Dunloy falter as Dungloe power through

AIB Ulster Club Intermediate Football Championship

Quarter Final

Dunloy 0-7 Dungloe 1-11

Saturday 12 November

Brendan McTaggart reports from Fr McGuigan Park, Ahoghill

For 30 minutes on Saturday afternoon, Dunloy dared to dream.  Three points ahead at the short whistle having controlled much of the first half, the Cuchullains were well placed to cause an upset against the Donegal champions.

But the turnaround in the second half was bewildering.  Dungloe dominated the middle third and put Dunloy under huge pressure.  That three point lead was gone after just over five minutes.

Two controversial red cards for the Cuchullains and a major from substitute Damien McGowan ensured Dungloe powered to victory in the closing stages.

With a strong wind blowing mainly across the pitch, it was the Donegal men who made a bright start.  Danny Rodgers leaving his position between the sticks to kick the opening score from a ’45 while Daire Gallagher doubled their score to leave them two clear after three minutes.  That would be their last score for 20 minutes however as Dunloy grew into the game.

Playing quick ball into the forwards, their opening score from Nigel Elliott was quickly added to by Conal Cunning’s first of the game.  Coby would give Dunloy the lead for the first time in the game in the 9th minute, his second of the match and a familiar pattern of play.  Molloy with the assist and Coby coming out in front and evading the Dungloe challenges.

Frees apiece from Coby and Molloy took Dunloy into a three point lead before Dungloe scored their first from play.  Rodgers long range free dropping short and Dunloy scrambled.  Eoin McFerran looked like he was fouled as Dungloe pressed by the ball fell to Barry Curran who split the uprights with his first of the match.

Dunloy continued to control the game and after a period of possession they worked the angle for Keelan Molloy to fire his second point of the game and give them a three point lead at the short whistle.

It was the minimum the Cuchullains deserved for their first half efforts.  Dungloe struggled with the movement of the Dunloy attack while the Cuchullains were winning more than their share of ball in the middle third.

The second half belonged to the Donegal champions however.  They upped their intensity and physicality while playing with power and precision in attack.  The Dunloy lead was eradicated inside six minutes with Sweeney, Barry Curran and Daniel Ward (free) bringing the Donegal men back on terms.

Dunloy were under huge pressure and looking to ride out the Dungloe storm.  While Dungloe were dominant, Dunloy were defending well and putting them under pressure where possible.  The Donegal men had just retaken the lead in the 49th minute when the referee took centre stage.  Substitute Caolan Gillan seeing red for an innocuous challenge.  Referee Anthony Marron saw things differently, deeming Gillan to have landed on top of the Dungloe player with intent and issuing a red card. 

The Cuchullains barely had time to reorganise when they were dealt another hammer blow.  Conor Kinsella involved in an off the ball incident with Daire Gallagher.  There didn’t look to be much in the incident, both players ending up on the turf at different times but Marron issued Kinsella a second yellow card having consulted with his umpires and the Dungloe man walked free.

The closing minutes belonged to the Donegal men, making the numerical advantage count,  Two points within 60 seconds from Sweeney and Barry Curran was followed by the only goal of the game.  A long ball from Sweeney was deflected into the path of Daniel Ward who played Damien McGowan through on goal.  He made no mistake to fire beyond Chrissy Brogan in the Dunloy goal to ultimately seal their place in the next round.

Sweeney’s fourth point of the half was followed closely by Daire Gallagher’s second free to leave it 1-8 without reply for Dungloe and giving them an eight point lead in the last minute of the hour.

Dunloy looked for goals with a number of frees dropping on the edge of the square but all they could show for their efforts was a free from substitute Anthony Smith.

Dungloe progress as Dunloy faltered in the second half.  Not the ending of the season they would have wanted in the big ball but the vast majority of the squad cast their minds towards the Ulster Club hurling final in three weeks time.

