Cuchullains seal final spot

Larkin Cassidy Solicitors

Intermediate Football Championship

Semi Final

Tuesday September 8

Dunloy 1-12 All Saints 1-9

Brendan McTaggart reports from Ahoghill

Dunloy’s annus mirabilis continues.  A weary side with most still licking their wounds from Sunday’s epic contest with Rossa sealed their place in the Larkin Cassidy Intermediate football final with a three point win over All Saints.

It was an accomplished performance from Anthony McQuillan’s side who controlled this contest and had a foot in the final by the time Caolan Gillan scored their goal from the penalty spot in the 42nd minute.  It put them 10 points clear of the Ballymena men but the Cuchullains had to withstand a rally from the Slemish Park side. 

Ballymena played with more urgency, fluency and pinned the Cuchullains in their own half as they got the bit between their teeth.  Time, however, was not their friend as Dunloy had enough on the scoreboard.

In a cagey start to the semi-final, the early signs were there for the Cuchullains.  They looked threatening in attack with Chrissy McMahon and Caolan Gillan showing well while Keelan Molloy and Conal Cunning were conducting the Cuchullain orchestra. 

Points apiece for Caolan Gillan and Kevin McQuillan gave them a two point lead by the seventh minute but All Saints opened their account two minutes later with the opening goal of the contest.  Michael McCarry sent a speculative effort toward the Dunloy goal but the Cuchullains defence didn’t clear their lines.  Brendan McDonnell’s shot was saved by Dunloy ‘keeper Stephen McIlroy only to see James McDonnell bury the rebound to the back of the net.

The Dunloy response was emphatic.  Pressurising the All Saints kick outs, they were clinical and ruthless to nullify any would-be momentum from the All Saints goal.  McMahon with a laces out score while Coby Cunning fired a trio of points unanswered to give the Cuchullains a three point lead by the first half water-break.

All Saints dropped Sean McVeigh into a sweeping position in an attempt to stop the attacking prowess of the Cuchullains supply of ball into the Dunloy forward line but their ability to change their method of attack kept them on top.  Connell Lemon did score the All Saint’s first point of the match in the 21st minute but Dunloy continued to turn the screw with Molloy, McQuillan and Anton McGrath all influential.  A brace of points from Gillan either side of Keelan Molloy’s 27th minute score put Dunloy into a five point lead.

All Saints substitute Rhys O’Mullan had the final say of the half as he split the uprights in injury time but Dunloy were in control by the short whistle with a score line of 0-9 to 1-2.

The Ballymena men had whatever wind was blowing at their backs for the second half and needed a quick start.  It didn’t materialise.  If anything the Cuchullains went up another gear in the opening 10 minutes of the second half as they stretched their advantage as they cut through the All Saints defence at will.  Anthony Smith, Caolan Gillan both with goal chances before raising the white flags before Kevin McAllister finished a classic counter attack to make it three unanswered points for the Cuchullains in the opening eight minutes of the second half.

All Saints made changes with Cormac Lemon and Shay O’Brien both coming into the contest and while they had an effect in the last quarter, the All Saints were presented with mission impossible after Gillan scored Dunloy’s goal.  Having been felled inside the box, the Cuchullain’s full forward dusted himself down to find the postage stamp on the top left hand corner with an emphatic penalty.

A 10 point deficit looked to be insurmountable with a little over a quarter of the game remaining but the All Saints men threw caution to the wind.  Michael McCarry became more involved and influential while McVeigh and Kavan Keenan both began to win the majority of ball in the middle of the pitch.

They were buoyed with the black card dismissal of Caolan Gillan in the 52nd minute and took full advantage of their extra numbers.  Brendan McDonnell was causing plenty of problems on the inside forward line with Peter McReynolds working his socks off around the middle third to try and revive his sides championship hopes.

Four points in six minutes, three from McCarry and the other from Brendan McDonnell gave them hope but they were going to need a goal to worry the Cuchullains but it never materialised.  Defender Ciaran McGarry was sent off for a second bookable offence deep in injury time and McCarry’s third free and sixth point overall was all the Ballymena side could muster in the time that remained.

A disappointing ending to a campaign that promised much more for the All Saints. For Dunloy a fourth final in six years.  Maybe the year of COVID might not be that bad for the Cuchullains after all.

