Heartbreak for Emmet’s as they fall at final hurdle

AIB Ulster Junior Hurling Championship Final

Cushendun 0-16 Castleblayney 1-14

Sunday November 11

Brendan McTaggart reports from the Athletic Grounds, Armagh

It was late heartbreak for Cushendun on Sunday as their hopes for Ulster honours were dashed by Castleblayney.  One point separated the teams at the end of a pulsating hour of hurling with both sides belittling their junior status.

After a solid first half where they held a four point lead at the short whistle, Cushendun were well placed midway through the second period.  They held a five point lead and looked to have all the momentum but Mark Treanor scored the only goal of the final and the Monaghan champions looked rejuvenated.  They began to cause the Cushendun defence more problems and with Fergal Rafter metronomic from placed ball, they began to eat into the Cushendun lead.  With the game deep in injury time with the match still in the balance and Cushendun holding on, Castleblayney took the lead with Fergal Rafter’s 11th point and 10th free of the match.  The first time they would hold the lead and it proved to be decisive.  Time wasn’t the Emmet’s friend but they did manage one last chance, Conor McHugh foraging into the ‘Blayney half but he was swarmed by the Monaghan men’s defence.  A devastating finish for Chris Dornan’s side, just falling short over the hour.

7Cushendun’s Conor McHugh strikes a late free in the Ulster Junior Hurling final defeat to Castleblayney in Armagh. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine

Cushendun made a lively start to the decider with James Morgan landing the opening score of the match after just 30 seconds.  Castleblayney responded with a free, Fergal Rafter with the Monaghan champions opening score in the third minute but it was the Emmet’s who were making light of the sandy conditions at the Athletic Grounds.

In midfield Conor McHugh began to orchestrate proceedings with Conleth McNeil influential, Cushendun went about wrestling control of the final.  Morgan landed his second of the match to give the Emmett’s the lead once again before David Kilgore and Dominic McQuillan followed suit.

Mark Treanor stopped the rot for Castleblayney when he split the uprights after riding a heavy tackle in the seventh minute but Cushendun were looking sharper all over the pitch with their defence on top and midfield turning the sliotar at every opportunity.

Conor McHugh landed his first ’65 of the match to restore the Emmett’s three point lead once again to ensure they maintained their momentum and it could have been the perfect opening quarter for the Cushendun men but Eugene Duffin’s goal bound effort was well saved by ‘Blayney ‘keeper Paddy Collins.  The Cushendun man was played through by David Kilgore and had space to run into but went for the first time effort from 30 yards only to see his effort matches by the ‘Blayney shot stopper.

Cushendun continued to dominate and landed a trio of points.  Pierce Bannon, Eugene Duffin and Conleth McNeill opening a six point lead for the Emmet’s with seven minutes of the half remaining.  Castleblayney finished the half stronger though with Rafter landing three points (two frees) in as many minutes before McHugh’s second ’65 of the final left the Emmet’s 0-9 to 0-5 ahead at the interval.

The closing minutes of the opening half was the only time in the first 30 minutes where Castleblayney looked on top.  Cushendun were well worthy of their four point lead and it was probably the least the Antrim champions deserved.

The opening to the second half was a tight affair.  David Kilgore and Rafter (free) swapped scores before Mark Treanor and Dominic McQuillan repeated the same by the eighth minute.  Rafter’s second point after the restart reduced the Cushendun lead to three points but the Emmet’s responded with a brace of frees from McHugh to give his side a five point lead with just over 15 minutes remaining.

Cushendun looked to have all the answers to the questions being posed but they came undone in the 46th minute.  Mark Treanor collecting a cross field ball before firing the sliotar low and to the back of Eoin Magee’s net, giving the Cushendun ‘keeper no chance.

The Emmet’s response was immediate with McNeill converting a free only for Rafter to cancel it out with the next attack.  Two further frees for McNeil, either side of another Rafter effort from placed ball left Cushendun ahead by three with five minutes remaining.

18Cushendun’s Jack McKay in action against Castleblayney’s Hugh Byrne during Sunday’s Ulster Junior final in Armagh. Pic by John McIlwaine

The Monaghan men found another gear in the closing stages however with Rafter punishing any indiscretions from the Cushendun defence.  A long range free from the ‘Blayney’s star forward and a huge strike from play, fully 75 yards out left the minimum between the sides.

Fintan Finnegan brought the sides level in the last minute of normal time for the first time since the third minute of the match with the momentum in Castleblayney’s favour but the game was still in the balance.