TEAMS

Dunloy: Chrissy Brogan; James Scally, Aaron Crawford, Conor Kinsella; Oran Quinn, Kevin McQuillan, Anton McGrath; Ryan McGarry, Eoin McFerran; Nigel Elliott, Eoin Gillan, Chrissy McMahon; Conal Cunning, Keelan Molloy, Seaan Elliott

Subs: Ciaran McQuillan for A McGrath (22); Caolan Gillan for C McMahon (HT); Michael Smith for E Gillan (42); Anthony Smith for E McFerran (56)

Scorers: C Cunning 0-3 (1f); K Molloy 0-2 (1f); N Elliott 0-1; A Smith 0-1 (1f)

Dungloe: Danny Rodgers; Jason McBride, Chrissy Greene, Gerard Walsh; Mark Curran, Conor O’Donnell, Karl Magee; Darren Curran, Barry Curran; Dyan Sweeney, Daire Gallagher, Matthew Ward; Ryan Brennan, Daniel Ward, Aaron Ward

Subs: Damien McGowan for M Ward (45); Jordan Saville for J McBride (57); Noel McBride for M Curran (57); Darren O’Donnell for D Sweeney (57); Rory McLaughlin for D Gallagher (60); Ciaran Sharkey for D Ward (60)

Scorers: D Sweeney 0-4; B Curran 0-3; D McGowan 1-00; D Gallagher 0-2 (2f); D Ward 0-1 (1f); D Rodgers 0-1 (1’45)

Referee: Anthony Marron (Monaghan)

Cuchullains Prepare for Ulster Series

Ulster Club Intermediate Football Championship

Dunloy v Dungloe (Donegal)

Date: Saturday 12 November 2022

Venue: Ahoghill

Throw in: 1:30pm

Brendan McTaggart speaks with Dunloy manager Anthony McQuillan ahead of the Cuchullains Ulster Championship quarter final against Donegal champions Dungloe

Saturday will mark five weeks since Dunloy defeated Con Magees in the Intermediate championship final and their reward is a trip into the Ulster trail and a quarter final pairing with Donegal champions, Dungloe.

Conal Cunning’s scoring power has been a big boost to Dunloy this season

Having stepped down from the senior championship two years ago, Dungloe saw off the demons of last year’s final defeat after a reply to see off Naomh Columbs in the Tir Chonail final.  They will start as favourites for Saturday’s quarter-final but Dunloy manager Anthony McQuillan has belief in his own squad that they can cause an upset: “We’ve always had good teams over the years but I can’t remember ever having a bench with so many game changers on it and that’s what we have now” he told us when we caught up with him.  One such game changer who would have been in the starting 15 is Deaglan Smith.  The dual star damaged his ankle in the hurling championship semi final win against St John’s and it looks like Saturday’s game will come too soon for him but McQuillan told us that picking his 15 for Saturday is an incredibly difficult task.

With playing at provincial level on both codes, it brings its own set of difficulties but McQuillan told us its business as usual at Pearse Park: “Football only lads got 10 days off after our final and the dual players got the same after the hurling final. 

“The lads had put in a monumental shift for the better part of 10 weeks or more.  Every match they were out fighting like dogs for our club.  Non-dual clubs were playing every fortnight, these lads were playing every week and it’s not just the game time.  There’s the preparation that goes into playing in championship matches, getting into the right frame of mind to play a different code, a different opposition.  It was tough going and the lads definitely needed that time away.”

With the dual commitments and the numbers of dual players involved, McQuillan and his management team welcomed the five week break but has told us that he also sees the negative side of it: “That is our biggest fear (loss of momentum).  Ideally and from a selfish point of view, I’d have liked this game three weeks after the county final but look, we’re looking at the positive nature of this.  It’s another two weeks where we can prepare for this game and another two weeks where any niggles that might be lingering can be cleared up.”  The Dunloy manager continued by telling us how they have managed their dual players: “We have split up the week and make sure that our dual players have no more than two grass sessions a week.  One hurling and one football but in the run up to this game, we’ve had everyone together for the past week.”

Notorious for playing a more attacking brand of football and utilising their main assets in the forward line, McQuillan told us they don’t plan to change too much for Saturday’s game: “We’ve trained and worked hard all year to develop how we play and it would be madness to change that now.  We met together last night (Thursday) to try and get our match ups sorted but to be honest, we don’t know much about Dungloe.  We’ve read some match reports from their championship and have an idea on who their main threats will be but our game plan won’t deviate too much from what you seen in the Antrim championship.”

