Late Johnnies goals break Ballycran hearts

Late Johnnies Goals Break Ballycran Hearts

By Liam Tunney @ Unit Updates

St John’s snatched victory from defeat’s snarling jaws in a pulsating game of hurling against Ballycran at McKenna Park this afternoon, with injury time goals from Domhnall Moran and Dannan McKeogh overturning a two-point deficit to take home the points.

Played in blistering sunshine on the Ards Peninsula, a tetchy first half ended with a Conor Woods goal putting five between the sides at the break, but with the hosts registering only 1-04 in the second half, the Belfast side chipped away at the lead, eventually reaping the benefits in added time.

Despite opening the scoring after a matter of seconds from midfielder Shea Shannon, the hosts assumed control of the early stages and points from Conor Woods and Cormac McAllister had the Down side in front with the next two attacks.

St John’s then had their first sight of the ‘Cran goal, Conor Johnston attempting an audacious reverse shot after a goalmouth scramble, but goalkeeper Stephen Keith was alert to the danger, springing low to his right to turn the sliotar around the post.

Ciarán Johnston converted the 65 to level matters, but a brace from Christopher Egan and a neat Michael Ennis point once again pegged back the Johnnies, only Conor Johnston’s reply attempting to stem the flow.

Ballycran corner forward Brendan Ennis pulls on the ball to send it past Simon Doherty in the St John’s goal. Pic by John McIlwaine

On nine minutes the Naomh Eoin defence looked on helplessly as the ball fell kindly for Brendan Ennis, who swept the ball home on the ground past the advancing Simon Doherty for the game’s opening goal.

The early stages had been fraught with off-the-ball exchanges and there was a lengthy stoppage as the home side lost corner-back Sean Ennis to injury and referee Darren McKeown appealed for calm among warring backs and forwards, but with play restored, Stuart Martin helped himself to a score to extend the Ballycran lead to six.

A further brace followed from the clinical hurl of Conor Woods but as it looked like the hosts were gaining momentum, St John’s corner forward Conal Bohill plucked a high ball from the Peninsula air and tapped over the bar to reduce the arrears to five.

Bohill’s intervention inspired a revival for the Whiterock men and points followed from Ciarán Johnston, Mícheál Bradley and Conor Johnston, the latter a beauty from under the stand, before Shea Shannon notched his second with another long-distance effort.

Conor Woods then pounced on a loose sideline ball to put four between the sides, but St John’s hit back immediately with a brace of Ciarán Johnston frees, before Woods caught the Johnnies with a sucker punch right on the bell.

Fielding a high ball in the full-forward line, the lively Woods wriggled free of his marker and buried the ball into the bottom corner of Doherty’s net to leave St John’s reeling and trailing by five at the break.

Christopher Egan’s hurl breaks over Conal Morgan’s as the timber flies in Saturday’s league game in Ballycran. Pic by John McIlwaine

Woods and Ciarán Johnston began the second half by trading frees, before Ciarán and Conor channelled their inner Paul and Barry Chuckle with a short free routine that ultimately ended up wide of the mark.

Domhnall Moran restored order with a long-range point before Ciarán Johnston won another free. No training ground set play on this occasion and he landed it from 45 yards to leave three points between the sides.

A further Johnston free and another huge effort from Moran saw the deficit cut to the minimum, but as the danger grew for Ballycran, they found a cushion, scores from Woods and Niall Breen edging them back into a three-point lead.

Another Moran-Johnston double followed before centre-back Barry McFall drove forward to level the score on 53 minutes after some neat stick work from Shannon and Aidan McMahon.

Just as the Johnnies manoeuvred into a promising position to mount a winning challenge, St Joseph’s hit them again. Doherty’s acrobatic save from a Christopher Egan shot fell into the path of Stuart Martin, who made no mistake with the rebound, pulling the ball into the empty net to leave them three ahead once again.

The action continued to be intense as Shannon swapped points with Woods, before another massive Barry McFall effort left two separating the sides in the 59th minute, when the visitors lost Ciarán Johnston to a second yellow card.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, St John’s were thrown a lifeline minutes later. With the ball ricocheting towards an empty net, Gerard Hughes got his hand to it and brought it clear, only for referee McKeown to rule he had touched it on the ground.

