McClafferty goal decisive as Ruairis beat Rossa

All County Hurling League Division 1

Ruairi Og Cushendall 1-22 O’Donovan Rossa 0-19

Alex Emerson reports from Pairc Mhuire

Played in perfect conditions, with both teams missing key players, this was a game of the highest quality that kept the relatively small attendance enthralled from the first whistle to the last.  The outcome of the game was probably decided by two key moments in the second half: Rossa wing forward Seaghan Shannon being sent off and the only goal of the game supremely converted by Ruairí Óg forward Cormac Mc Clafferty who would finish with a personal tally of 1.3.  Reduced to fourteen men, Rossa fought to the end but after the sending-off, they rarely looked like getting that vital goal which could have had a major bearing on the outcome of such a tight encounter.  Rossa will be pleased with the fluency of their hurling and the virtuoso free-taking performance of roving corner forward Deaglan Murphy who scored fourteen points in total, twelve of them from the dead-ball situation.  Equally, Ruairí Óg will have been encouraged by the way they won this match particularly the displays of forwards Dom Delargy, Christy Mc Naughton, Cormac Mc Clafferty and Ryan Mc Cambridge who fired over scores from all angles and distances.

The game began with Deaglan Murphy converting the first of his many free-taking opportunities in the second minute.  Then Cushendall midfielder, David Kearney made an incisive run through the middle of the Rossa defence only to see his rasping shot brilliantly saved by Rossa netminder, Matt Devlin.  Unfortunately, Christy Mc Naughton missed the resultant 65’ but would make amends soon after with the first of his five scores from frees and a further two points from play.  During the next ten minutes, the teams went almost score for score and by the 14th minute it was Cushendall in the lead by just one point, 0.6 to 0.5.  Then, in a three-minute period, Ruairí Óg hit a purple patch and a barrage of scores from open play by Ryan Mc Cambridge and Christy Mc Naughton as well as a free from Cormac Mc Clafferty put Cushendall in the ascendancy at 9pts to 6pts.  Remarkably that would be the maroon boys last score of the half and as their defence began to concede scoreable frees due to undisciplined tackling, Deaglan Murphy was on hand to make them pay with three successful conversions and a splendid effort from open play to leave the score at half-time, Ruairí Óg 0.09 v Rossa 0.10 `

Both teams emerged for the second half and almost from the off, made it clear there would be no let-up in terms of intensity or desire to win the game.  Dangerous forward, Deaglan Murphy tore through the heart of the Cushendall defence and unleashed what looked like an unstoppable shot towards the home side’s goal but the Ruairí Óg custodian, Eoin Gillan was equal to the task and pulled off a brilliant save.  Further points from Murphy and Armstrong extended the Rossa lead to three points but Emmet Laverty’s exquisite score in the 35th minute reduced the arrears to two.  Paddy Burke, playing as full forward, showed he was quite comfortable in that role by converting a very nice point in the 39th minute after some very good support play by his fellow forwards.  Morgan converted an equally impressive minor for the Shaw’s Rd men and so it was nip and tuck with both teams looking possible winners at this stage.  But then events in the next five minutes would have a significant bearing on the outcome of this absorbing encounter.  The Cushendall forwards, prompted by the high fielding of Dom Delargy and the direct running of Ryan Mc Cambridge, would register five unanswered scores, the most significant being a decisive goal in the 42nd minute.  After some clever approach play, Ryan Mc Cambridge found himself in a favourable position and struck for goal but the Rossa keeper, Devlin made a fantastic save only to find corner forward, Cormac Mc Clafferty doubling sweetly on the rebound and sending the sliotar to the back of the net.  In the meantime, Rossa were dealt another hammer blow when wing forward Seaghan Shannon was sent off by referee Mark O’ Neill which somewhat blunted the blue and yellows’ attack thereafter.  

Eoghan Campbell who line out at centre back against Rossa.