A ‘home’ venue was a welcome sight for the Cuchullains.  A 20 minute journey to Fr McGuigan Park, Ahoghill and a ground where the vast majority of the squad have fond memories of playing.  McQuillan added: “Playing in Ahoghill is a massive positive for us.  I think it’s something like a two and a half hour drive from Dungloe whereas it’s only 20 minutes down the road from us in a ground that we know and have played plenty on.

“The lads are looking forward to the challenge that Dungloe will bring.”

The last time Dunloy reached the provincial stage at this grade, they reached the decider only to come up short against a talented Ballinagh side.  On that journey, they defeated Kinawley of Fermanagh and Newbridge of Derry in the semi final before coming up short against the Cavan champions.  The Cuchullains will be hoping for a similar Odyssey into Ulster in 2022.

Cassidy: “I have to hold my hands up, the best team won.”

Con Magees manager Joe Cassidy speaks with Brendan McTaggart at the final whistle in Dunsilly

Watching the opposition celebrate at the end of a final is never easy.  One look at Joe Cassidy and you knew he didn’t want to be there.  Both he and Paul Downey stood side by side wondering just how it got away from them at Dunsilly against a Dunloy side who never dominant.  “Very disappointing,” started Cassidy: “more so for the lads.  They didn’t turn up or do themselves justice.  That’s not taking anything away from Dunloy, they were the far superior team.  If it hadn’t of been for Jamie (McEvoy) in goals, they could have had at least three goals.  Jamie kept us in it.”

Dunloy’s domination of the middle third of the pitch and ability to win turn over ball in the Glenravel half allowed them to apply unrelenting pressure.  The Con Magees manager was left scratching at their lack of competitiveness in midfield: “Where we’ve done the business in the last three games in terms of pressing opposition kick outs, I mean we dominated Ballymena on their kick outs and the same with Sarsfields.  Today, we didn’t do that and that allowed Dunloy to get the advantage on us.  When you’re playing chasing shadows with the athlete’s that Dunloy have you’re always going to be in bother.”

Trailing by six at half time, the Con Magees took a little longer than the allotted time.  Cassidy said it was a time for cool minds as they looked to get a way back into the final: “We were trying to get our team sorted out.  We were making a few changes, we knew where the problems were.  There was no point in roaring or shouting, that wasn’t going to do anyone any good or turn the game around.  It was about trying to sort out where the problems where.

“It was always going to be an uphill battle, you were going to need a goal at some point to get a bit of momentum.  We could never get that.  We got a couple of points but we needed a goal and at that you’re grasping at straws.  The damage was done in the first half.  Dunloy had six kick outs and got out with five of them.  The last day against Sarsfields we completely blitzed their kick out and that’s the most disappointing thing from today.”

Despite defeat, reaching the Intermediate final should be seen as progress for the Glenravel side.  Cassidy continued: “They are a very young side.  Probably, this time last year would they have taken progress to an Intermediate Final, possibly.  But when you get to a final you want to win it and I genuinely believe we wouldn’t be far away but I have to hold my hands up, the best team won.”

Despite the silver lining from defeat, Cassidy wasn’t pulling any punches when he said: “That’s for Glenravel people to decide that (progress).  Every manager is going to say the same sort of garbage at the end of the season.  They’ve got to their first Intermediate final in whatever number of years it is so from that point of view its progress.  They won an U20 championship last year, they are building.  They have a good group of minors coming below that again.  Sometimes you have to lose one to win one, at it’s really how they kick on from here but it’s very hard to say there’s been progress when you get to a final and you’re well beat.”

Cuchullains Cruise to Intermediate Title 

OB Construction Intermediate Football Final

Dunloy 0-14 Glenravel 0-10

Saturday 8 October

Brendan McTaggart reports from Dunsilly

The bridesmaid finally became the bride.  Dunloy have been knocking on the door for the Intermediate crown for the last eight years, on Saturday they finally got over the line.  Four points the difference at the end of the hour, much of that down to the heroics of James McEvoy between the sticks for Con Magees.  Five saves, three in the first half, McEvoy was outstanding for the Glenravel men and it was his efforts that kept the score line respectable, especially in the opening 30 minutes.