TEAMS

Dunloy: Stephen McIlroy; Conor Kinsella, Karl O’Kane, Oran Quinn; Aaron Crawford, Callum Scullion, Anton McGrath; Kevin McQuillan, Ryan McFarlane; Keelan Molloy, Seaan Elliott, Conal Cunning; Kevin McAllister, Caolan Gillan, Chrissy McMahon

Subs: Anthony Smith for C McMahon (27); Liam McCann for S Elliott (HT); Padraig McGilligan for K Molloy (46)

Scorers: Caolan Gillan 1-4 (1-00 pen, 1f); Conal Cunning 0-3 (2f); Kevin McQuillan 0-1; Keelan Molloy 0-1; Kevin McAllister 0-1; Chrissy McMahon 0-1; Anthony Smith 0-1

All Saints: Steven McAvoy; Matthew Downey, James Gillan, James McDonnell; Ciaran McGarry, Peter McNicholl, Connell Lemon; Sean McVeigh, Kavan Keenan; Peter Reynolds, Michael McCarry, Emmet Killough; Conor Stewart, Eoin Campbell, Brendan McDonnell

Subs: Rhys O’Mullan for P McNicholl (27); Cormac Lennon for E Killough (39); Shay O’Brien for E Campbell (39)

Scorers: Michael McCarry 0-6 (3f); James McDonnell 1-00; Brendan McDonnell 0-2; Connell Lemon 0-1

Referee: Conal Roberts (Naomh Eoin)

Two mouth-watering semis down for decision

Larkin Cassidy Solicitors IFC semi-final previews

The semi-finals of the Larkin Cassidy Intermediate Football Championship are down for decision this week with Cuchullain’s Dunloy taking on All Saints, Ballymena at Ahoghill tomorrow night and St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass facing St. Paul’s at Quinn Park, Ballymena on Wednesday evening.

All four sides have reached the knockout stages on merit with All Saints toping Group 2 with 5 wins from 5 starts and St. Paul’s who they narrowly defeated in the final game of the group stages in Ballymena, winning 4 of their 5 games and just a kick of the ball between the two in the group stages.

In Group 1 it was last year’s beaten finalists St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass who topped their group and, like the Ballymena men, they won all 5 of their group games with Dunloy finishing with 4 wins from 5, their only defeat at the hands of St. Ergnat’s in a tight encounter at Marian Hill.

Dunloy v All Saints (Tuesday-Ahoghill 7-15)

It’s been a wonderful season to date for Cuchullain’s Dunloy with the Senior Reserve Hurling Cup and the Senior Reserve Football Shield already in the Dunloy trophy cabinet and a place in next weekend’s Senior Hurling final secured yesterday with a win over Rossa at Dunsilly.

Their senior footballers have been performing well this year with their only defeat coming at the hands of a strong Moneyglass side where they lost by two points in a game that was evenly balanced throughout.

They showed what they are capable of when they travelled to Glenavy in the final Group 1 game and came away with a healthy 2-11 to 0-9 win with Conal ‘Cobey’ Cunning and Seaan Elliott getting their goals.

Both youngsters have played a key role for their senior hurlers this year but they are just two of a number of players who have been operating on both fronts (hurling and football). Cuchullain’s are strong side with a good mixture of youth and experience and winning has become a habit for the boys from the village this year.

Stephen McIlroy is a reliable keeper while in front of him they have strong defenders in Karl O’Kane, Aaron Crawford, Callum Scullion and Anton McGrath. Kevin McQuillan brings a wealth of experience to their mid-field and against Glenavy he was partnered by former All Saints player, Ryan McGarry. In attack the afore mentioned Seaan Elliott and Conal Cunning have useful colleagues in Ryan McFarlane, Kevin ‘Rev’ McAllister and Chrissy McMahon, who was the Dunloy hero in their win over Rossa in the hurling on Sunday.

All Saints have had a good season to date with manger, Sean O’Brien enlisting the help of former Tyrone player, Damien ‘Scotchy’ O’Hagan to his backroom staff and the Ballymena side have certainly tightened up in defence where their habit of conceding soft goals has been their Achilles heel in the past.