 With substitute Neil Mc Manus having been added to the Cushendall attack, the boys in maroon sensed victory and went in for the kill.  Points rained over the Rossa crossbar with Dom Delargy, Christy Mc Naughton and a brace from Mc Manus all getting in on the act.  Though further points from Mc Veigh and Murphy kept Rossa in touch, by the 56th minute, the home team held a seven-point advantage and seemed to be closing the game out.   However, the Rossa players had not read that script and an encouraging point from Armstrong was enhanced by a further two from the pinpoint free-taking of Deaglan Murphy which left just four points between the two teams.   But to their credit, the Cushendall defence, superbly marshalled by Eoghan Campbell were much more disciplined and effective in the second half, and they snuffed out any remaining threats from a Rossa attack which had no option but to go for goals.  Add to that, further insurance points from the ever-improving Christy Mc Naughton and late substitute Donal Mc Naughton ensured a very welcome six-point victory for the home team at the final whistle. 

Deaglan Murphy who scored 0-14 against Cushendall

Ruairí Óg: Eoin Gillan, Rory Mc Collam, Martin Burke, Liam Gillan, Terry Mc Alister, Eoghan Campbell, Joe Mc Curry, David Kearney, Emmet Laverty, Dominic Delargy (0.4), Eamon Laverty, Ryan Mc Cambridge (0.3), Cormac Mc Clafferty (1.3, 0.2f), Paddy Burke (0.1), Christy Mc Naughton (0.7, 0.5f)
Subs: Fred Mc Curry, Neil Mc Manus (0.2) Donal Mc Naughton (0.1)

Rossa: M Devlin, M Smith, C Orchin, N Devlin, E O’ Neill, Stephen Shannon, J Cooley, M Mc Greevy,  C Shannon, C Mc Veigh (0.1), C Mc Guinness, Seaghan Shannon, T Morgan (0.2), M Armstrong (0.2), D Murphy (0.14, 12f)

St Pat’s book final place

Ulster Colleges Hurling – Gallagher Cup

St Pat’s Maghera 3-9 St Killian’s College 1-8

St Patrick’s College Maghera booked their place in the final of the Gallagher Cup when they beat St Killian’s College Garron Tower in Thursday’s semi-final at Slemish Park, Ballymena. St Pats made a strong start and they went ahead on two minutes when man of the match Eamon Cassidy pointed, Jack Dunne added another point a minute later before full forward Niall Barton grabbed his team’s opening goal on three minute after, picking up a pass from his centre half back Adam McLaughlin.

St Killian’s missed a host of chances from both open play and frees but they eventually got going when Killian McNaughton pointed left sided from play and Patrick McIlwaine sent over a close range free in the ninth minute to close the gap to three.  Francis McKillop hit a fine score from play in the twelfth minute to leave just two between the sides but when full forward Barton was pulled down while soloing through on goal in the 17th minute Eamon Cassidy pointed the free to restore the three point cushion. Two points from placed balls by Mark McSparran cut the deficit to just one with seven minutes of the first half still to play but a long range point from St Pat’s full back, just before the break had his side 1-4 to 0-5 in front at half time.

Playing against the breeze in the second half St Killian’s task got even harder when they lost both midfielders Matthew Black and Patrick McIlwaine through injury within five minutes of the restart, and when Eamon Cassidy rose brilliantly on the edge of the St Killian’s square to make a great catch, before turning and firing the ball home, the Garron Tower task got even harder.

Eamon Cassidy make a brilliant high catch on the edge of the Garron Tower square before turning and firing to the net.

When Cassidy added points in the 43rd and 44th minutes their was no way back for St Killian’s though they did close the gap with a point from the left corner by Brogan O’Connor and a goal from Cormac McKeown. A great high catch and dummy from Cassidy sent him clear for the score of the game on twenty minutes and though St Killian’s pulled a couple of points back from Joseph McLaughlin frees late on, a goal from substitute Finn Bradley with his first touch of the ball secured St Pat’s place in the final against the winners of tomorrow’s other semi-final between CPC and St Louis, Ballymena in Loughgiel.