Dunloy’s Seaan Elliott is closed down by Glenravel’s Calum Higgins

In a first half that the Cuchullains dominated, much of that was down to their dominance in midfield.  Despite missing the talents of Deaglan Smith from injury, Ryan McGarry and Eoin McFerran were superb.  Winning clean ball, primary possession then recycling or giving to runners off the shoulder and Dunloy had plenty of them.  Seaan and Nigel Elliott left the Con Magees chasing their shadows on countless occasions, Keelan Molloy and Conal Cunning with the scores.

Defensively, Dunloy had their homework done.  Aaron Crawford was given the unenvious task of keeping tabs on Eamon Fyfe.  The Con Magees man finished with eight points beside his name, three of those from play but he had little in the way of support as the Cuchullains controlled this game from the first whistle.

The opening minutes were cagey with Con Magees having the lions share of possession.  Dunloy set up well to counter and opened the scoring through Keelan Molloy’s effort after just two minutes.  Eamon Fyfe replied with a free in the fifth minute but Dunloy’s midfield dominance began to pay dividends and they turned the screw on the Con Magees defence.  A brace of scores from Conal Cunning (one free) edged Dunloy ahead by two but scores weren’t easy come by.  Despite not winning the aerial of ground battle from restarts, the Glenravel men had created a white and green wall that the Cuchullains took some time to adapt to.  

Glenravel goalkeeper James McEvoy kept his team in the game with a series of outstanding saves

Another point from Cunning put three between the sides before Dunloy created their first chance for a major.  Cunning judging the flight of the ball and rolling his marker but his effort went just wide.  Referee Darren McKeown had called advantage for an infringement on Cunning and Molloy converted to put the Cuchullains ahead by five midway through the first half.

Any attacks from the Con Magees were fleeting with Fyfe living off scraps.  They were forced into shooting from difficult angles and from distance.  McEvoy was in action again when he denied Cunning from close range but another lightning Dunloy counter resulted in Molloy splitting the posts.

Eamon Fyfe converted a free to register Glenravel’s second point of the final in the 22nd minute but Dunloy were starting to cut loose.  Seaan Elliott thundering through the heart of the Glenravel defence but his rasping drive was turned over the bar.  McEvoy with a save right out of the top drawer.  Seaan Elliott (free) and Fyfe (mark) swapped scores before Keelan Molloy fired over his fourth point of the half to leave the half time score 0-9 to 0-3 in favour of the Cuchullains.

Conal Cunning sends over a Dunloy point from a free

It was pretty much a one sided affair in the opening half and a six point lead was the minimum the Cuchullains deserved.  The Glenravel men were second best all over the pitch and needed something special to get back in to the final and Fyfe was doing his best to accommodate.  He scored the opening point of the second half from wide on the right and off balance.  The Con Magees faithful were celebrating before Fyfe managed to get back to his feet.  A wonderful point that should have breathed life into the Glenravel challenge.  It didn’t.  What followed was more of the same precision from the Dunloy forwards with James Scally and Cunning (free) getting the scoreboard going again in the second half for Dunloy.

Seaan Elliott and Fyfe swapped frees before Fyfe added his second from play, scoring his and Glenravel’s sixth point of the game midway through the second half.

The Con Magees challenge was seriously dented when Conor McNeill was sent off for an overzealous challenge on Seaan Elliott.  Cunning executed the resulting free but the Dunloy numerical advantage was short lived with Eoin Gillan seeing black just three minutes later.

Eamon Fyfe sends over a Glenravel point

McEvoy was once again on his game to deny substitute Caolan Gillan before Fyfe (free) and Daniel McQuillan reduced the Dunloy lead to five points.  The first time in the game the Con Magees registered back to back scores, coming eight minutes from time.

Another McAvoy save denied Seaan Elliott before Cunning took his tally to six points for the final with five minutes remaining.  That would be the Cuchullains last score but they had enough on the score board to see out the time that remained.

Eoin Hynds (free) and Fyfe split the uprights for Glenravel, Fyfe’s effort just clipping the crossbar before going over but they never got the major they needed to worry the Dunloy defence.