Cushendun had two long range efforts from placed ball to edge ahead once again but McNeill and McHugh both pushed their efforts wide into the stiff wind.  Castleblayney were reduced to 14 men with captain Peter Treanor seeing red for an off the ball incident in the third minute of injury time and we all thought the game would go to extra time. However it was the Monaghan men who had the final say and Rafter converting his 10th free of the match deep into injury time to end Cushendun’s dream of an Ulster title.

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Cushendun: Eoin Magee; Sean Hamilton, Aidan Corbett, Jack McKay; Mark Scally, Donal O’Hara, Tom Scally; Matthew McCartin, Conor McHugh; Pierce Bannon, Eugene Duffin, Dominic McQuillan; James Morgan, Conleth McNeill, David Kilgore.

Subs: Eoin McQuillan for E Duffin (35); Niall McAuley for P Bannon (40); RJ McQuillan for j Morgan (53)

Scorers: Conleth McNeil 0-4 (4 f’s); Conor McHugh 0-4 (2 ‘65’s, 2 f’s); David Kilgore 0-2; James Morgan 0-2; Eugene Duffin 0-1; Pierce Bannon 0-1.

Castleblayney: Paddy Collins; Colin Merick, Eoin Leonard, Cormac McNally; Bernard Connor, Peter Treanor, Jim McHugh; Brian Flanagan, Paddy Finnegan; Hugh Byrne, Fergal Rafter, Fintan Finnegan; Craig Callan, Brian McGuigan, Mark Treanor.

Subs: Aaron Kenny for C Callan (40);

Scorers: Fergal Rafferty 0-11 (9 f’s, 1 65); Mark Treanor 1-2; Fintan Finnegan 0-1.

Ref: Tarlach Conway (St Colm’s Ballinascreen, Derry)

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Pics by Dylan McIlwaine

Saints successful in first Leinster assignment

Leinster Junior B Hurling championship quarter-final

All Saints 3-16 Coolderry 3-12

All Saints Ballymena recorded a four point victory over Coolderry of Offaly in their first venture into the Leinster Junior B Hurling championship in Limerick today. The Ballymena side travelled South, not knowing what to expect but determined to give it everything but enjoy the occasion as well.

They certainly did that and more, leading the Offaly Junior champions by 14 points at one stage but were forced to defend strongly in the end as Coolderry staged a comeback but All Saints stood defiant in defence to advance to the semi-finals.

A big congratulations to the Antrim champions and we will publish a more comprehensive report later.

All Saints abu!

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Dorny is on a high at the moment as he looks forward to the ‘Blayney challenge

Glendun Nursing Home ad copy2Ulster Club Junior Hurling Championship final preview

It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Cushendun manager Chris Dornan. First of all he guided the Emmet’s to their first Junior Championship title in 55 years and followed it up by steering them through a quarter-final and semi-final of the Ulster Club championship. If that wasn’t enough excitement for any man he went and got married last weekend and on Sunday he will try and make history by leading the Emmet’s to their first ever Ulster title.

Dorny, as he is better known, was just back from his brief honeymoon on Thursday evening when I caught up with him after training in Cushendun and was still on cloud nine.

“It’s been some week. Saturday was a great day, when I got married, and hopefully Sunday will be….(I stepped in at this stage in case he fell into the trap of saying and even better day)…another great day.”  I have been ringing every night since I went away to check how the training was going and the boys have told me they never saw the team so focused. I have seen it myself tonight. In the run through Antrim and in the Ulster rounds the focus has been there, but this is a new level altogether. There is a real buzz about the place”列印

EA7I8952The Cushenun players go through their paces during their final training session before Sunday’s final Mark Kilgore Logo-advert copy-na magha

Dorny has been involved in a coaching capacity with the Emmets for three years now but this season he took over the managerial role and as he admits himself his targets were not too high.

“To be honest when I sat down with the other selectors at the start of the season our aim was to stay in Division 3 and we achieved that. When we made the cut at the half way stage of the league and were in the top division we knew we were safe so our minds started to turn towards the Junior Championship. When I looked at the teams who were in the Junior Championship I knew we were in with a chance. When you think of the likes of Gort na Móna and Lamh Dhearg who were no longer there I knew we must be in with a good chances of getting a run in it. With all due respect to the teams in it we looked at them and knew we had a good chance as we had beaten most of them in the league. So we said to the boys look we have a great chance of winning this if we put the work in and by the grace of God so far we have gone well. The work certainly has been put in and we did well to win Antrim.”