Domnhall Moran’s 20 m free rebounds off the bottom of Stephen Keith’s hurl, down off the ground and up into the net as St John’s grab an injury time winner. Pic by John McIlwaine

Up stepped Moran and with the goal line packed, somehow managed to squeeze the ball to the net in the 64th minute. Substitute Dannan McKeogh then added the proverbial insult to injury, wriggling through a minute later to poke the ball past Keith.

A cruel ending for Ballycran, who had done more than enough to warrant something from the game, but ecstasy for the Belfast men who refused to panic, continuing to pick off scores and clinical when the match-winning opportunity arose.

St Joseph’s Ballycran: Stephen Keith, Michael Hughes, Patrick Hughes, Sean Ennis, Gerard Hughes, Pádraig Flynn, Aaron Dorrian, Scott Nicholson, James Coyle, Michael Ennis (0-01), Conor Woods (1-07, 0-03f, 0-02 – 65), Christopher Egan (0-02), Brendan Ennis (1-00), Cormac McAllister (0-01), Niall Breen (0-01).

Subs: Stuart Martin (1-01) for Sean Ennis 12’, Huw Flynn for Aaron Dorrian 45’

St John’s: Simon Doherty, Jack Bohill, Ryan McNulty, Aidan McMahon, Conal Morgan, Barry McFall (0-02), Pádraig Nugent, Shea Shannon (0-03), Sean Wilson, Ciarán Johnston (0-08, 0-07f, 0-01 – 65), Mícheál Bradley (0-01), Oisín Donnelly, Conal Bohill (0-01), Conor Johnston (0-02), Donal McKernan.

Subs: Dean Madden for Pádraig Nugent 12’, Domhnall Moran (1-03) for Donal McKernan 12’, Dannan McKeogh (1-00) for Conor Johnston 51’

Referee: Darren McKeown (Naomh Gall)

Cushendall get their first league win in Ballycastle

All County Hurling League Division 1

Ballycastle McQuillan’s 2-14 Cushendall Ruairi Og 3-17

County champions Cushendall got their first win of the league campaign when they travelled to Ballycastle and beat McQuillan’s by six points, despite being short a few regulars. Two early goals put Cushendall in charge and despite the fact that Ballycastle had clawed their way back just before half time, a scoring barrage in first-half injury time saw Cushendall regain the initiative and a lead they would hold until the end.

Ballycastle opened with two points from Ciaran Clarke but they were hit with a Cushendall goal double from full forward Alex Delargy who hit the net in the sixth and tenth minutes to put his team in control. When Ballycastle hit four of the next five points through Clarke (2), Owen Kinney and Dairmuid McShane, in reply to one from Cushendall’s Paddy McGill, they were getting back into contention, but three in a row from Paddy Burke, Paddy McGill and Ed McQuillan saw the Ruairis ease away again.

Paddy McGill who hit a series of points for Cushendall.

A goal by Dairmuid McShane in the 18th minute, followed by a point a minute later from John McLister brought Ballycastle back to within a point with half time fast approaching, but Cushendall hit 1-3 in first half injury time (the goal coming from Fergus McCambride) to go in at the break with a five point cushion. (3-9 to 1-10)

Ballycastle’s Conor Boyd in action against Cushendall’s Cormac McClafferty.

The second half was a pretty even affair with Ciaran Clarke for Ballycastle and Paddy McGill cancelling each other out from a series of frees, but four without reply between the 32nd and 49th minutes eased Cushendall well clear. Ciaran Clarke raised hopes for the home side with a goal five minutes from time to cut the gap to six, but that was as close as they would get as Cushendall held out comfortably for the win.

BALLYCASTLE: Ryan McGarry, Oran Kearney, Matthew Donnelly, Sean Kelly, Thomas McIlory, Conor Boyd, Eamon Elliott, James McLister, Ronan McCarry, Ciaran Butler, Ciaran Clarke, Tiernan Butler, Owen Kinney, KB McShane, Dairmuid McShane.

CUSHENDALL:  Eoin Gillan, David Kearney, Liam Gillan, Jospeh McCurry, Stephen Walsh, Paddy Burke, Aidan McNaughton, Niall McCormick, Paddy McGill, Fergus McCambridge, Ryan McCambridge, Cormac McClafferty, Alex Delargy, Ed McQuillan.