ST PAT’S, MAGHERA: Finatan McConnell, Tiernan McCormick, Finn Scullion, Danny McDermot, Des McGrath, Adam McLaughlin, Aimon Duffin, Jack McGroarty, Joseph McCullough, Matthew Mullan, Jack Dunne, Fionn McEldowney, Eamon Cassidy, Niall Barton, Conall Bradley.

Subs – Finn Bradley for Conall Bradley

ST KILLIAN’S: John V Morgan, Niall Hynds, Aidan McSparran, Stephen McAuley, Cathan Graham, Mark McSparran, Ronan Leech, Patrick McIlwaine, Matthew Black, Brogan O’Connor, Rowan Rodgers, Killian McNaughton, Cormac McKeown, Frankie McCormick, Joe McNaughton.

Subs – Cialin Devlin for Stephen McAuley; Naill Magee for Niall Hynds; Joe McLaughlin for Joe McNaughton; Odhran Daly for Patrick McIlwaine (inj); Austin Birt for Matthew Black (inj)

Can David slay Goliath on Saturday evening?

Ulster Football Championship quarter-final

Antrim v Tyrone

6-00 Athletic Grounds Armagh

The Biblical account of David and Goliath is one of the most popular stories from Scripture. It is a lesson of courage, faith, and overcoming what seems impossible. David was the youngest of Jesse’s twelve sons. One day, the nation of Israel was called to fight the Philistine army that had gathered for war. While David’s brothers went to fight, young David stayed back. The two armies gathered to stand on opposite sides of a deep valley.  A great Philistine giant named Goliath that stood at over nine feet tall came to the front of the Philistine battle line each day for forty days and mocked the Israelites and their God. Goliath called to them to fight but King Saul and the Israelite were scared and did nothing.

David was sent by his dad Jesse to visit the front lines and bring back battle news from his brothers. David heard Goliath mocking Israel and their God. David was brave and volunteered to fight Goliath. He persuaded King Saul to let him go fight and decided to not wear any of King Saul’s armour. David carried his sling and gathered five smooth stones. Goliath laughed at David but David responded that even though Goliath had a sword and spear, he came in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel. David put a rock in his sling and swung one of the rocks at Goliath’s head. The rock sank into the giant’s forehead and he fell. David then picked up Goliath’s sword and used it to kill Goliath and cut off his head.

What has David and Goliath got to do with Antrim’s game against Tyrone in the Ulster Championship at the Athletic Grounds on Saturday night. Nothing you might say but in many people’s eyes Antrim are the David facing the Ulster giants.

Written off as no hopers outside the county, Antrim take the field on Saturday evening with nothing to lose. In some quarters they are taking bets on just how many that Tyrone will win bye but there is a moral in the David v Goliath story.

David was laughed at and given no chance by the Philistines but also by many of the Israelites but the young David had faith in his own ability and approached his opponent with belief and courage and on Saturday evening Lenny Harbinson’s side must do the same.

A failure to gain promotion from division 4 this year has added to the scepticism surrounding the Saffron’s but in closer reflection Antrim performed well in nearly all their games but came out on the wrong side in three of them by a single point.

They lost to Derry in an opening game many felt they should have won by a single point and lost by the same margin away to Leitrim. These sides contested the division 4 final with winners Derry giving Tyrone plenty to think about on the opening day of this year’s Ulster championship.

Tyrone are a brilliant side and would be regarded as one of the top four or five in Ireland and have a side sprinkled with excellent players throughout from goalkeeper Niall Morgan, Ronan McNamee, Tiernan McCann, Peter Harte, Matthew Donnelly and Cathal McShane just to name a few.

