Shane O’Neill’s and Naomh Brid to edge tight semi-finals

Casement SC JHC Semi-Final

Saturday’s Casement SC JHC semi-finals both have the makings of tight and entertaining encounters with three of the top four teams in division 3 of the ACHL doing battle. The odd team out of the four is St. Mary’s Rasharkin but the Dreen side have put indifferent league form behind them to top their championship group and so enjoy home advantage for their meeting with Cloughmills.

Shane O’Neill’s Glenarm v Glen Rovers Armoy Saturday 3-00pm (Feystown)

The first semi-final throws together league winners, Shane O’Neill’s Glenarm and Glen Rovers, Armoy and as group winners the Feystown men enjoy home advantage against an Armoy side that they beat twice in the league.

When the sides met in Armoy on the 13th June Shane O’Neill’s recorded a high scoring 5-19 to 3-12 victory over the home side and the Glenarm men were again successful in Feystown when they ran out 1-20 to 0-7 winners and by virtue of those results will start Saturday’s encounter as firm favourites.

This will no doubt suit the visitors to Feystown who were drawn in what some considered the group of death with Shane O’Neill’s, St. Brigid’s and Lamh Dhearg and the Glen Rovers only qualified for the quarter-finals with a win over Lamh Dhearg in Armoy in their final group game after losing to both Shane O’Neill’s and St. Brigid’s.

Glen Rovers performed reasonably well in those two defeats, losing by a point at home to St. Brigid’s and scoring 3-10 on their visit to Feystown but eventually losing by 9 points.

Their win over Lamh Dhearg saw them drawn away to group 1 runners up, Michael Davitt’s and a win at Davitt’s Park is never easy and so it proved to be but the North Antrim side pulled out all the stops to win by 3-12 to 2-13 and that game will have given them the ideal preparation for Saturday’s encounter.

Shane O’Neill’s have been in top form this season, suffering only one league defeat at home to St. Brigid’s Cloughmills and they avenged that defeat when they travelled to Cloughmills in round 2 of the league by winning 4-20 to 3-17.

Two goals from corner-forward Kevin O’Boyle and goals apiece from Darren Hamill and Niall McGarel were the vital scores in a game that eventually decided the destination of the division 3 league and these three with Barry Hamill, Declan McDermott and the O’Boyle’s, Ben, Kieran and Sean and Dylan McLaughlin should give Shane O’Neill’s the edge on Saturday.

PJ McBride led the Armoy challenge against Davitt’s and finished with 0-4 while Thomas Burns was also to the fore with 1-3, Eamonn McCaughan, Rocky Dillon and Colin Lordan all to the fore for the visitors. The afore mentioned with Conor Devlin, Emmet O’Hara, Arthur Devlin and Owen Kinney will spearhead the Armoy challenge and they might not be too far away but I would expect home advantage to swing it Shane O’Neill’s way.

Rasharkin v Cloughmills Saturday 3-00pm (Rasharkin)

League form would suggest that St. Brigid’s will start this one as firm favourites despite St. Mary’s enjoying home advantage by virtue of topping their group in the championship. The Cloughmill’s men finished second in the league to eventual winners, Shane O’Neill’s and were the only team to beat the Glenarm men.

That win came at Feystown which would suggest that the ‘Biddies’ will not be over concerned by travelling to Dreen but they should never the less be wary of a Rasharkin side who seem to have found their best form in the championship following a less than impressive league campaign.

Rasharkin recorded only four wins in their 12 league starts and are the only team of Saturday’s semi-finalists to not make the cut when the league split and finished second bottom at the league’s end.

St. Mary’s have put that indifferent form behind them in the championship however and topped group 1 though it has to be said, group 1 wasn’t as strong as group 2. The  Dreen side beat what was in front of them however and after wins away to Ballymena and at home to the other St. Brigid’s (the Musgrave Park version) They defeated Davitt’s in Rasharkin to top the group.

Their opponents on Saturday, Naom Brid, Cloughmills finished second in group 2 with wins over Armoy and Lamh Dhearg with their only defeat suffered at the hands of Shane O’Neill’s in Cloughmills on the 2nd September.