Referee – C Cunning (Dunloy)

Johnston’s magic not enough to halt rampant Rossa

ACHL Division One

Rossa 1-27-2-14 Ballygalget

By Kevin Herron at Rossa Park

Rossa claimed their first league win of the campaign with a 1-27-2-14 win over Ballygalget at Rossa Park last night.

The hosts were in control throughout and could have had more than their ten-point margin to spare – Thomas Morgan accounted for the majority of his sides scores (1-08) and hit the opening goal to open up a six-point lead before the midway point in the first-half.

Gareth ‘Magic’ Johnson was Ballygalget’s go-to man throughout, his individual tally of 2-08 kept his side on Rossa’s coat tails but ultimately the Shaw’s Road men were deserved winners under the Friday night light in Belfast.

Ballygalget hit the front inside of two minutes through a converted 65’ from Gareth Johnson – it took a Rossa until the fifth minutes to respond when Michael Armstrong popped the ball off to Thomas Morgan who stroked over the equalising score.

It was the first of three successive scores that Morgan would claim within a three minute period as the hosts opened up a 0-04-0-01 lead – Aodhan O’ Brien adding a further point after bursting into space and confidently firing between the sticks. Johnson responded for Ballygalget with a coolly converted free – however Gerard Walsh opened up a five-point cushion once again with a perfect free from midway.

Thomas Morgan fires the ball to the Ballygalget net for Rossa’s goal in the 12th minute. Pic by John McIlwaine

The opening goal arrived on 12th minute at the Shaws Road as Thomas Morgan showed a burst of pace and rifled low into the corner of the net past Jamie Crowe in the Ballygalget nets to make it 1-05-0-02.

Morgan then turned provider for James Connolly to open his evenings account and the wing-half forward doubled his tally within sixty seconds as Rossa opened up an eight-point deficit.

Gareth Johnson used his strength to power through and blast over the bar in response and midway through the half Ballygalget gave themselves a glimmer of hope – the Down men were awarded a free and only one man was going to try his luck.

Johnson stood over the resulting free and demonstrated why he’s known as ‘Magic’ – picking his spot in the roof of the net, despite the best efforts of the Rossa quartet on the line to bring his personal tally and his teams to 1-03 (1-07-1-03).

Gareth ‘Magic’ Johnston who proved a real handful for the Rossa defence, ending up with 2-8 to his name. Pic by John McIlwaine

Dominic McEnhill cut inside and shot over the bar in reply, that would be the first of five unanswered points as Rossa opened up an eight-point lead for the second time in the half.

Thomas Morgan hit back to back points – the second of which arrived after a superb passing move started by Dominic McEnhill.

Ciaran Orchin and Stephen Beatty also got in on the act as the hosts led 1-12-1-04 with little under ten minutes of the half remaining.

Marc Fisher and Gerard Roddy hit back for the visitors but James Connolly and Seaghan Shannon cancelled out those scores and Rossa increased their lead through Aodhan O’Brein’s second score of the half, a fine effort from long range.

Ballygalget could have had a second goal five minutes before the break – a long ball dropped short and Gerard Roddy popped the ball into the path of James McGrath whose powerful shot spun over rather than under the bar.

Tiarnan Murphy would create space and angle over his first point of the evening as his side took a commanding 1-16-1-07 led in at the interval.

Ballygalget hit the opening score of the second-half as youngster Tim Prenter wheeled away from danger and opened his evenings account.

His opposite number Thomas Morgan replied and the number fifteen’s would trade further scores in the immediate aftermath.

Johnson and James Connolly then traded frees, despite the visitors opening the half better; Rossa were matching them score for score.

Gareth Johnson turned and shot over to bring evening’s tally to 1-05 – it would be the last score in a six-minute minute lull in the game, ended by a close-range converted free by Seaghan Shannon to restore his side’s nine-point lead (1-20-1-11).

Ballygalget almost had a route back into contention two minutes shy of the midway point in the second-half as Tim Prenter offloaded to James McGrath whose stinging drive was turned onto the crossbar and cleared by Rossa keeper Conall Breathnach.

Rossa goalkeeper Conall Breathnach in action during Rossa’s win over Ballygalget.

At the other end Tiarnan Murphy converted his first free of the evening and then profited from some fine work by Dominic McEnhill to register a third point of the game.

Gareth Johnson responded from a fine turn and point but Ballygalget found themselves ten down with ten minutes remaining. (1-22-1-12).