The Saffrons have their own stars however from keeper Paddy Nugent, Ricky Johnston, Declan Lynch, Martin Johnston, Paddy McBride, Matt Fitzpatrick, Colm Duffin, Niall Deargy, Stephen Beatty and Ryan Murray while the panel has been freshened by the addition of a number of new and promising players this year.

Odhran Eastwood  and James McAuley both won Ulster Intermediate Championship medals with St. Enda’s and went on to play in an All Ireland final in Croke Park and will come into contention for a place in the starting line-out.

Patrick McCormick from Moneyglass, Michael McCarry from All Saints and Kevin Quinn from Lamh Dhearg have been regulars in the side this season and have performed well and will be hoping to get the nod for a starting place while Conor Murray has returned to action with Lamh Dhearg after a lengthy injury but Saturday night may come too soon for the ultra-competitive Hannastown man.

At the time of writing no Antrim team has been announced but whoever Lenny Harbison and his assistant, Brendan Trainor decide on, their side like David will start as underdogs but remember, David slayed Goliath!

Emmets win in Hannahstown

ACHL Division Three

Lamh Dhearg 1-11-3-21 Cushendun

By Kevin Herron at Hannahstown

Cushendun had 16-points to spare but were pushed by a dogged Lamh Dhearg side for the majority of the game in a 3-21-1-11 win at Hannahstown this evening.

In a nip and tuck first half the sides were level on five occasions before the visitors hit a further six unanswered points to lead 0-13-0-07 at the break.

Gavin Quinn struck early in the second-half to give Lamh Dhearg renewed hope – but two goals in a matter of minutes from Eoin McQuillan and Conleth McNeill saw Cushendun regain their composure and a second McQuillan goal sealed the points for Cushendun.

Dominic Sharkey hit the opening score at Hannahstown inside of the two minutes – though Mark Finnegan replied from the placed ball.

Conleth McNeill quickly restored his sides advantage, but Gerard Smyth gathered a high ball from  Finnegan and hit a delightful point on the turn to level at 0-02-0-02.

A second converted Mark Finnegan free had edged Lamh Dhearg in front for the first time – however Dominic Sharkey intercepted a defensive clearance and popped the ball over to level for the third time inside of ten minutes.

Lamh Dhearg hit their first purple patch of the evening – Mark Finnegan registered his third free of the evening and quickly followed it up with a forth after Gerard Smyth was felled.

Defensively the hosts were solid in the first quarter with Ronan Fegan, Mark Lynch and Sean Paul Gibson mopping up at the back and youngsters Joel Brady and Michael Clarke showing composure.

Indeed their next score opened up a three point gap and it began in the defensive third as Ronan Fegan’s clearance was picked up by Cameron Flynn who switched to Mark Finnegan and Finnegan turned provider for Michael McGuigan who popped the ball over to make it 0-06-0-03.

Cushendun hit back through a David Kilgore point and almost conjured up the opening goal of the game – Lamh Dhearg goalkeeper Michael Clarke opted to close down the danger but left his goal slightly unguarded; the ball was popped into the path of James Morgan whose shot was blocked on the line by Mark Lynch and Eoin McQuillan eventually settled for a point.

The sides were level for a fourth time approaching the tweety minute mark as Morgan laid the ball off for David Kilgore to stroke over his second point of the evening.

Mark Finnegan’s fifth converted free of the half edged Lamh Dhearg back in front (0-07-0-06) but it was to be the hosts final score of the first period as Cushendun would hit seven without reply in a dominant period.

A third David Kilgore point levelled proceedings for a fourth time and that was quickly followed by a superb Eoin McQuillan point; after a good switch from Dominic Sharkey.

James Morgan shot over a tight angle in the aftermath and midfielder Conor McHugh confidently shot over the bar to open up a three point gap (0-10-0-07).

The visitors were firmly in the ascendancy and McHugh turned provider for Conleth McNeill to score his second point of the half – Dominic Sharkey and McHugh would add further points to ensure that their side held a 0-13-0-07 lead at the midway point.