Sean McVeigh has given a life time of service to All Saints and has been deployed in a deeper sweeper role this year with great success while James Gillan has been excellent at full-back after stepping into the role for the injured Peter McNicholl. Ciaran McGarry, Kavan Keenan, Conall Lemon, Peter McReynolds, Michael McCarry, Emmet Killough, Brendan McDonnell and Conor Stewart will carry the hopes of All Saints into tomorrow night’s game.

Verdict: Dunloy have proved to be the Ballymena men’s bogey side in recent years and if it’s still tight going down the home straight then they could advance to another final this year.

St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass v St. Paul’s (Wednesday-Ballymena 7-15)

St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass have been knocking at the door of Intermediate Championship success for a number of years and it has been something of a mystery as to why they have not succeeded. They went into last year’s final against St. James’ Aldergrove as strong favourites but lost to the Crumlin side and they will see this as the year that they can finally succeed.

They are an excellent side with quality throughout the team with Antrim county player, Colm Duffin the driving force at mid-field. Mark Carey is an experienced and confident keeper while the Kelly’s, Sean and Eamonn, Tiernan Duffin and Conor Boyd are reliable and tested defenders. County defender, Patrick McCormick has been operating in attack this season with great success while Dermot McErlain is a player capable of setting any game alight and can be a match winner on his day.

Like Dunloy, St. Paul’s have been fighting on two fronts this year with their hurlers collecting the Junior Hurling championship title with a win over Emmet’s Cushendun on Saturday.

They have a number of duel players in their side and their management will be hoping that they came through Saturday’s final unscratched. S Bradley, Colm McLarnon, James Farrell and Conal Finnegan are some of the players who played in Saturday’s final at Wednesday night’s venue and will all be hoping for a starting spot in Ballymena.

Kiefer Toolan, Niall Ward, Niall Peoples, Liam McKiernan and M Connolly will carry the hopes of St. Paul’s as they attempt to reach their second final of the season and on this seasons performances they might not be far away.

Verdict: Moneyglass have come so close to championship success in recent years and with a team who have been together for a number of seasons I would expect them to win this one but it could be closer than expected.

Rasharklin and Tir na nOg share the spoils

Larkin Cassidy Solicitors

IFC Group 2

St. Mary’s Rasharkin 3-7       Tir na nOg 2-10

In wet and windy conditions at Dreen and with little at stake but pride St. Mary’s Rasharkin and Tir na nOg, Randalstown  couldn’t be separated after an hour’s football.

The game began with both sides struggling with the conditions that took a bit of getting used to with Tir Na nOg getting off to the better start and Darragh Fagan scoring from distance with the aid of the breeze. Rasharkin settled after a few minutes but struggled to hold the ball in the final third, eventually getting their opening point from Ryan Lynch from a short worked 45.

The home side got a second point after a good run by Colm Kennedy getting tight in towards the posts to fist over the bar.

 Both teams continued to battle with Tir Na nOg creating the more chances and striking 2 more wides within the first 10 minutes. Rasharkin managed to break away with a quick sweeping attack forward and Dongah Quigg fired to the net from distance giving the home side a 4-point advantage, Tir Na nOg responded with several attacks and a wide from Darren O’Kane before Darragh Fagan pulled one back with another well taken score. Another Rasharkin quick passing attack resulted in Rurai O’Boyle through on goal but Tir Na nOg keeper Sean Paul McAtamney pulled off a great point blank save deflecting it for a 45 which Andrew Hasson converted taking it to the water break.

After the water break Tir na nOg quickly responded with another long-range point from Darragh Fagan and as both sides shared possession they exchanged points before Rasharkin struck for another goal. The move started from Ryan Doherty’s long kick-out and a quick pass left Rurai O’Boyle through on goal again and he quickly dispatched the ball to the, net giving the home side a 6-point advantage with 8 minutes of the half remaining. Both teams were then guilty of bad wides before both picked up another point each before the break, Ryan Lynch with the best of them from the outside of the boot. Tir Na nOg looked dangerous in attack but Rasharkin taking their chances took control heading into the second half.

2nd Half

Rasharkin started after the break as they finished the first with a quick break but only resulted in another wide and then followed up with a couple of chances dropping short as they played into the strong wind. That’s where it ended for the Dreen side as Tir Na nOg took control with Rasharkin keeper Ryan Doherty pulling off a good save and after some erratic shooting,  Darragh Fagan struck again with a great effort with the outside of the boot. Tir na nOg continued with their pressure and were rewarded after 9 minutes with a well worked goal from Darragh Fagan from close range.