James Connolly (free) and Aodhan O’Brien scores further increased their sides lead with Johnson (free) responding.

Three minutes from time Johnson claimed his second goal of the evening – it was a similar scenario to the first as the confident full-forward tried his luck from a free, this time opting to blast low, the big man’s strike adjudged to have crossed the line to make it 1-24-2-13.

Ultimately it would be scant consolation in the grand scheme of things, Johnson scored the last of his evenings 2-08 on the 59th minute and it was Rossa who saw the game out on the front foot.

James Connolly converted a free to end a ten-minute barren spell and further points from Aidan Orchin and Thomas Morgan ensured that Rossa claimed a comfortable 1-27-2-14 win and a first league win of the campaign.

Rossa: C Breathnach, M Smith, C McGuinness, A Orchin (0-01), S Shannon, G Walsh (0-01f), A O’Brien (0-03), S Beatty (0-01), C Orchin (0-01), D McEnhill (0-01), C McVeigh, J Connolly (0-06, 0-03f), T Murphy (0-03, 0-01f), M Armstrong, T Morgan (1-08). Subs: S Shannon (0-02, 0-01f) for M Armstrong (19 mins), P McGreevy for M Smith (48 mins), E O’Neill for D McEnhill (55 mins), C Shannon for T Murphy (55 mins), Niall Devlin for S Shannon (48 mins).

Ballygalget: J Crowe, M Fisher (0-01), O Clarke, J Smyth, P McManus, C Watson, B Toner, J Dorrian, C Coulter, G Roddy (0-01), J Hughes, J McGrath (0-01), C Coulter, G Johnson (2-08, 2-04f; 0-01 65’), T Prenter (0-02). Subs: M Toner for J Dorrian (31 mins).

Referee: Colm McDonald (St Galls).

League champions Dunloy ease past Rossa

Antrim Senior Hurling League Division One

O’Donovan Rossa 1-6 Dunloy Cuchullains 3-12

Dunloy opened the defence of their league title on Sunday when they travelled to Shaw’s Road and beat Rossa with a bit to spare. Gregory O’Kane’s men lost out in this fixture last season but it was clear from an early stage that there was going to be no repeat this time around as the Cuchullains hit the ground running, and when Deaglan Smith got in for a sixth minute goal they were in control.

Conal Cunning had opened the scoring in the third minute with a neat finish and after Smith grabbed his goal three minutes later the visitors had chances to push further ahead with a series of frees. However Paul Shiels was uncharacteristically off with his free taking, a task which was made more difficult by a strong diagonal wind, but when Nicky McKeague took over he nailed his first attempt and with Coby Cunning adding another from play the Cuchullains were 1-3 to 0-0 by the end of the opening quarter.

Dunloy captain Paul Shiels looks gets away from Rossa’s Mick Armstrong during Sunday’s league game at Rossa Park. Pic by Bert Trowlen.

Rossa were battling hard against tough opponents and a strong wind but they eventually got off the mark on 18 minutes when Tiernan Murphy sent over a free but the six point cushion was restored when Nicky McKeague did likewise at the other end. The home side got their first score from play when centre forward struck and excellent point but Dunloy were making full use of the wind and after McKeague added another point from a placed ball two of their young guns, Ciaran and Seaan Elliott added superb scores from play to stretch the lead to eight.

 Rossa pulled one back when corner forward James Connolly fired over at the other end and with half time fast approaching they must have felt they were still in the game, considering the strength of the wind. However they were undone when the fleet footed Seaan Elliott cut in from the left wing and fired low to the corner of the net to give his team a 2-7 to 0-3 half-time lead.

Rossa full-back Cricky McGuinness in action against Dunloy’s Eoin O’Neill. Pic by Bert Trowlen.

Wind assisted Rossa made a promising start to the second half when Jamesie Connolly and Tiernan Murphy added points and when a long range free by Gerard Walsh went all the way to the net they appeared to be back in business. Suddenly things looked a little different as scores were becoming a bit more difficult for the visitors into playing into the wind. However they responded really well and when Coby Cunning put Keelan Molloy through on goal he fired the ball to the net to put his team back in control.  

That goal was a bad blow for the home team’s chances and they never really recovered. Tiernan Murphy did pull a point back but Dunloy responded with two pointed frees from Nicky McKeague and a fourth point from the ever dangerous Conal Cunning to wrap up a twelve point win.  