As runners up in the group they had to play a quarter-final against All Saints and had little difficulty accounting of the Ballymena side in Cloughmills.

Cloughmills are strong in defence where Sean McKendry, Johnny Duffin and Conor Laverty anchor a solid unit. Ruairi Laverty and Geoffery Og Laverty form a solid mid-field partnership while defender turned attacker, Aaron Smiley, Liam Kearns and Mickey Devlin, if available form a real attacking threat.

Rasharkin will look to Conor Doherty, Ruairi O’Boyle and Emmet McFerran in defence while Tiernan O’Boyle has emerged as strong mid-fielder this season and could be partnered by the experienced Thomas McMullan with Declan McKay also dropping deep.

Perhaps the strongest unit in the St. Mary’s side is there half-forward line where Shane Hasson, Conor McFerran and Eamon McNeill all offer a serious threat while the pace of Donagh Quigg could also cause problems in the full-forward line.

Home advantage will certainly give Rasharkin a fighting chance and a big home support will get behind the men from Dreen but if Naomh Brid are at their best then I expect them to win this one and set up a final meeting with Shane O’Neill’s.

Armoy cling on to clinch semi-final meeting with Glenarm

Casement Social Club Junior Hurling Championship Quarter Final  

Saturday 17th September

Report by Niall Kelly 

Michael Davitts  2-13         Glen Rovers Armoy 3-12

Photographs: Bert Trowlen

Armoy sealed their Junior Semi Final berth after weathering a few nervy last moments in Davitt Park. The Glenshesk men went into proceedings as favourites and after having clinically despatched two majors to Thomas Maguire’s net after five minutes of the second half and with a nine point margin now in their favour, they looked to have fulfilled the role to a tee. Indeed, the men in blue and white were in cruise control and it seemingly appeared they would coast their way to victory. However, a spirited and resilient Davitt’s side, spearheaded by Don Whelan and his magic wand, refused to follow the script and mounted a comeback effort which frayed the nerves of the visiting management and faithful alike during the closing exchanges. Davitt’s number ten can feel somewhat aggrieved not to have finished on the winning team as he notched a dazzling individual tally of 1-10 and his ability from the placed ball kept the hosts within distance of their North Antrim counterparts.

It was the home side who started brightest and established a 0-04 0-02 lead by the fifteenth minute. Marcus Toner and Don Whelan (3) were on target for Davitts with the ever-dangerous Tommy Burns and Colin Lordan raising the white flag of the umpires for Armoy. The visitors were growing in confidence as the half progressed and Turlough McBride fired over two consecutive frees to level proceedings a few minutes later.

Momentum continued to sway to and fro as both sides duelled valiantly to gain the ascendency but neither could establish any true dominance on the game. Davitts were heavily reliant on the genius of Whelan from placed balls. More often than not though, he delivered, and on the twentieth minute he had re-established the hosts’ lead after guiding the sliotar over the bar with devastating accuracy on three occasions in quick succession.

Armoy were in need of a score and talisman Tommy Burns duly obliged as his long-range, swerving effort crept just inside the post perfectly to invigorate his side. Turlough McBride had his bearings correct once again before Eamonn McCaughan stamped his authority on proceedings as he latched onto a Rocky Dillon pass before curling a sumptuous effort between the sticks to level matters.

Whelan again would respond for the hosts but Armoy were now dovetailing nicely in attack and dealt their hosts a hammer blow just before the interval. Ciaran McKenna’s sideline cut bounced invitingly for the onrushing Tommy Burns who kept his composure before rifling low and hard into the despairing Thomas Maguire’s net. PJ McBride popped up with another point before Whelan just had enough time to reply to leave the scores at half time 0-09 to 1-08 in favour of the men from the Glens.

The opening five minutes of the second half proved to be decisive in the fate of this game as Armoy ran rampant. PJ McBride continued where he left off before the half as he competently despatched from close range before Eamonn McCaughan grabbed his side’s second major as he unleashed a blistering effort into the top left of the Davitts goal. To further add salt in the wounds, ‘Rocky’ Dillon hammered home a penalty two minutes later and Davitts were left dumbfounded.

