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.
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.
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)