-6 to 2-4.

In between all the drama, it was a highly competitive game of football. Both teams were keen to play an attractive brand while tackling hard with Gort na Mona being more clinical when it mattered the most in the first half.
The Gort lead was extended to five points by the time Rasharkin scored their goal and it came under more than just a little suspect circumstances. The Gort na Mona defence looked to have shepherded Lynch out over the side line but referee Hamill waved play on and while the management from both teams argued over the matter, Lynch stole in on the Gort goal. The visitors did well to crowd Lynch but Rasharkin recycled possession with the ball falling to Shane Hasson and ‘Deadly Doug’ applied the finish to the bottom corner of Thomas McCaffrey’s net. Gort na Mona were livid and despite their protestations, the goal stood and Rasharkin were back within touching distance.
Rasharkin applied all the pressure in the closing stages but the Gort na Mona defence were superb with Christopher Devlin and David McErlean in top form. Indeed were it not for some wayward shooting, the Gorts could have extended their lead.  Both sides made changes in the closing stages to try and swing the game their way and with tensions heightened the game threatened to boil over. Enda McFerran was given a straight red card in injury time for what referee Hamill deemed as a punch on a Gort na Mona player, all but ending the Rasharkin challenge and ensuring the Gorts took the two points on offer back up the M2.

 

TEAMS:
Rasharkin:
Ryan Doherty; Donagh Quigg; Conor Hasson; Dominic McFerran; Declan McKay; Thomas Doherty; James Scally; Brendan Etherson; Thomas McMullan; Shane Hasson (1-00); Cathal Mooney; Andrew Hasson (0-1); Enda McFerran (0-1); Jonathan McAleese; Ryan Lynch (0-6, 3 frees)
Subs: Ferghal Kennedy for J McAleese (40 mins); Gerard O’Hagan for B Etherson (53 mins); Pearce Kelly for A Hasson (53 mins)
Gort na Mona:
Thomas McCaffrey; Conor Connelly; Christopher Devlin; Brendan Burns; Padraig Mulvenna (0-1); David McErlean; Michael Savage; Caoimhin Magee; Dermott McCabe; Dermot McVeigh; Sean Doyle; Aidan McDonagh; Padraig McHugh; Christopher Carson; Patrick McCaffrey
Subs: Sean Campbell for D McCabe (40 mins); Dessie McClean for S Doyle (45 mins); Niall Mullaney for C Magee (49 mins)

 

Referee: Thomas McGilligan (Dunloy) and Eamon Hamill (St Teresa’s)

Saints Power to Laverty Cup Final

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Captains Kavan Keenan (All Saints) and Ronan Kelly (Sean Stinsons) with referee Paul Burns

Kelly Stone Ballymoney Laverty Cup Semi Final

All Saints Ballymena 4-12 Sean Stinsons 0-9

By Brendan McTaggart

All-Saints progressed to the Laverty Cup Final with a 15 point victory over Sean Stinsons on Tuesday evening. Five points separated the sides at the short whistle but the Ballymena men stepped up another gear at the restart. A ten minute hat trick from Bailey McNeill, helping All Saints to score 3-2 in the same time was met with just a single white flag from Sean Stinsons and the Ballymena side were in cruise control for the final quarter.
Sean Stinsons started the match brightly and through Paddy Graffin and Ronan Kelly scored the first two points of the match inside three minutes of the first whistle. A long range point from All Saints midfielder Ryan McGarry got his side off and running but two further scored from Kelly (one free) gave the home side a three point advantage by the tenth minute.
All Saints kept in touch with the accurate free taking of Lorenso Dawkins and they had taken the lead by the 20th minute thanks to the Ballymena half forward. Dawkins scoring four points unanswered, three from placed ball.
The first sniff of a major came after 21 minutes, Kavan Kennan twice denied by Patrick Dougan from close range but the All Saints finished the half superbly. Jamie McLarnon scored his first free of the match to reduce the deficit to the minimum but 1-2 in the closing stages from All Saints, the goal coming from Cory Little, put the Ballymena men into a strong position for the second half.