The hosts though rallied superbly and refused to wilt despite the now ominous gap between the sides. Whelan grabbed another from range before Marcus Toner presented his side with a lifeline after plundering his way through the heart of the Armoy rear-guard and blasting home to the net to galvanise his men. Davitts cut further into the lead as Cormac Maguire and Whelan pointed and suddenly the margin was down to three points with fifteen to go. 

Credit must go to the visitors though who remained composed, PJ McBride replied to a Toner effort and grabbed two inspirational scores to bolster his side before Burns pointed from range and Armoy seemed to have a handle on things again. They were keeping the sliotar well and trying to take the sting out of the game.

Matters then turned fiery and there was a tempestuous atmosphere for the remainder of the game which resulted in Davitt’s netminder receiving his marching orders after a robust challenge on Colin Lordan. A few other altercations were bubbling over too which resulted in a sizable portion of added time. As the clock then ticked through into injury time, Don Whelan sparked hope of completing a revival when he rifled spectacularly to the net from a long range free to trigger a raucous roar from the home spectators. But it was not be as Armoy stood resolute under the high balls that soared in as the game reached its conclusion.

Davitts will take great heart in their performance. They were dogged and determined throughout the game but will no doubt surely lament that opening five minute period of the second half. Despite the scare, Armoy will be fully focused now on their intriguing encounter with Glenarm in the semis. Glenarm have been tipped by many as the favourites to lift the Junior crown but with talented options within their arsenal, Armoy will certainly fancy their chances.

Teams:

Davitts: T Maguire; O Gorman, M Rowntree, C Cunningham; C Heaney, C Gallagher, A McLaughlin; D Mooney, P Óg Carleton; D Whelan (1-10,) S McGivern, M Toner (1-02;) C Maguire (0-01,) A Rowntree, J McNally

Armoy:

C Devlin; C Coyles, S Devlin, A Devlin; L Devlin, E O’Hara, T McBride (0-03;) J McFetridge, J Dillon (1-00;) C McKenna, T Burns (1-03,) E O’Boyle; E McCaughan (1-01,) C Lordan (0-01,) PJ McBride (0-04)

Referee: Danny O’Neill (Gort na Mona)

Biddies overpower All Saints to earn semi-final place

Casement SC JHC quarter-final

St Brigid’s 2-20 All Saints 0-7

As expected St. Brigid’s Cloughmills proved too strong for neighbours, All Saints in this Casement SC JHC quarter-final in Cloughmills today. The division 4 winners started well enough and actually led briefly after four minutes when Liam Cassley edged them ahead but once the division 3 runners up found their range they slowly pulled away from the Ballymena side.

Aaron Smiley pointed St. Brigid’s into an early lead before Ciaran Neeson from a free and Liam Cassley edged the visitors 0-2 to 0-1 ahead for the first and only time in the contest. It was to be short lived however as Liam Kearns equalised and the home side looked in for an early goal but Ciaran Cassley advanced from his line to make a brave blocking save to deny Kearns.

It provided only momentary respite however as Aaron Smiley sent over a monster effort from all of 70 meters but Damian Gillan replied for the Slemish Park side to level matters for the third time with only seven minutes gone.

That was as good as it got for the visitors as Smiley, Liam Kearns and Stephen Smyth hit unanswered points for the home side and then Kearns collected a good pass from Eoin Dobbin before firing to the net in the 12th minute.

Aaron Smiley caught the resulting puck out before returning the sliotar between the posts and Stephen Smyth and Aaron Smiley 0-2 moved the ‘Biddies’ 10 ahead at the end of the opening quarter as they began to dominate proceedings.

The visitors were finding it increasingly difficult to mount an attack at the other end but Ciaran Neeson was wide from a free as they briefly threatened before Aaron Smiley, Stephen Smyth with a great long range effort and Gary McCollum added to St. Brigid’s ever increasing tally.

The visitors were giving it everything and were finally rewarded for their efforts when Ciaran Neeson pointed a free and Liam Cassley followed with another from play to take their total to five but it brought about another surge from the Cloughmills’ side.