At the final whistle the cheers went up.  Among the shouts of congratulations and hugs, a sigh of relief could be heard.  A mix of ecstasy and relief on faces young and old.  In recent times Dunloy have flattered to deceive in the Intermediate decider but today was their time.  The side have matured together and if the old saying goes, you have to lose on to win one, you got the feeling that Dunloy were never going to let this one slip.  The Cuchullains bridge a 15 year gap from their last Intermediate title and take the cup to Pearse Park.

TEAMS

Dunloy: Christopher Brogan; James Scally, Aaron Crawford, Conor Kinsella; Oran Quinn, Kevin McQuillan, Anton McGrath; Ryan McGarry, Eoin McFerran; Nigel Elliott, Eoin Gillan, Christopher McMahon; Conal Cunning, Keelan Molloy, Seaan Elliott 

Subs: Caolan Gillan for C McMahon (34); Michael Smith for A McGrath (56); Ciaran McQuillan for R McGarry (59); Anthony Smith for N Elliott (60); Ryan McFarline for K Molloy (60)

Scorers: C Cunning 0-6 (3fs); K Molloy 0-4 (1f); S Elliott 0-3 (2fs); J Scally 0-1; 

Glenravel: James McEvoy; Charlie Henry, Sean Higgins, Conor Carey; Rian Lennon, Niall Swann, Daniel McQuillan; Calum Higgins, David Higgins; Aidan O’Donnell, Eoin Hynds, Connor McNeill; Declan Traynor, Eamon Fyfe, Ryan McQuillan

Subs: Eoin McCusker for A O’Donnell (22); Kieran McKeown for C Henry (HT); Sean McKay for R Lennon (HT); Conleth O’Loan for S Higgins (36); Martin McCarry for D McQuillan (60)

Scorers: E Fyfe 0-8 (4fs, 1m); D McQuillan 0-1; E Hynds 0-1 (1f)

Referee: Darren McKeown (St Galls)

Dunloy players and subs jump for joy at the final whistle. Pic by Bert Trowlen
Nigel Elliott receives the Saffron Gael Man of the Match award after the game

Novel pairing could be hard to separate in Intermediate decider

OB Construction IFC Final

Dunsilly (Saturday) 3-00pm

Con Magge’s Glenravel v Cuchullain’s Dunloy

This Saturday’s OB Construction IFC final at Dunsilly throws together a novel pairing when South West neighbours, Con Magee’s Glenravel and Cuchullain’s Dunloy meet in what should be an excellent final.

The Cuchullain’s will probably start this one as slight favourites by virtue of the fact that they have been knocking at the championship door for a number of years. Last year they were beaten in the semi-final by All Saints and the previous year they defeated the same opposition at the semi-final stage before going on to lose to Moneyglass in the final at Saturday’s venue.

They will have to be at their best however to beat a Con Magee’s side who have been flying this year under the guidance of manager, Joe Cassidy and the ex Derry star has brought a new belief and intensity to the men from the 10th Glen.

Con Magee’s were drawn in Group 3 of the qualifiers with Davitt’s and Rasharkin and began their campaign with a 0-17 to 1-11 win away to St. Mary’s at Dreen and followed that up with a home win over Davitt’s at Fr. Maginn Park to top their group and so earn a home draw against All Saints in the quarter-final.

On a day, not conducive to good football Glenravel showed tremendous character and fighting spirit. Trailing by five points in the first ten minutes, the signs were looking ominous for the Con Magee’s. Ballymena had established a stranglehold on the game and their fluid movement in transitions and constant pressure had the hosts camped in their half. However, Eamon Fyfe spearheaded a Glenravel resurgence and his rasping point from range on the twenty fifth minute was the perfect exclamation mark for their revival. It would be a lead that they would refuse to relinquish for the remainder of the game.

They went on to win that one 0-14 to 0-12, holding the visitors scoreless for 25 minutes at one stage and this win seemed to have given them the confidence and belief as they went into the semi-final against a Sarsfields side who had been posting good results themselves.

Glenravel put in a polished performance which saw them over the line with a comfortable nine points to spare over Sarsfields in the semi-final at Saturday’s venue. The blend of youth and experience within their ranks proved to be too much for a Sarsfields side who struggled to replicate the scintillating form from their previous emphatic victory over neighbours St Paul’s.