Ten Minute Hat-Trick

It was a close and competitive first half with All Saints only pulling away in the closing stages, after the restart the visitors turned the screw and were clinical in front of the posts with Bailey McNeill doing the damage. A Dawkins free from wide on the left was dropping short but McNeill timed his leap to perfection and punched the ball to the back of the net after three second half minutes. His second goal came under similar circumstances, this time a long ball from deep and McNeill jumped between Dougan and Ruairi McGuigan to punch the ball into the Stinsons net for his second and All Saints third goal. His hat-trick was complete in the 42nd minute when he pounced on a loose ball after Dougan denied Conor Stewart. McNeill’s first effort was blocked but while lying on the turf, he managed to squeeze the ball over the line.
It was ten minutes that took the game away from Sean Stinsons as All Saints controlled the remainder of the game. The home side never lay down and in Oisin Doherty and Ronan Kelly they always posed a threat but All Saints were too strong all over the pitch, the midfield duo of Kavan Keenan and Ryan McGarry in particular impressing while sweeper Shea O’Brien and McNeill were also standout performers.
They now progress to the Final where they will meet Glenavy with the St Joseph’s men defeating last year’s Laverty Cup winners Dunloy in Tuesday’s other Semi-Final. Leading by five points at the half way point, 3-6 to 3-1 and despite a better showing in the second half, the Cuchullains lost their grip on the Cup with Glenavy running out winners by a score line of 3-10 to 3-7. Thomas and Anthony Gallagher shinning for the victors while Seann Elliott’s first half hat-trick was in vain for the Cuchullains with Callum Scullion also impressing in midfield.

TEAMS
All Saints:
Aaron Montgomery; Matthew Downey; Cormac Lennon; Padhraig Magill; Eoin Walsh; Rhys O’Mullan; Ryan McKennna; Kavan Keenan; Ryan McGarry (0-2); Lorenso Dawkins (0-6, 5 frees); Cory Little (1-3); Conor Stewart (0-1); Bailey McNeill (3-00); Shea O’Brien; Rían McCann
Sean Stinson:
Patrick Dougan; Christie Convery; Brian Lewis; Cormac Mooney; Ryan Convery; Declan Dobbin; Harry Lennon; Ferghal O’Kane; Paul McAleese; Oisin Doherty; Ciaran Lynch; Paddy Graffin (0-1); Conor-Paul Crossey; Ronan Kelly (0-4, 1 free); James McLarnon (0-4, 3 frees)

Referee: Paul Burns (St Comgalls)

Derry Too Strong for Young Saffrons

 

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Antrim’s Ruairi Brolly and Sean McKeever of Derry do battle in Clones

 

Ulster Minor Football Championship

Semi-Final

Antrim 0-10 Derry 3-17

 

Derry proved a step too far for the Saffron minors on Sunday as the Oak Leaf county progressed to their third Ulster Final in a row. 16 points separated the teams at the end of the hour as the impressive Derry men powered past Antrim.
The travelling Antrim faithful had to wait until the 25th minute before seeing the Saffrons register their first score, Dermot McErlaine with the finish but Derry were already by eight points at that stage thanks largely to a Conor McCluskey penalty in the opening five minutes.
Antrim competed better after the interval but a brace of late goals from Swatragh man Oisin McWilliams ensured the Oak Leaf men will have an All-Ireland Quarter Final and an Ulster decider to look forward to.
Full match report to follow from Clones.

 
Antrim: Michael Byrne, Eoin Nagle, John Toner, Aidan Mulholland, Eamon Kelly, Eoghan McCabe, John McCaffrey, Ethan Gibson, Joe Maybin, Dermot McErlaine (0-3f), Tiarnán McAteer, Jamie Gribbin, Liam Quinn (0-1f), Dominic McEnhill, Ronan Kelly (0-3, 1f).
Subs: Peter Henvey for D McEnhill (inj 19), Jack Lenahan for J Toner (19), Ruairi Brolly (0-1) for J Maybin (32), Seanchan Duffin (0-1) for E Gibson (HT), Malachi Doherty (0-1) for E Nagle (37), Kealan McCann for J Gribbin (51)

 

Derry: Oran Hartin, Oran McGill, Conor McCluskey (1-0 pen), Sean McKeever, Simon McErlain, Dara Rafferty, Conleth McShane, Padraig McGrogan, Oisin McWilliams (2-2), Paddy Quigg (0-2, 1f), Richie Mullan (0-1) , Declan Cassidy (0-1), Ben McCarron (0-4, 1f), Lorcan McWilliams (0-2), Mark McGrogan (0-1).
Subs: Fergal Mortimer (0-3) for P Quigg (37), Tiarnan McHugh (0-1) for M McGrogan (37), Cormac Murphy for R Mullan (48), Callum Brown for D Cassidy (48), Martin Bradley for S McErlain (55), Tiarnan Walsh for O McWilliams (55).

 
Referee: Anthony Marron (Monaghan)

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Simon McErlain consoles fellow MacRory Cup winner Liam Quinn after the game

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Aidan Mulholland and Michael Byrne cant deny Oisin McWilliams

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