Ciaran Cassley in the All Saints goals brought off his second excellent save of the game to deny Stephen Smyth but the same player finished the first half scoring with an injury time point to leave St. Brigid’s leading by 1-14 to 0-5 at half time and even at this stage they looked to have one foot in the semi-final.

Ciaran Neeson sent over a great point in the 2nd minute as the game got underway again but any hopes of an All Saints revival were soon dispelled as play became disjointed and fractious as the half continued.

The home side were soon into their stride again as Geoffery Og Laverty and Liam Kearns from a close range free and then from play moved them further ahead at the end of a low scoring third quarter with Ciaran Neeson replying with All Saints 7th point of the game in the 19th minute.

Once again St. Brigid’s replied through an excellent point from Stephen Smyth before Ciaran Cassley in the All Saints goals pulled off another courageous stop to deny Liam Kearns but Ruair Laverty followed up with a point after collecting the rebound.

The superb Cassley was finally beaten for the second time in the game as Liam Kearns finally found a way past him from close range with time almost up and Aaron Smiley added the final point of the contest in injury time to see St. Brigid’s advance convincingly into the semi-final where they will meet Rasharkin.

Shane O’Neill’s will meet Glen Rovers, Armoy in the other semi-final with all four semi-finalists coming from division 3 and we should be in for a couple of excellent games in two weeks-time.

St. Brigid’s: 1 Christopher McKernan, 2 Martin Dobbin, 3 Sean McKendry, 4 Aaron McGuckian, 5 Johnny Duffin, 6 Conor Laverty, 7 Joe Smyth, 8 Ruairi Laverty, 9 Geoffery Og Laverty, 12 Eoin Dobbin, 14 Liam Kearns, 15 Stephen Smyth, 17 Gary McCollum, 19 Stephen Martin 20, Aaron Smiley Subs|: Michael Reid, Ryan Dobbin and Reece Watt

All Saints: 1 Ciaran Cassley, 2 Daniel Gray, 3 Colum Neeson, 4 Kevin Brady, 5 Dwayne McKee, 6 Luke O’Rawe, 7 Padraig Magill, 8 Cormac Lemon, 9 James O’Boyle, 10 Eoin Magee, 11 Damian Gillan, 12 Cormac Magill, 13 Ciaran Neeson, 14 Liam Cassley, 15 Vinny Esler.

Subs: Benny McDonnell, Conor O’Rawe, Conrad Duffin and Cathaoir Cunning

Referee: Sean Elliott (Lamh Dhearg)

Junior semi-final places up for grabs

CASEMENT SOCIAL CLUB JUNIOR HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP

Michael Davitt’s v Glen Rovers, Armoy at Pairc Davitt

In the Casement Social Club Junior Hurling Championship Davitt’s, who finished runners-up in Group 1 behind Rasharkin, have home advantage against Glen Rovers Armoy. When the two sides met in the league in Armoy back in June, Glen Rovers won by 4-19 to 2-13, and by virtue of that would start as favourites, but Championship is a different matter and, given they have home advantage this time around, Davitt’s will feel that are in with a great chance.

St Brigid’s Cloughmills v All Saints at Cloughmills

In the other quarter-final St Brigid’s Cloughmills host All Saints Ballymena and will fancy their chances of gaining a semi-final place. The Biddies played their hurling in Division 3 this season, while the Ballymena boys were in Division 4. Also Cloughmills played in the Intermediate Championship last year, while All Saints were in Junior B, another indication that they will be the stronger side. However All Saints will be glad to get another game in this competition and the last time they played a championship match at Saturday’s venue was three years ago when they beat the Aggies in the semi-final of the B Championship, and will have good memories of the venue.

Rasharkin through to semi-final

Casement SC JHC Group 1

St. Mary’s Rasharkin 4-1 Davitt’s 0-14

St. Mary’s Rasharkin became the second team to qualify for an automatic semi-final place in the Casement SC JHC when they overcame the challenge of Michael Davitt’s at a sunny Dreen this afternoon.

In front of an audience that included GAA President Larry McCarthy and Ulster Council Vice President, Michael Geoghan who were there for the official opening of their new 4G pitch, four first half goals put the home side in a strong position.

