McCloskey hat-trick sinks Portaferry

O’Neill’s All County Hurling League – Division 1

Loughgiel 5-19 Portaferry 0-121The Loughgiel and Portaferry teams stand to mark the 100th anniversary of Gaelic Sunday before today’s league game at Fr Healy Park

Reigning league champions Loughgiel scored a comprehensive win over Portaferry in Sunday’s league game at Fr Healy Park. The Down men competed fairly well in the opening half and turned around just four points adrift but after the change of ends the Shamrocks were rampant and boosted by an Eddie McCloskey hat-trick they went on to win at a canter.

The sides were level after ten minutes as two early points from Shan McGrath and Dan McCloskey were cancelled out by points from Caolan Taggart and Conor Mageean for the visitors. However Loughgiel steadily gained the upper hand and three points from Eddie McCloskey, Mark McFadden and James McNaughton put them in control. A fine solo score from Caolan Taggart was answered by one from a free from James McNaughton for the home side and after Paul Braniff had again cut the Portaferry deficit to two the Shamrocks came back with scores from Eddie McCloskey from play and James McNaughton from a free to put the gap out to four. Kevin McGarry cut the gap back to three again but just before the half time whistle Declan Gillan soloed up from defence to strike an excellent point and give Loughgiel a 0-9 to 0-5 lead at the break.

11Portaferry’s Kevin McGarry is closed down by the Loughgiel defence.

Portaferry’s Kevin McGarry had the first score of the second half to cut his team’s arrears to three but that was as close at the men from the Ards would come and Loughgiel started to take control. Two James McNaughton points were followed by Eddie McCloskey’s opening goal in the 42nd minute, the ball deflecting off his hand and past Karol Keating in the Portaferry goal. Paul Braniff pulled a couple back for the visitors but Loughgiel were getting up a head of steam and points from Duck McFadden James McNaughton and Shan McGrath were followed by Eddie McCloskey’s second goal. The flood gates opened at this stage as Shay Casey got in the goal scoring act as he turned a rebound home after a good Keating save and two minutes later McCloksey completed his hat trick as he caught a high ball close to goal and swivelled to fire home. Braniff kept the scoreboard ticking at the other end but the gap was ever widening and goal number five arrived from Shan McGrath before referee Alan Nash blew the full time whistle.


DD Quinn, Tiernan Coyle, Cathal McMullan, Ronan McCloskey, Damian Gillan, Damon McMullan, Odhran McFadden, Mark McFaden, Eddie McCloskey, Ryan McKee, James McNaughton, Maol Connolly, Dan McCloskey, Shay Casey, Shan McGrath.

Subs – Aidan McFadden, Callum McKendry and Declan Laverty


Karol Keating, Darragh Mallon, Conor O’Neill, Neil White, Caolan Taggart, Matthew Conlan, tom Murray, Conor Fay, Aaron O’Prey, Kevin McGarry, Conor Mageean, Jason Gilmore, Ronan Blair, Paul Braniff, Owen Taggart.

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Pics by John McIlwaine

Late scoring burst sees Ruairis home

O’Neill’s All County Hurling League – Division 1

Ruairi Og 1-20 St John’s 2-10

A late scoring burst which yielded eight unanswered points gave Cushendall victory over a somewhat understrength St. Johns in Wednesday evening’s All Couny Hurling League Division 1 game at Pairc Mhuire. The Johnnies travelled to the Glens with high hopes of victory having claimed a win over Cushendall in Corrigan Park two weeks ago and they signalled their intent with the first point of the game from Conor Johnson. Sean McAfee, back in the Dall starting 15 after a lengthy injury lay off, got the home side off the mark with a point from his full forward berth. This score was quickly followed by a Neil McManus point as Cushendall took the lead. Donal Nugent replied for St. Johns but his score was cancelled out by the industrious Fergus McCambridge. Johnson and McCambridge traded scores as neither team could wrestle control in the early going. Cushendall pushed their lead out to three points with two frees from McManus but St. Johns were competing for every ball and points from Johnson and McNulty again put the minimum between the teams. Dall midfielder Paddy McGill won possession around 60 yards from goal and fired over a point into the stiff breeze but again Johnson answered back with a free. Cormac McClafferty exchanged fire with Johnson before lady luck shone on the Dall. Neil McManus, who had two 21 yard frees saved on the Johnnies goal line eventually raised a green flag but rather fortuitously for his team it came direct from a 65 which skidded into the bottom corner of St. Johns net to leave 4 between the sides. St. Johns rather than being stung by this sucker punch replied in fine style with two points in a row both from sharpshooter Conor Johnson but it was McManus who got the final point of the half from a free to leave the score at the short whistle Ruairi Og 1-9 St. Johns 0-9.