ROSSA: C Walsh; C Orchin, C McGuinness, N Devlin; Stephen Shannon, G Walsh (1-0 free), A O’Brien; M McGreevy, A Orchin; M Armstrong, M Devlin (0-1), J Connolly (0-2); T Murphy (0-3, all frees), C McVeigh, D Rocks. Subs: D McEnhill for M Devlin (HT), N Crossan for N Devlin (46).


DUNLOY: R Elliott; C Kinsella, C McKinley, P Conlon; K McKeague, R McGarry, K Molloy; P Shiels, C Elliott (0-1); N Elliott, N McKeague (0-5, all frees), D Smyth (1-0); S Elliott (1-2), E O’Neill, C Cunning (0-4). Subs: K Molloy (1-0) for N Elliott (42), S Dooey for D Smyth (52), C Brogan for S Elliott (56), A Crawford for E O’Neill (56).

REFEREE: Tarlach Conway


Pics by Bert Trowlen

Clarke and McShane hold their nerve to earn Ballycastle a point

Ballygalget 0-15 Mc Quillan 0-15

2018 Division 2 Champions, McQuillans Ballycastle made their return to the top tier of Antrim Hurling earning themselves a share of the points at a windswept Ballygalget.

Such was the strength of the wind at the Ards peninsula venue that one could have been forgiven for thinking this was going to be a game of two very one-sided halves. Both defences were tested to their limits by the difficult conditions and by each other in what was a very intense hard fought slog.

Playing against the wind it was the Ballycastle men who opened the scoring in the first minute with a pointed free from Ciaran Clarke, a lead which was short lived as the ‘Galget men equalised immediately with the next attack. Two points from Ballygalget free taker Conor Doran fell either side of a Ciaran Clarke pointed free. 

The Co Down men pressed hard to make the most of their wind advantage, adding three unanswered points, however a resilient Ballycastle defence aided by Kevin Barry McShane now acting as an extra defender began to manfully curtail the best of their efforts.

 A Ciaran Clarke point from play, punctuated two pointed place ball efforts from the home side, the pick of these being a spectacular side line cut from ace marksman Conor Doran.

An equally spectacular effort from an extremely tight angle saw Owen Kinney open his scoring account for Ballycastle keeping the visitors within touching distance on the scoreboard.

Points from ‘Magic’ Johnston and James Doran stretched the lead to five before two further Ballycastle points from Ciaran Clarke rounded off the half.

Half time score Ballygalget 0-9 McQuillan 0-6. 

Diarmuid McShane who hit two excellent points in Ballycastle’s drawn game in Ballygalget

Ciaran Clarke reduced the deficit to two, before Diarmuid McShane caught a puck out and scored a superb reflex point and it looked as if the visitors were set to kick on with the elements now in their favour in the second half. However Conor Doran and Daniel Toner points maintained the advantage for the home side.

Ronan McCarry and Ciaran Butler reduced the deficit back to a single point but again Ballygalget answered via a Doran converted free.

Two Ciaran Clarke frees drew the sides level going into the final ten minutes, and the Castle looked hungry to secure the win, a Diarmuid McShane effort seemed to have given the Town the lead, however with one umpire raising the white flag and the other signalling wide, the referee opted to go with the latter to the disappointment of the travelling fans.

The scoreboard pendulum was to swing three times in Ballygalget’s favour before the end, but each time the Town managed to equalise, the pick of the equalisers coming from Diarmuid McShane who repeated his earlier exploit  catching a directly from a  puck out before slotting the sliothar between the posts.

Going into the final minute Doran looked to have secured both points for the home side, but on the stroke of full time Ciaran Clarke showed serious nerve to slot the free and round off a game where wind conditions prevented either side from hitting top gear.

Ballygalget:  J Crowe, Paul McManus, O Clarke, Peter McManus, J McGrath, B Toner, M Fisher, J Doran, C Watson, G Roddy, D Toner, C Doran,  C Coulter, G Johnston, A Doran

McQuillan: R McGarry, O Kearney, M Donnelly, S Kelly, T McIlroy, C Boyd, O McAuley, J McLister, R McCarry(0-1), C Butler(0-1), C Clarke (0-10) (8 frees), T Butler, D McShane(0-2), K.B. McShane, O Kinney (0-1)  Subs: E Elliott for O McAuley, L Donnelly for T Butler.