Three minutes later the Whitehill side scored a second goal opening up the home sides defence easily with Darren McCormick fisting to the net. Rasharkin tried to respond but couldn’t add any further scores with the away side one point to the good at the water break.

The drink must have done Ryan Lynch some good and he raced through the visitors defence on the restart to strike another goal for Rasharkin putting them back in control. Tir na nOg rallied again and won back possession and control with Rasharkin becoming sloppy and Barry McCormick broke clear to pull one back for the away team.

Rasharkin replied again and Ryan Lynch fired over another good point but Tir na nOg found another response with 2 on the trot from Darren O’Kane and Darragh Fagan leaving them a point clear heading into the final minute of the game. Ryan Lynch became the Rasharkin hero with his well-worked score bringing the home side level and it was to prove the game’s final score and ending both sides involvement in this year’s championship.

A tight game of football with both teams playing in spells and finding handling difficult in the conditions. Ryan Lynch was Rasharkin’s best performer, scoring 1-5 but the stand out performer on the night was Tir na nOg’s midfielder, Darragh Fagan who finished the night with 1-6.  

 Rasharkin                                                                   Tir Na nOg

Ryan Doherty                                                    Sean Paul McAtamney

Conor Doherty                                                  Brandon McLernon

Conor Hasson                                                   Ciaran McGrellis

Liam Quigg                                                         Barry Magee

Fergus Quigg                                                    Ciaran Byrne

Donagh Quigg                                                    Niall Cassidy

Andrew Hasson                                               Darren O’Kane

Jack Quinn                                                          Barry McCormick

Thomas McMullan                                           Darragh Fagan

Rurai O’Boyle                                                     Barry Heffron

Shane Hasson                                                    Aodhan Tolan

Colm Kennedy

                                                                               Oliver McAtamney

Ryan Lynch                                                        Peter Cullen

Tiernan O’Boyle                                                    Daniel Hastings

Cahir Henderson                                         Darren McCormick

Subs: Rasharkin

1st Half

Gerard O’Hagan for Cahir Henderson    

2nd half 

Kealan Darragh for Jack Quinn   

Thomas Doherty for Tiernan O’Boyle     

Killian O’Boyle for Colm Kennedy                                                             

Pizza slices over the winner for All Saints

Larkin Cassidy Solicitors IFC

All Saints 0-7 St Paul’s 0-6

The scoring may not have been high at Quinn Park Ballymena on Wednesday evening but the excitement levels certainly were as All Saints came with a late burst to beat St Paul’s by a single point, the winner from the boot of Peter Pizza McReynolds from a 45 in the 57th minute.

In atrocious weather conditions scores were at a premium, and at the half time water break it was one point each, Sean McVeigh getting the All Saints point on six minutes and Don Burns replying for St Paul’s five minutes later. Things didn’t improve much in the scoring stakes after the restart but McReynolds and Benny McDonald pushed All Saints two clear with points in the 19th and 21st minutes, before Mickey Joe Cooper brought his team back to within one at half time with a point from a free. (0-3 to 0-2)

When McReynolds put Ballymena 0-4 to 0-2 clear within a minute of the restart there must have been the feeling that they would go on to dominate but incredibly they did not score again for the next 24 minutes. They did have a load of chances but scoring was very difficult in the driving rain, but St Paul’s clawed their way back into the game with points from Niall Peoples, Ruairi Hamill and Colm McLarnon, his shot brilliantly turned over of the feet of All Saints goalkeeper Steven McAvoy when a goal looked certain. That score put St Paul’s a point clear midway through the second half and when Liam McLarnon added another in the 54th minute the Shaw’s Road side appeared to be in a strong position.

However All Saints had a response and when Sean McVeigh ended their barren spell with a well taken point on 55 minutes, it breathed new life into them and Martin McCarry had them level a minute later with another fine score. The game was there for the taking but the momentum was now with All Saints and Pizza sealed the win with a fine strike from a 45 three minutes from time.

Despite their first defeat of the campaign St Paul’s had already secured their semi-final place and go forward to play Moneyglass in the semi-final on Sunday week, while All Saints take on old rivals Dunloy in the other semi on the same day.