11St John’s Donal Carson celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal. Pic by John McIlwaine

Neil McManus began the second half in fine style and he sent over three points in a row. One from a free and the others with two booming strikes from 85 and fully 95 yards respectively. However having got themselves into a 6 point lead Cushendall sat back and the Johnnies didn’t need a second invitation to come forward. Michael Dudley hit a point as St. Johns got their purple patch in the game and two goals in the space of five minutes from Dudley and Donal Carson turned the game on its head with St. Johns now a point ahead. Just as St. Johns had a purple patch going behind seemed to shake Cushendall into life and they firmly wrestled back control. In the closing fifteen minutes they held the visitors scoreless and hit 8 unanswered points themselves. Young Niall McCormick, on for Ed McQuillan got the first. Neil McManus hit two points either side of an excellent effort from Paddy McGill. Sean McAfee, who had battled all evening got his second of the game as did McClafferty when he rounded his man and finished from a tight angle. Fergus McCambridge was rewarded for his graft with a point and it was left to ace marksman Neil McManus to put the icing on the cake with the final score of the game.

How they played: St. Johns had star turns from Conor Johnson and Michael Dudley but as the game entered the home straight Cushendall just had another gear. Francis McCurry and Paddy Burke defended well. Paddy McGill put in a big shift at midfield and up front Sean McAfee proved a handful. However man of the match goes to Neil McManus who led from the front from start to finish and gave everything. He also finished the game with 1-10 to his credit.

Ruairi Og: E Gillan, J McCurry, P Burke, S Delargy, F McCurry, E Campbell, Stephen Walsh, P McGill(0-2) N Mc Manus(1-10), D McNaughton, F McCambridge(0-3), C Carson, C McClafferty(0-2), S McAfee(0-2), E McQuillan.

Subs used: M Burke, N McCormick (0-1), E Laverty, E McKillop.

St John’s: Simon Doherty, Odhran McKenna, Conal D Morgan, Jimmy Peoples, Colm McFall, Stephen Tierney, Ryan McNulty, Donal Carson, Barry McFall, Michael Dudley, Domnhail Moran, Ciaran McKenna, Conor Johnston, Declan Creggan, Michael Bradley.

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Pics by John McIlwaine


Honours shared after gripping encounter at Corrigan Park

O’Neill’s All County Hurling League – Division 1

St.Johns 2-21 Loughgiel  3-18

Michael Costello reports from Corrigan Park

This was a gripping encounter from start to finish with both sides taking some superb scores and fighting for the win deep into injury time. Prior to this game St.Johns had taken 5 league wins from 7 games including a home win over Cushendall  last week and a derby win at Rossa Park on Sunday, but the Shamrocks were determined not to join the increasing list of teams who have fallen to this rejuvenated Johnnies side and matched the home team throughout ,bringing their five wins in a row to a halt with a well deserved draw. St.John’s rested Sean Wilson, Peter McCallin and Shea Shannon who had played 3 games in 3 days including the U 21 semi-finals and in came Stephen Tierney, Domhnall  Moran and Gerard Cunningham.

