Coby steers Cuchullains to semis

Senior Hurling Championship Group One

O’Donovan Rossa 1-17 Dunloy Cuchullains 2-21

Saturday August 17

Brendan McTaggart reports from Rossa Park, Belfast

Nigel Elliott celebrates after scoring Dunloys second goal

Dunloy booked their place in the last four of the senior hurling championship with a comfortable win over Rossa on Saturday afternoon.  Seven points separated the sides at the end of an hours hurling where the Cuchullains improved immeasurably from their opening performance against Cushendall.

A man of the match performance from Conal Cunning helped the Cuchullains to maintain control of the match throughout the hour.  ‘Coby’ finished this tie with 14 points beside his name on the scoresheet, three from open play but it was a more complete performance from his side punctuated with goals in either half from Paul Shiels and Nigel Elliott.

If it weren’t for Coby’s scoring exploits, Keelan Molloy would have been a shoe in for man of the match.  Renowned for his own attacking play, Molloy excelled around the middle of the pitch, especially in the second half along with two points throughout the hour.

The home side relied heavily on the free taking of Deaglan Murphy with the Rossa man finishing with 10 points and while Thomas Morgan threatened, they had little else in attack.  Their goal came in the last minute of the hour, Mickey Armstrong’s long range free evading a plethora of hurls in front of Ryan Elliott and deceiving the Dunloy ‘keeper.  Rossa did hit 1-6 in the closing 10 minutes to just three points from the Cuchullains but it was game over at that stage as the visitors to the Shaw’s Road had their sights firmly set on the semi-final at that stage.

Rossas Crickey McGuinness in action against Dunloys Ronan Molloy

The Cuchullains played with the help of the elements in the first half and with Coby Cunning in top form from the first whistle, they quickly gained control.  He fired over three frees in the opening 10 minutes to Rossa and Deaglan Muprhy’s one before a brace of points from Ronan Molloy opened a four point lead in the 12th minute.  The home side could have had a goal in those opening exchanges but Morgan was denied by a superb piece of ‘keeping and bravery from Ryan Elliott to deny him when he had the goal at his mercy.

The Cuchullains were dominant but a number of wides threatened to knock the wind out of their sails.  Murphy’s second free reduced the Dunloy lead to four points after Coby found the target from placed ball but a piece of brilliance from Paul Shiels ensured the Cuchullains were beginning to make their dominance show on the scoreboard.  A slick move resulted in space opening up in the Rossa defence and with the goal at his mercy, Nigel Elliott passed to Shorty and he drilled the sliotar beyond Matt Devlin in the Rossa goals.

Rossa responded with Deaglan Murphy (free) and Morgan firing over either side of another Cunning free for Dunloy but the Cuchullains finished the half strongly.  Four points from Cunning (three frees) and one from Keelan Molloy were answered to by white flags from Stephen Beatty and Deaglan Murphy (free) to give the Cuchullains a nine point lead at the short whistle.

The Cuchullains were worthy of their nine point lead and probably should have been ahead by more.  There was a significant wind in Rossa’s favour for the second half but it didn’t feel like a ‘nine point’ wind. 

The home side introduced Callum McVeigh at half time in an attempt to curb the Dunloy dominance in midfield and while Rossa started the second half strongly, the Cuchullains were making light work of the elements.  Stephen Shannon fired over seconds after the restart before Cunning reached double figures for his scoring exploits in the third minute of the second half.

Dunloys Nickey McKeague solos towards the Rossa goal

Rossa put together a slick move moments later that saw Ciaran Orchin with a sniff of a goal chance but his effort saw the sliotar come back off the post.  Deaglan Murphy fired over a free soon after but Dunloy began to go through the gears and stretch their advantage.  Cunning with a brace (one free) before points from Keelan Molloy and Seán Elliott were answered to by a pair of Deaglan Murphy frees and a mammoth score free from Rossa ‘keeper Matt Devlin to leave the Cuchullains ahead by nine midway through the half.

The second Dunloy goal came in the 47th minute and effectively sealed the Cuchullains path to the semi-final.  Keelan Molloy stole the sliotar from a loose pass before breaking free of two Rossa men and shimmying his way past a third.  His movement alone deserved a point but he elected to pass the sliotar in the path of the rushing Nigel Elliott.  The Dunloy man made the dart and his drive was unstoppable, a superb finish and when Ryan McGarry broke free to score his first of the match, Dunloy had opened a 13 point lead going into the last ten minutes.