“When it came to Ulster it was a bit of a minefield for we didn’t really know the teams we were facing to be honest. We were lucky in a way that our first round game was against Na Magha of Derry who we had played in the league last year. We knew they would be hard to beat because we had a tought game with them and just beat them by a point or two. We knew they had been in a couple of Ulster finals in the last four or five years. We knew it would be tough but I felt that Cushendun has now got a few really good hurlers and when we played them it showed, as we won handy enough in the end. We have good leaders in this team and we have strength in the panel now. We have boys like Rory (McQuillan) who has been coming on as a sub at 42 years of age. He has a wealth of experience and we have five or six other subs that can come on and fit into the team at any time. Most of all we have youth in the team. We have as many as five or six eighteen year olds starting every game. They bring and energy to the team. A good few of them have been on county panels and they have confidence to compete at this level. At the start of the year I’ll be honest I didn’t intend to play so many of them but they have claimed their places.

As for the Sean Tracey’s we didn’t really know anything about them. I knew there was a team called Sean Tracey’s because I had a couple of nephews who played for them a good few years ago, but I didn’t know anything about the current side. However we played well against them and now were are in the final.”

44452940_1863545403741892_8874122197040365568_oWhen ask about his knowledge of Sunday’s opponents, Castleblayney, Dorny was forthright and honest. “I really only know what I have read to be honest, and that’s not a lot for there isn’t much info out there. I know they breezed through their own championship and they beat Inniskeen well in the county final. They beat the Donegal champions Burt in the quarter final and I know Burt are a very good team and then they beat Clonduff of Down. Everybody was saying that Clonduff would beat them but they came out on top in that game too. I know a few of their players and who their scoring threats are. I know they will be a hard challenge. Where they line-out and were they play is another matter. There numbers may not correspond with their positions on the field so we may have to make a few switches as the game gets going.

To be honest I think they will be our sternest test so far but having said that I think well will be their sternest test. Any team that gets to an Ulster final has to be a good side and we will have to beat our best to beat them. To me it is a 50/50 game and it could come down to a small thing in the game. I think will be tight and to be honest I wouldn’t rule out extra time. I have heard the stories about the sand on the pitch. Why they want to turn it into a beach is hard to figure out but in fairness it is going to be the same for both teams.”

Mary McBrides1To finish off I put it to Dorny that he must be delighted to get the chance of playing before the Cushendall v Ballycran game and getting the chance of seeing his home club in action.

“Oh it is great. This is the first year I haven’t seen all the Cushendall championship games since I was eleven, and I’m 35 now. My best man at my wedding last weekend is Martin Burke who plays corner back and his bother Paddy, who is team captain, was there too. All the talk at the wedding last weekend, you know what men are like at weddings, we talk about everything but the wedding, was about how the teams would be supporting each other and it great to be honest. Its great that these two parishes four miles apart are getting the chance to see both games and fair play to the Ulster council for having the good sense to put them together.”

When I put it to him that it will only be good if they both win Dorny was in total agreement. “Exactly. I couldn’t agree more. If Cushendun loose I probably won’t be in the mood for watching Cushendall to be honest but hopefully both teams will be coming up the road with cups.”RJ Plastering copy-na magha

Cushendun face a quality hurling club in Castleblayney

Ulster Club Junior Hurling Championship final preveiw

Cushendun’s opponents Castleblayney have a proven track record in the Ulster Club championship, winning the Junior titles in 2005 when they beat Strabane Shamrocks and in 2014 when they accounted for Derry champions Na Magha. That most recent win in 2014 saw them beat Antrim champions Glenravel in the semi-final in O’Neill Park Dungannon. The also reached the final of the Intermediate championship in 2011 when they were well beaten by local rivals Middletown of Armagh. They are a well organised hurling club who have been the dominant force in Monaghan hurling over they years. They have won 15 of the 19 finals played this century and after failing to reach the final in 2016 they bounced back to win the last two convincingly, beating new boys Inniskeen Grattans on both occasions.