Loughgiel , who had also players  involved in the U21 Semi-finals, opened the scoring  with an accurate free from  James McNaughton who was one of their stand- out players  throughout the game. St.Johns soon replied through Michael Bradley who converted a free and then took a fine point from play before McNaughton levelled things with another free. Loughgiel were in control of the game for the next ten minutes as they added  four more points including two more frees to forge ahead . St.John’s only reply was a superb Simon McCrory long range point from play but two more McNaughton frees left the home side trailing by five points to a well drilled  Shamrocks team. St. Johns steadied the ship eventually as points from Bradley, Dudley ,Peoples and Conor Johnston brought them into the game but Joey Scullion and Sean McGrath both pointed for the visitors and a McGrath goal  for the Shamrocks  looked ominous for the Johnnies , but undaunted, the home side raised their game impressively  to take five points on the trot with Barry McFall snatching  the final point of the first half to  give them a one point interval lead. St.Johns county  veteran Simon McCrory ,whose pace and quick thinking was a feature of the first half , suffered a hamstring injury just before the interval  and was replaced by Peter McCallin.

Half time St.Johns 0-14 Loughgiel 1-11

The second half began with the Experienced Mc Fall brothers Colm and Barry being replaced by Aidan McMahon and Shea Shannon . C.J. McKenna also had to come in for Gerard Cunningham within a short time of the restart. Loughgiel took the first point of the half when St. Johns  and Armagh keeper Simon Doherty turned what looked like a certain goal over the bar.

The game rose to fever pitch as a Conor  Johnston  goal for St.Johns was matched by the visitors within a minute. There was no let-up in the pace of the game  despite the heat and  a series of points were exchanged  which kept the crowd on their toes  and three successive Loughgiel points were clawed back by Conor Johnston with his second goal from close range. Loughgiel kept themselves in the hunt with another goal and two points and looked like snatching an away win, but in a dramatic finish a Michael Bradley point levelled the game.

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Pics by Michael Costello


All square after pulsating hour in Pearse Park

O’Neills ACHL – Division 1

Dunloy 1-12 Cushendall 1-12

Brendan McTaggart reports from Pearse Park, Dunloy

There’s a storm brewing in north Antrim and on Wednesday night we got a taste of what we could be in for in September.  Dunloy and Cushendall are developing a rivalry, borne from the championship decider last year and the two league encounters have each added to the storm.  These two put everything on the line once again in a high intensity, gruelling yet captivating encounter but couldn’t be separated.

When they played each other in the league earlier this year, the Cuchullains took the spoils with a late surge to pull away.  The Ruairi’s were having none of that in Pearse Park.  Both had chances, Dunloy with as many goal chances to win the game in the first half while the Ruairi’s lost their way in injury time with two scoreable frees going astray.  Having already scored 1-5 with 1-4 coming from dead ball, you would have put your house on Neil McManus scoring what was by his own lofty standards, two very scoreable frees despite the distance, in injury time.  I’d be a homeless saffron gael right now.

After an opening half where both sides were sizing up the challenge ahead, the Cuchullains took a two point lead into the interval.  A Keelan Molloy goal in the second minute of injury time giving the home side the advantage.  After playing into a stiff wind in the first half, the Cuchullains would have been content with their opening 30 minutes despite their missed opportunities.  A bright start saw them settle quickly into the match but two missed chances and four wides in the opening eight minutes could have made their hours work significantly easier.  Nigel Elliott and Keelan Molloy both going close and while Eoin O’Neill gave the home side a two point lead after ten minutes to make the score 0-3 to 0-1, the score line didn’t reflect the Cuchullains early efforts.

The Ruairi’s had their homework done in preparation for Wednesday nights match though.  With Arron Graffin missing out, Paddy Burke moved into his familiar surroundings on the edge of the square and their defence had a more solid feel once they got over the initial Dunloy onslaught.

With the wind at their backs playing into the chapel goals, Cushendall began to settle.  McManus, McGill and Eoghan Campbell all raising white flags to score three unanswered points in as many minutes to give the Ruairi’s the lead just after the quarter hour mark.