Dunloy secure place in last four

Larkin Cassidy Solicitors

Intermediate Football Championship – Group 1

Glenavy 0-9 Dunloy 2-11

Brendan McTaggart reports from Chapel Hill, Glenavy

Goals in either half from Seaan Elliott and Conal Cunning ensured Dunloy made serene progress to the semi-finals of the Intermediate Football Championship.  The Cuchullains had eight points to spare over Glenavy by the full time whistle in a match they didn’t look like losing from the first whistle.

Dunloy came into the match knowing a win would ensure their place in the last four.  They could have had that sealed inside the opening 10 minutes.  The Cuchullains had three goal chances with Jake Nelson denying Conal Cunning before Oran Quinn hit the post and Seaan Elliott saw his effort sail to the wrong side of theupright.

Glenavy were well organised after that opening Dunloy burst with Patrick Gallagher orchestrating from deep.  The Cuchullains had the majority of possession but looked like they could cut through the home sides defence with some precise passing and methodical attacking play. 

The Cuchullains led two points to one with McAllister (free) and McMahon points coming either side of a tidy score from Charles Gallagher.  The Glenavy man rolling two challenges before judging the elements to perfection.

Dunloy finally scored the opening goal in the 17th minute to take control.  It was Elliott who provided the finish but the home side had warning’s before with the same move.  Dunloy manoeuvred the ball around the packed Glenavy defence before Elliott used his pace to penetrate.  No one could keep up with the 19 year old and he finished with style just before the first half water break. 

The remainder of the first half took much the same form.  Dunloy looking dangerous and winning the midfield scurries and providing penetrating runs from deep.  Oran Quinn in particular a thorn in the Glenavy defence.

The Cuchullains stretched their lead to six points with Chrissy McMahon and McAllister (free) registering white flags but the home side finished the half strongly with Fergal Green and Fergal Henry reducing the deficit to four points by the short whistle.

Any thoughts of a Glenavy comeback were dashed just three minutes into the second half when the Cuchullains scored their second major.  Oran Quinn and Kevin McQuillan combining to cut through the heart of the Glenavy defence.  McQuillan laid off to Cunning who shook a heavy challenge before squeezing the ball over the line.

That lead was extended to 10 points just before the second half water break, thanks largely to the free taking of Cunning and McAllister but Aaron Crawford scored the point of the match after a flowing move found the marauding half back in space.

The Cuchullains charge was halted with an Anton McGrath black card and while Glenavy looked more threatening, Dunloy always had a sense of control on the contest.  The home side were boosted with the introduction of Alex Gallagher and Malachi Doherty in the second half with both substitutes offering more in attack and registering scores but they were always faced with an uphill task such was the nature of Dunloy’s grip on the game.

Fergal Henry took his tally to four points from the game and just reward for a tireless hours work but Dunloy had the final say with McAllister and Eoghan McGrath frees sealing an eight point win for Dunloy.

The Cuchullains now face All Saints in the semi-finals with Moneyglass and St Paul’s the other pairing.  Matches to be played in 10 days time.

Glenavy: Jake Nelson; Liam Henry, Ryan Malley, Pearse O’Neill; Matthew Hamill, Sean McGirr, Jonathan Phillips; Michael McCourt, Stephen Doone; Ciaran Loney, Charles Gallagher, Conor Hamill; Fergal Henry, Fergal Green, Patrick Gallagher

Scorers: Fergal Henry 0-4 (3f); Fergal Green 0-2 (1f); Charles Gallagher 0-1; Malachi Doherty 0-1; Alex Gallagher 0-1

Dunloy: Stephen McIlroy; Conor Kinsella, Karl O’Kane, Oran Quinn; Aaron Crawford, Callum Scullion, Anton McGrath; Kevin McQuillan, Ryan McGarry; Ryan McFarlane, Seaan Elliott, Conal Cunning; Kevin McAllister, Padraig McGilligan, Chrissy McMahon

Scorers: Conal Cunning 1-2 (2f); Kevin McAllister 0-5 (4f); Seaan Elliott 1-00; Chrissy McMahon 0-2; Aaron Crawford 0-1; Eoghan McGrath 0-1 (1f)

Referee: Richard Leahy (St Comgalls)