LOCC Solicitors Antrim Intermediate Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Dunloy Cuchullains 2-11 St Ergnat’s Moneyglass 1-13
By Brendan McTaggart
At the full time whistle in Ahoghill on Friday evening, the Moneyglass players sank to their knees. They had given everything they had and more in what was a pulsating hour of championship football. A ding-dong battle between two evenly matches sides but in the end, the Cuchullains managed to edge past their south-west rivals by the narrowest of margins as their championship train continues to roll. Conor McKinley was the hero for the Cuchullains, the Dunloy dual star was the coolest man on the Ahoghill pitch as he stood over a tricky free but the ball sailed over the bar in the third minute of injury time to end the St Ergnat’s championship dreams and keep Dunloy’s aspirations for the ‘double’ alive.
Just five days have passed since the Cuchullains claimed the senior hurling crown and they made the best start possible to Friday nights semi-final. McKinley getting on the end of a long pass to punch the ball to the back of the net, wrong footing Mark Carey in the St Ergnat’s goals with barely 30 seconds on the clock. A goal symbolic of the Cuchullains play throughout the year and a goal that helped them settle into the game. They came into Friday nights semi-final as underdogs against a strong Moneyglass side, despite their exploits in the championship in recent times.
Moneyglass were playing into the wind in the opening half but were making light of the elements in the opening exchanges. Seanchann Duffin and Dermot McErlain were proving a handful for the Dunloy defence while the runs from deep by Patrick McCormick and Padraig Mackle were giving the St Ergnat’s men plenty of options. Duffin and McErlain scored St Ergnat’s opening two scores before Conal Cunning and Kevin McAllister replied for the Cuchullains but Moneyglass were edging the midfield exchanges and started to turn their superiority into scores.
A free from Liam Brady left two between the sides but the Moneyglass men were in front soon after when ‘Bugsy’ produced a moment of brilliance for his side. The St Ergnat’s man won the ball in midfield before setting off on another trade mark run. Despite losing possession, McErlain was first to the loose ball and struck his left foot shot first time to riffle the ball to the bottom right hand corner. It was a quite simply sensational strike that left Dunloy goal keeper Frankie Cochrane no chance. A rasping drive that lifted the St Ergnat’s spirits as they looked for further scores.
Paul Tohill and McErlain had the white flag raised for Moneyglass to make it 1-3 without reply in the space of five minutes and they were threatening to run away with the semi-final, opening a three point lead but the Cuchullain’s hit back with a purple patch of their own. Scores for Cunning and Keelan Molloy kept them in touch before they scored their second major of the semi-final. McAllister it was with the finish in the 22nd minute but the build-up play and vision from McKinley and Cunning created the chance and gave the Cuchullains the lead once again. A trio of points from McKinley, Deaglan Smyth and Molloy (free) meant Dunloy had scored 1-5 without reply in 10 minutes, a superb turnaround considering how much pressure St Ergnat’s had them under but Moneyglass finished the half on top. Two more scores for McErlain, taking his tally for the half to 1-4 meant the Cuchullains held a three point advantage at the interval.
The Cuchullains lead at the short whistle looked a precarious one. Moneyglass would have been delighted to have went into the half time break trailing by just three points, such was the wind advantage they would have after the restart. The first half was a free flowing, open game of entertaining football by two good sides, after the restart it became a battle of wills and came down to who wanted it more on the day.
Duffin and McKinley exchanged frees in the opening minutes of the second half but Woody’s second point of the match would prove to be the Cuchullains last for 12 minutes as Moneyglass piled on the pressure. Brady (two) and Duffin landed frees to bring the sides level once again by the 44th minute and it looked like Moneyglass would push on. Any Dunloy attacks in the second half were fleeting and the Cuchullains were sometimes guilty of lacking composure when it came to the final pass. Moneyglass were relentless in their attacks but the Dunloy defence were resolute and organised with Gabriel McTaggart and Kieran Hughes instrumental in keeping the Moneyglass forwards at bay.
Keelan Molloy landed his third free of the match to revive the Cuchullains ambitions and while Ryan Boyd soon equalised, Moneyglass were in huge debt to their goal keeper with the next Dunloy attack. With six minutes of the semi-final remaining, Dunloy carved an opening for goal and when Nigel Elliott was one on one with Carey, there looked to be only one outcome. The Moneyglass ‘keeper spread himself bravely to deny Elliott and the Cuchullains what would surely have been a decisive score. Substitute Conal Dooey lashed the rebound over the bar to give Dunloy the lead once again.
With the wet conditions and tiredness set in, both teams were making errors with neither stamping their authority on the game. Dunloy again had another goal chance and again it was Elliott who showed the Moneyglass defence a clean pair of heels. Electing for power, Elliott’s effort sailed to the wrong side of the post. Another reprieve for the St Ergnat’s men and when Duffin landed his fourth free of the match with two minutes of the 60 remaining to equalise, it looked like the Cuchullains would rue their missed opportunities.
Chances came and went for either side in the closing stages but it was Conor McKinley who would have the final say. With the match entering the third minute of the five extra minutes allocated, Woody scored the point that took the Cuchullains to their third Intermediate football championship final in a row. St Brigid’s await the Cuchullains in the decider but for Moneyglass its more championship heartache. They can take pride in their performance under the floodlights at Ahoghill on Friday night and they more than contributed to an entertaining game of football but it’s the Cuchullains who advance to this year’s Intermediate decider.
Dunloy: Frankie Cochrance; Jamie McFerran; Karl O’Kane; Kieran Hughes; Shane Dooey; Nigel Elliott; Kevin McQuillan; Keelan Molloy; Deaglan Smyth; Kevin McAllister; Gabriel McTaggart; Conal Cunning; Eoin O’Neill; Conor McKinley; Ryan Elliott
Subs: Duanne Scott for K O’Kane (HT); Conal Dooey for E O’Neill (47 mins); Chrissy McMahon for K McQuillan (inj)
Scorers: Conor McKinley 1-3 (3 frees); Kevin McAllister 1-1; Keelan Molloy 0-3 (3 frees); Conal Cunning 0-2 (2 frees); Deaglan Smyth 0-1; Conal Dooey 0-1
Moneyglass: Mark Carey; Miran Neeson; Donal Laverty; Sean Kelly; Patrick McCormick; Tiernan Duffin; Padraig Mackle; Ryan Boyd; Ryan Doyle; Seanchann Duffin; Dermot McErlain; Paul Tohill; Conail Prenter; Liam Brady; Gavin Murray
Subs: Conor Boyd for G Murray (38 mins)
Scorers: Dermot McErlain 1-4 (1 free); Seanchann Duffin 0-4 (4 frees); Liam Brady 0-3 (3 frees); Ryan Boyd 0-1; Paul Tohill 0-1
Referee: Brendan Toland (Lámh Dhearg)