Castleblayney started their Ulster club campaign with a convincing win over Donegal champions Burt in Letterkenny. Playing with the aid of a strong breeze in the opening half ‘Blayney laid down a marker early on and two goals from Hugh Byrne helped them to a 2-5 to 0-4 lead at the break. After the break Burt hit back with four unanswered points and were back in contention and it liked it was going to be level when a Burt players got through one-on-one with Blayney goalkeeper Paddy Collins. However Collins proved to be the hero of the day as he pulled off a terrific save and when the ball was cleared upfield Hugh Byrne grabbled a point at the other end to ease the pressure. Buoyed by this let-off the Monaghan side controlled the rest of the game as they added a further eight points, and though Burt did manager three second half goals, Blayney always had the edge as they held out for a six point win. 2-14 to 3-7

In their semi-final win over Down champions Clonduff the Monaghan men were made to work hard for their victory and after conceding 2-2 in the early stages it looked like an uphill battle. However with team captain Peter Trainor taking control of the game with a few great runs through the middle ‘Blayney battled back to go in level at the break on 0-9 to 2-3. A goal early in the second half from Ferghal Rafter gave ‘Blayney the edge and they pushed on to open up a six point gap, and when Clonduff were reduced to fourteen men it all looked like plain sailing. However Clonduff fought back and a goal brought the Down men back into contention with just five minutes to go, but the Monaghan champions shut up shop and comfortably held out to book their place in Sunday’s final on a 2-14 to 3-6 scoreline.

CRLY2150The Castleblayney team who beat Con Magees Glenravel by 4-10 to 4-7 in the 2014 Ulster semi-final in Armagh. The team wore the Monaghan colours in that game.

All Saints head to Limerick this Saturday

Leinster Junior Hurling B Championship

Having won their first ever senior hurling title this year, All Saints head to Limerick where they take part in the Leinster Junior B championship and it’s a journey the Ballymena side are looking forward.

Having unsuccessfully contested three All County Junior finals in the 80’s and 90’s the Ballymena side struggled to field a hurling team and despite a massive effort by a small group of hurling enthusiasts they were forced to withdraw from the ACH Leagues a couple of years ago.

Those same enthusiasts led by Paddy Neeson, Hector Cassley and Joe Casey were determined that hurling wouldn’t disappear from the club and for a couple of seasons two of their best players, Liam Cassley and Damian Gillan transferred to St. Brigid’s Cloughmills where they won Antrim and Ulster Intermediate championship medals.

A number of the club’s young players transferred as sanctioned players to neighbouring clubs to gain experience while a crop of youngsters under the guidance of Roisin McCann and Paul McGarry were introduced to the North Antrim league and have been a resounding success, winning North Antrim U12 and U14 league and championship titles and a North Antrim B Feile.

At the start of 2018 it was decided to enter a team again in the All County leagues with Liam Cassley and Damian Gillan returning and a number of new young players emerging to form a healthy panel that has acquitted itself well in its first season back in division 4.

Fergus ‘Skinner’ McAllister of Cushendall has been brought on board to coach the side and his experience and know how has helped the development of the young players and indeed the team as a unit.

Daire Hasson, Colum Neeson, Terry Diamond, Ciaran Neeson, Brendan and James McDonnell, Luke O’Rawe, Padraig Magill, Eoin McGuigan and Ryan McGarry are amongst the emerging young players who have breathed new life into the All Saints side while Christopher McAffee, Darren McGinty, Ciaran McGarry and Gary Miskella have returned to put their shoulder to the wheel.

They went on to win the Junior B championship, defeating Davitt’s and St. Agnes to take the title which then qualified them to play in the Junior A competition where they were beaten by eventual Antrim champions, Emmet’s Cushendun.

They performed well that night at Armoy, scoring four goals against an excellent Cushendun side who proved to have too much overall craft for the Ballymena side in the end and have now gone on to reach the Ulster Junior championship semi-final.

This Saturday All Saints are scheduled to meet Coolderry of Offaly in a first ever Leinster quarter-final at Pairc Ide Naofa, Rahennagh, Co. Limerick and when I spoke to some of the boys at Friday night’s Annual Presentation Dinner it was a trip they were looking forward.

The Ballymena men quite literally don’t know what to expect, Damian Gillan told me “We’ll go along, give it everything we have and see where it takes us”

The games in preceded by the first quarter-final in the competition where Wolfe Tones, Edgeworthstown, Longford meet Balindereen of Galway and on the following day, Sunday Graigue-Ballycallan, Kilkenny play Trim of Meath followed by the last of the quarter-finals where Cuala Of Dublin meet the Wexford champions who were unknown at the time of writing.

All Saints will be rubbing shoulders with a number of clubs with big reputations but are looking forward to testing themselves against unknown opposition and whatever the result, I’m sure it will prove to be a great week end for the team and their supporters.

The Saffron Gael wish All Saints every success!

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All Saints celebrate after defeating St. Agnes in the Junior B hurling final in Cloughmills this year. They head to Limerick on Sunday where they will face Coolderry of Offaly in the Leinster quarter-final.