Rossas Deaghlan Murphy in action against Dunloys Ronan Molloy

Rossa answered the second Dunloy goal with a pair of points from Seaghan Shannon and Deaglan Murphy as they continued to fight for every ball.  Cunning’s third free of the half and third from play overall came either side of another brace from Deaglan Murphy before the home side landed their major.  Mickey Armstrong delivering the sliotar high into the heart of the Dunloy defence and with a crowd in front of him, the sliotar evaded everyone and the bounce deceived Elliott between the sticks.

It was too little too late for the Shaw’s Road side however.  Substitute Nicky McKeague replied for the Cuchullains before a driven free from Armstrong was deflected over the bar from Eamon Smyth on the line before referee Colm McDonald called time.

Dunloy advance with Rossa playing Cushendall in two weeks time in what is effectively a quarter-final with the winner heading to the last four.


Rossa: Matt Devlin; Michael McGreevy, Chris McGuinness, Aidan Orchin; Gerard Walsh, Stephen Shannon, Aodhan O’Brien; Cónall Shannon, Ciaran Orchin; Seaghan Shannon, Tiarnan Murphy, Stephen Beatty; Thomas Morgan, Michael Armstrong, Deaglan Murphy.

Subs: Callum McVeigh for C Shannon (HT); James Connolly for T Murphy (44); Niall Crossan for M McGreevy)

Scorers: Deaglan Muprhy 0-10 (9 f’s); Michael Armstrong 1-1 (1-1 f’s); Thomas Morgan 0-1; Stephen Beatty 0-1; Stephen Shannon 0-1; Matt Devlin 0-1 (1 f); Seaghan Shannon 0-1; James Connolly 0-1.

Dunloy: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin, Conor McKinley, Conor Kinsella; Aaron Crawford, Kevin Molloy, Kevin McKeague; Paul Shiels, Ryan McGarry; Nigel Elliott, Ronan Molloy, Keelan Molloy; Seán Elliott, Conal Cunning, Chrissy Brogan.

Subs: Nicky McKeague for K McKeague (38); Shane Dooey for C Brogan (52); Eamon Smyth for K Molloy (56); Karl O’Kane for P Duffin (60); Oran Quinn for C Kinsella (60).

Scorers: Conal Cunning 0-14 (10 f’s); Paul Shiels 1-00; Nigel Elliott 1-00; Ronan Molloy 0-2; Keelan Molloy 0-2; Ryan McGarry 0-1; Seán Elliott 0-1; Nicky McKeague 0-1.

Referee: Colm McDonald (St Galls)

Shamrocks stroll into semi final

Senior Hurling Championship Group 2

St Gall’s 0-15 Loughgiel 3-23

Friday August 16

Brendan McTaggart reports from De La Salle Park, Belfast

Loughgiel became the first team to book their place in the semi-finals of the senior hurling championship with a resounding win over St Gall’s on Friday evening.  Two first half goals put the Shamrocks in control, Eddie McCloskey and Shay Casey finding the back of Kurtis McGreevy’s net after a close opening to the match with St Galls matching their opponents score for score.  Jackson McGreevy from placed ball and Kieron McGourty prominent throughout the first half.  But a late scoring burst and a goal from Shan McGrath at the death added gloss to the score line

Loughgiel turned the screw in the second half and began to stretch their lead with man of the match Mark McFadden hugely influential while the Shamrock defence didn’t give St Galls an inch.  They held St Galls to just five points after the interval, all from Jackson McGreevy while James McNaughton top scored for the north Antrim men with 0-7 (four frees) over the hour.  The most notable stat from Friday evening is the number of men in a red and white shirt who added their name to the list of scorers.  10 different scorers with an impressive 3-18 of their overall tally coming from play in a dominant performance as the Shamrocks advance to the last four ahead of steam.

Loughgiel showed three changes from their win over St John’s with Declan McCloskey, Odhran Laverty and Donal McKinley making the starting 15 while St Galls weren’t at full strength themselves.  Rumours beforehand were rife and the absentees were confirmed with CJ McGourty started on the bench.

The home side made an encouraging start to their opening championship match and went toe to toe with the Shamrocks in the opening quarter.  Karl Stewart, Kieron McGourty and Jackson McGreevy (four frees) finding the required range while Barney McAuley, James McNaughton (two), Mark McFadden (two) and Eddie McCloskey landed points for the Shamrocks as the sides were tied at six points each after 15 minutes.

Loughgiel scored the opening goal of the tie in the 16th minute with Eddie McCloskey firing to the back of the net, Duck McFadden with the assist and it signalled a change of gears for the Loughgiel men.  St Galls responded with Jackson McGreevy (free) and Kieron McGourty but McNaughton (free) opened a two point lead before Shay Casey scored their second goal in the 22nd minute.  Callum McKendry’s initial shot saved by Kurtis McGreevy but Casey was first to the loose sliotar and made no mistake to put the Shamrocks in control. 