Lamh Dhearg came out with the bit between their teeth after the break and struck the games opening goal.

Cameron Flynn picked up the reins and confidently burst forward – his shot was doubled upon by Gavin Quinn and Eoin Magee could do nothing to stop Quinn’s shot finding the corner of the net to make it 0-13-1-07.

A foul on Aidan McGuigan gave Mark Finnegan the chance to register his opening score of the second period and the midfielder duly obliged to make it a two-point game.

David Kilgore charged forward and hit his sides opening score of the second period – Mark Finnegan would reply after a foul on Flynn to make it 0-14-1-09 and keep the game firmly poised.

Cushendun upped the ante and three unanswered points opened up a five-point lead with 42 minutes gone.

Dominic McQuillan drove the ball over the bar and back to back converted frees from Conor  McHugh brought his evenings tally to 0-04.

The visitors then killed the game off as a contest with two goals inside of two minutes approaching the final quarter – Eoin McQuillan skipped forward with purpose and from a tight angle was able to rifle to the net past Michael Clarke and make it 1-17-1-09.

Moments later the Lamh’s were caught napping at the back and Conleth McNeill gave Clarke no chance – rifling into the bottom right hand corner to open up a 2-17-1-09 advantage.

Mark Finnegan replied with his first score from play of the evening – though Aidan Corbett converted a free and with ten minutes remaining the visitors secured a third goal.

Conor Hugh’s free was flicked to the net by Eoin McQuillan for the centre-half forwards second of the evening.

Mark Finnegan again replied but despite the midfielders best efforts late on; there was to be no grandstand finish as Cushendun saw out proceedings with three further points.

Conor McHugh shot over the bar from range and James Morgan added to single first-half point – the final score fell to Conleth McNeill from a  converted free as Cushendun ran out 3-21-1-11 winners at the games conclusion.

Lamh Dhearg: M Clarke, R Fegan, M Lynch, S Byrne, J Brady, SP Gibson, E Herron, M Finnegan (0-09, 0-08f), A McGuigan, C Herron, M McGuigan (0-01), C Flynn, G Quinn (1-00), G Smyth (0-01), A Ferris. Subs: A Perry for A Ferris (52 mins), C McKenna for G Quinn (52 mins), N McGuigan for C Herron (54 mins), K Herron for G Smyth (56 mins).

Cushendun: E Magee, M Dunne, C McKay, M McHugh, N McAuley, A Corbett (0-01f), M Scally, C McHugh (0-05, 0-02f), T Scally, D Sharkey (0-03), E McQuillan (2-02), J Morgan (0-02), D McQuillan (0-01), C McNeill (1-03, 0-01f), D Kilgore (0-04). Subs: R Millar for J Morgan (56 mins), M Aillew for D McQuillan (58 mins), P Dunne for D Sharkey (58 mins).

Referee: Danny O’Neill (Gort na Mona).

Johnnies win moves them up to second place

All County Hurling League Division 2

St. Johns 2:19 – Portaferry 1.19

St. Johns came from a four point half-time deficit to claim the points at a glorious Corrigan Park on Wednesday evening, a win that moves them up to second place in the league table.  In an evening perfect for hurling with the sun shining, a gentle breeze and the pitch in fine order the scene was set for a great game.  Both teams didn’t disappoint with some fine interplay, individual scores, tough tackling, high fielding, goalline clearances and near misses caught the imagination of a fairly healthy crowd in West Belfast.  Both sides were missing some big names and regular starters, with St. Johns in particular missing Ryan McNulty and Padraig Nugent who will be on duty for the county footballers on Saturday night against Tyrone.