Their successful Under 20 team from last year has proved to be their lynchpin moving forward. If they can maintain their current vein of form, they are a dangerous proposition for any team and will certainly go into the final rich in confidence and belief.

Dunloy enjoyed an indifferent league campaign to finish in the bottom half with their campaign interrupted by unavailability of key players owing to hurling commitments and some players spending the summer overseas. most of those players have come back on board for the championship and they have looked a side unrecognisable from the one who blew hot and cold in the league.

After a stuttering start in Group 1 where they lost 1-15 to 1-12 to Sarsfield’s at the Bear Pit, Cuchullain’s recovered to record a facile 8-12 to 1-6 home win over Ardoyne and followed that up with a 3-17 to 1-8 win over Naomh Padraig Lisburn to qualify for the quarter-finals in second place in their group.

They were drawn away to St. James’ Aldergrove in Crumlin in what looked a difficult assignment and so it proved to be but Dunloy with a raft of duel players now on board edged out the Crumlin side 1-12 to 2-7.

With this quarter-final stretching into injury time, it looked like Aldergrove had performed the great escape.  Dunloy had stretched into a five point lead and looked to have more than one foot in the semi-final when the home side scored two majors from out of this world that saw them take the lead for the first time in the game.

The Cuchullain’s remained composed in the time that remained and had enough quality to edge home.  An equaliser through a free and scores from substitute Anthony Smith and Nigel Elliott booked Dunloy’s place in the last four.

This win set them up for a semi-final meeting with Davitt’s  at Dunsilly and Dunloy made safe passage to the 2022 Intermediate decider with 11 points to spare.  Two goals in barely two minutes of the second half was the winning of this game, substitute Michael Smith with the opening major with his first touch while Conal Cunning added the second with the next attack.  

Neither side are likely to show many changes from the side that played in their respective semi-finals though Deaglan Smith was forced to retire injured during Dunloy hurlers win over St. John’s at the weekend in the SHC semi-final.

Smith would be a substantial loss to the Cuchullain’s but they have a strong panel with Aaron Crawford, Eoin McFerran and Kevin McQuillan ever present while the inclusion of dual stars, Ryan McGarry, Nigel and Seaan Elliott, Keelan Molloy and the inspirationa Conal ‘Coby’ Cunning makes them a formidable side.

Glenravel will certainly have been buoyed by their quarter-final wins over All Saints and an even more impressive performance against Sarsfield’s in the semi-final and will believe that this could be their year.

Eoin McCusker, Conor Carey, Eoin Hynds, Callum Higgins, Aidan O’Donnell, David Higgins, Declan Traynor, Ryan McQuillan and Eamon Fyfe will spearhead the Con Magee’s challenge but Rian Lennon who missed the semi-final with a shoulder injury is doubtful and Cathal Hynds will miss out.

Much will depend on how Glenravel react to the big occasion and on their ability to contain the threat of Conal Cunning and the Elliott’s in attack and indeed how those previous semi-final and final defeats will affect the Cuchullain’s.

Both sides contain serious attacking threats and the game has the potential to be high scoring and entertaining with Dunloy given a tentative nod but it might well take extra time to separate them.

Dunloy v Davitt’s: Christopher Brogan; Anton McGrath, Aaron Crawford, Conor Kinsella; James Scally Scally, Kevin McQuillan, Eoin McFerran; Ryan McGarry, Deaglan Smith; Nigel Elliott, Eoin Gillan, Christopher McMahon; Conal Cunning, Keelan Molloy, Seaan Elliott

Subs: Michael Smith for A McGrath (45); Caolan Gillan for C McMahon (45); Ciaran McQuillan for E McFerran (54); Ryan McFarline for S Elliott (56); Tom McFerran for N Elliott (60)

Con Magee’s Glenravel v Sarsfields: J McEvoy; C Henry, E McCusker, C Carey; S Higgins, N Swann, D McQuillan, C Higgins, D Higgins, A O’Donnell, E Hynds, C McNeill, D Traynor, E Fyfe, R McQuillan