Conor McKillop fired home the first after 30 seconds as Rasharkin started strongly into the breeze and Conor McKeever pointed a 4th minute free to give them an excellent start. The visitors hit four unanswered points to draw level by the 9th minute with the free taking of Don Whelan instrumental in their comeback and Anthony Rowntree on target from play.

Davitt’s were enjoying the better of the possession at this stage but Rasharkin replied and a long delivery from Tiernan O’Boyle was fielded by Conor McKeever who turned his marker before firing home his side’s second goal.

Don Whelan replied with a point from a ‘65’ and Conor McKeever and Stephen McGivern for the West Belfast men exchanged further points before Donagh Quigg raced through the Davitt’s defence to fire to the corner of the net for his side’s third goal.

It got even better for the men from Dreen when a massive free by Tiernan O’Boyle from the left hand touchline and about 60 meters from goal deceived Thomas Maguire and dropped to the corner of the net to put Rasharkin 8 ahead by the 22nd minute.

Conor McKeever (0-2 f’s) for Rasharkin and Don Whelan and Stephen McGivern for the visitors exchanged points in the run into half time with the Naomh Muire men in a strong position going into the second half and with the breeze now in their favour.

Davitt’s needed a good start to the second half if they were to get back into contention and Don Whelan fired over his fifth free of the evening in the 2nd minute before deciding to go for goal from his second award of the half but Liam Tunney in the Rasharkin goal was equal to the task.

Whelan added a point from another free as the visitors enjoyed the better of the early second half exchanges before Donagh Quigg replied with St. Mary’s first point of the half with five minutes gone.

The Lower Falls side continued to dominate the opening exchanges as Don Whelan fired over another free before Stephen McGivern sent a magnificent effort from 60 meters between the sticks to bring his side’s total to 0-12 as his side’s comeback appeared to be gaining momentum.

Rasharkin hadn’t scored at this point but Conor McKeever fired over their first point of the half in the 8th minute and should have had a goal immediately after as he took advantage of a bad puck-out but his close range drive sailed over instead of under.

The same player added another from a close range free in the 14th minute as the home side started to get on top again and at this point they introduced Conor Higgins for Conor McKillop.

The Belfast side continued to fight for every ball but were finding it difficult to penetrate a rock solid Rasharkin defence who were giving nothing away and the impressive McKeever added another from play before sending a sublime side-line cut between the uprights in the 17th minute.

The same player looked to be in for his side’s 5th goal a minute later but his deft flick came back of the crossbar with the keeper beaten and was cleared to safety.

Rasharkin were now in control however as Donagh Quigg added a 23d minute point and the same player had his attempt for goal blocked for a ‘65’ which Conor McKeever returned between the uprights to bring his total for the evening to 1-8 with five minutes of normal time remaining.

Davitt’s kept battling to the end with McGivern and Whelan adding late points but there was no way back at this stage and it is Rasharkin who will now contest the semi-final and enjoy home advantage while Michael Davitt’s have a chance to redeem themselves and will now meet Armoy in the quarter-final.

Rasharkin: Liam Tunney, 2 Daniel Doherty, 3 Conor Doherty, 4 James Higgins, 5 Ruairi O’Boyle, 6 Emmet McFerran, 7 Aidan McKeever, 8 Declan McKay, 9 Tiernan O’Boyle, 10 Shane Hasson, 11 Conor McFerran, 12 Eamonn McNeill, 13 Conor McKillop, 14 Donagh Quigg, 15 Conor McKeever, 23 Thomas McMullan. Subs: Conor Higgins, Fergus Quigg, Terry McGregor, Eoin Kennedy, Kealan Darragh

Davitt’s: 1 Thomas Maguire, 2 Odhran Gorman, 3 Michael Rowntree, 4 Ruairi McIlroy, 5 Caomhin Heaney, 6 Christopher Gallagher, 7 Antoin McLaughlin, 8 Deaglan Mooney, 9 Peter Og Carleton, 10 Don Whelan, 11 Stephen McGivern, 12 Marcas Toner, 13 Cormac Maguire, 14 Anthony Rowntree, 20 Christopher Cunningham, 25 Jamie McNally, Sub: Oskar Deevy Persson

Referee: Mark McDonald