Portaferry got off to a quick start with Ronan Blair slotting a long range free from almost halfway, the first of his 9 points, he was unerring all night with some great points from all over the park.  The first twenty minutes were nip and tuck with both sides trading scores, St. Johns briefly hit the front 0-7 to 0-6 after a couple of Domnhall Nugent frees and two great scores from play from Conor Johnston.  This lead was short lived as Portaferry in the last ten minutes played some fine hurling and opened up a 0-12 to 0-8 gap with Blair and the Sands brothers picking off some top class scores.  Portaferry headed into half time good value for their four point lead.

On the resumption St. Johns had introduced Michael Bradley for the injured Peter McCallin, the impact was immediate as he opened up the Ports defence only for Karol Keating to make a fine save, but young Dannan McKeogh, on his first full start on the senior team, slammed the loose ball into the Portaferry goal to reduce the deficit to just one.  Unfortunately for Portaferry they also lost influential full back Connor O’Neil in this passage of play but they hit the next score though Blair to extend the lead to two.  St. Johns hit back with a Conor Johnston goal, after he pulled on a loose ball 14 yards out after great work by Nugent on the edge of the square.  This score seemed to unsettle Portaferry as St. Johns upped the pace and a flurry of points followed from corner back Aidan McMahon, Michael Bradley, Domhnall Nugent and Dannan McKeogh, the pick of them coming from debutant McKeogh as he rounded his man, and fired over from a tight angle.  Portaferry did hit back with a goal from Eoghan Sands but St. Johns always manged to keep the lead between 3 and 4 points as they saw out time.

This was an entertaining game played in fine conditions well referreed by Colm McDonald

Portaferry were best served by Karol Keating in goals who made 3 great saves and could do nothing about the two St. Johns goals, Kevin McGarry in midfield, full back O’Neill until injury forced him off, Ronan Blair never missed a free all night and Eoghan and Daithi Sands looked lively up front along with Connor Mageean.

Simon Doherty in goals for St. Johns was safe under the dropping ball and made one great goalline clearance in the first half, his defence was steady enough with Aidan McMahon being the pick of them and the experienced Barry McFall always in the think of the action.  At midfield Moran and Nugent battled well and covered a lot of ground.  Nugent’s free taking was a bit off for the first time this year but his work rate and overall contribution was a major factor in St. Johns win.  The forward line clicked into gear in the second half with Conall Bohill and in particular Colm McFall making some fine catches and setting up scores.  Conor Johnston had a great second half with some wonderful scores but the performance of the night came from 18 year old McKeogh who hit 1-3 from play in the second half.  His accuracy and pace was too hot to handle for the Ports defence.  Both sides will welcome the break to give those lads out injured time to get back fit as we head towards the break in the league.


St. Johns: Simon Doherty, Aidan McMahon, Conal Morgan, Jack Bohill, Óisin Donnelly, Stephen Tierney, Barry McFall, Domhnall Moran, Domhnall Nugent, Colm McFall, Ciaran Johnston, Conall Bohill, Dannan McKeogh, Conor Johnston, Peter McCallin.

Subs: Michael Bradley for Peter McCallin, Niall McCallin for Ciaran Johnston, Lorcán Heenan for Óisin Donnelly, Declan Creggan for Conall Bohill.

Scorers: Conor Johnston 1.4, Dannan McKeogh 1.3, Domhnall Nugent 0-6, Michael Bradley 0-3, Peter McCallin 0-1, Aidan McMahon 0-1, Colm McFall 0-1

Portaferry: Karol Keating , Eoin Sands, Connor O’Neil, Tom Murray, Barry Trainor, Caolan Taggart, Shane Conlan, Connor Fay, Kevin McGarry, Brendan Coleman, Eoghan Sands, Connor Mageean, Dathi Sands, Connor O’Prey, Ronan Blair

Subs David Coffey for Connor O’Neil, Owen Taggart for David Coffey, Jason Gilmore for Connor Fay

Scorers: Ronan Blair 0-9, Eoghan Sands 1-2, Connor Mageean 0-3, Dathi Sands 0.2, Connor O’Prey 0-3