With Neil McManus roaming in attack and Paddy McGill causing the Dunloy full back line problems with his guile, the Ruairi’s looked to push on.  Keelan Molloy pointed for Dunloy to bring the sides level once again but a brace of frees from McManus to take his tally for the match to four points by the 20th minute opened a two point lead for the visitors to Pearse Park for the first time and but for some wayward shooting, that lead could have been more.  A brace of frees from Nicky McKeague either side of a point for Ryan McCambridge reduced the deficit to the minimum with time running out on the first half.

The momentum swung late in the half though in only a way a game of hurling can produce.  At one end of the pitch blood substitute saw the whites of Ryan Elliott’s eyes but the Dunloy ‘keepers bravery was rewarded with an outstanding save against the odds.  20 seconds later the Cuchullains had bagged a major of their own.  Keelan Molloy reading the break of the sliotar before finally beating Eoin Gillan at the third time of asking in the first half to leave the score at the short whistle 1-6 to 0-7 in the home sides favour.877A4677

The second half came and the Dunloy lead lasted barely 60 seconds.  The Cuchullains had a brace of chances to increase their lead in the opening scurries but they were pegged back when Neil McManus hammed a 21 yard free high to the back of the net despite four Dunloy men on the line.

The Ruairi’s dropped Paddy McGill deeper from his position on the edge of the square into the midfield exchanges and the move paid dividend for his side.  McGill was heavily involved in rucks and mauls as the game started to develop more spice.

Nicky McKeague pointed Dunloy’s first score of the second half in the 38th minute as the sides went tit for tat.  Fergus McCambridge finding the range twice with McManus landing a free while Dunloy retaliated to each Cushendall point with scores from Keelan Molloy (two) and Nicky McKeague (free).

A couple of missed frees from McKeague resulted in the Cuchullains changing their free taker – Conal Cunning splitting the posts with seven minutes remaining to bring the sides level on 1-11 apiece.  It felt like it was a matter of who blinked first as these two sides wrestled and searched for that decisive score.  Both looked to their benches, the youthful legs of Deáglán Smyth and Seaan Elliott coming on for the Cuchullains in attack while Sean McAfee stepped up his rehab to come on in the closing stages.  Paddy McGill landed a score after the Cushendall forwards forced an error in the Dunloy defence to edge Cushendall ahead once again but Paul Shiels converted a 45 yard free in the last minute of normal time to restore parity.

The drama didn’t end there.  Cushendall had two glorious chances to edge ahead once again but McManus’ efforts sailed to the right hand side of the posts, the second of which ultimately the last poc of the game.

Pulsating, riveting and compelling but no winner after 60 plus minutes.  Both sides will have hurled better this year in terms of skill and fluency but for sheer intensity, work rate and passion this game had it in spades.  A storm is coming and I for one can’t wait.

Dunloy: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin, Karl O’Kane, Oran Quinn; Eamon Smyth, Kevin Molloy, Paul Shiels; Ciaran Elliott, Paudie Shivers; Nigel Elliott, Keelan Molloy, Conal Cunning; Nicky McKeague, Chrissy Brogan, Eoin O’Neill

Cushendall: Eoin Gillan; Niall McCormick, Paddy Burke, Joe McCurry; Francis McCurry, Eoghan Campbell, Sean Delargy; Stephen Walsh, Neil McManus; Conor Carson, Fergus McCambridge, Ryan McCambridge; Cormac McClafferty, Paddy McGill, Ed McQuillan

Scorers for Dunloy: Nicky McKeague 0-6 (5 f’s); Keelan Molloy 1-3; Eoin O’Neill 0-1; Conal Cunning 0-1 (1 f); Paul Shiels 0-1 (1 f)

Scorers for Cushendall: Neil McManus 1-5 (1-4 f’s); Paddy McGill 0-3; Fergus McCambridge 0-2; Eoghan Campbell 0-1; Ryan McCambridge 0-1

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Pics by Sean Paul McKillop