McNaughton and Eoghan Farrelly swapped scores in the 25th minute but Loughgiel finished the half on top. A brace of frees from McNaughton with McAuley and Donal McKinley also splitting the posts left the Shamrocks eight points ahead at the interval.

The late scoring burst gave Loughgiel the cushion they needed to control the tie and after a sedate start to the second half, they began to find their range once more.  Odhran Laverty, Casey, substitute Shan McGrath and McAuley splitting the uprights while the home side responded with four points (three frees) from Jackson McGreevy in the same period to leave nine between the sides going into the final quarter.  The Galls man took his personal tally to 0-11 for the match in the 51st minute but Loughgiel went through the gears in the time that remained.  They maintained their intensity and were unyielding with their attacking play in the closing stages.  Crisp passing, direct ball, cross field passes and all with intensity, Loughgiel went through their array of hurling prowess in the final ten minutes.  McGrath and Odhran McFadden along with substitute Odhran McMullan took the Loughgiel lead to 12 points before Casey took his tally to 1-2 for the match.

The third Loughgiel goal came in the last minute of normal time, McGrath also taking his tally to 1-2.  Collecting a long ball, he was initially hooked by Joe McDaniels but he collected the loose sliotar and fired a rasping drive to the bottom corner.  James McNaughton rounded off the scoring in injury time with his seventh white flag of the match as the Shamrocks booked their spot in the last four with 17 points to spare.

The last five minutes of the first half and those closing stages of the game proved to be the difference.  St Galls battled impressively between times and maybe the score line gives an unfair reflection of what they brought to the game on Friday evening.  Defensively they were disciplined but the Shamrocks had too many threats all over the pitch.  The visitors curtailed the influence of Kieron McGourty in the second half while Gregory McGreevy and Anthony Healy never stopped in the engine room.  The Loughgiel defence was once again on top form, not conceding from open play in the second half while Donal McKinley and Mark McFadden complemented each other well in the first half and gives them another option going forward but as it is, Loughgiel roll on and have their sights firmly set on a semi final once again.


St Galls: Kurtis McGreevy; Stephen Morrison, Joe McDaniels, Liam McCluskey; Niall O’Neill, Aodhan Gallagher, Ciaran McCaffrey; Gregory McGreevy, Anthony Healy; Karl Stewart, Kieron McGourty, Jackson McGreevy; Jack Hopkins, Antoin McCaffrey, Eoghan Farrelly.

Subs: Lorcan O’Ciaran for E Farrelly (28); Oran McIlhatton for C McCaffrey (51)

Scorers: Jackson McGreevy 0-11 (10 f’s); Kieron McGourty 0-2; Karl Stewart 0-1; Eoghan Farrelly 0-1.

Loughgiel: Chrissy O’Connell; Declan McCloskey, Tony McCloskey, Ronan McCloskey; Odhran Laverty, Tiernan Coyle, Odhran McFadden; Donal McKinley, Mark McFadden; Barney McAuley, Declan Laverty, Callum McKendry; James McNaughton, Eddie McCloskey, Shay Casey.

Subs: Shan McGrath for D McKinley (HT); Declan Gillan for O Laverty (43); Odhran McMullan for D Laverty (48); Ryan McKee for M McFadden (54); Nicholas McNaughton for B McAuley (59).

Scorers: James McNaughton 0-7 (4 f’s); Eddie McCloskey 1-2; Shay Casey 1-2; Shan McGrath 1-2; Mark McFadden 0-3; Barney McAuley 0-3 (1 f); Odhran McFadden 0-1; Odhran Laverty 0-1; Donal McKinley 0-1; Odhran McMullan 0-1.

Referee: Mark O’Neill (Armoy)

SHC Round Robin continues this weekend

The round robin continues this weekend with St Galls and Rossa playing host to Loughgiel and Dunloy.  The north Antrim giants recorded wins in their first matches against St John’s and Cushendall and we take a look at what lays ahead on Friday and Saturday as we preview the weekend’s games….

Senior Hurling Championship

Group 2

St Galls vs Loughgiel

Friday August 16

St Galls faced with mammoth task against the Shamrocks

By Brendan McTaggart

Venue: De La Salle Park, Belfast

Throw In: 7:15pm

Referee: Mark O’Neill (Armoy)

St Gall’s make a return to the senior championship on Friday evening when they play host to the Shamrocks at De La Salle Park.  The 2018 Intermediate Champions will be making their debut in the round robin stages with the short trip up the Falls Road to Corrigan Park laying ahead in two weeks time. 

They will be hoping for better fortunes than their last outing against Loughgiel.  In the 2016 quarter-final, Loughgiel had 26 points to spare over the Milltown Row side on their way to their 20th and most recent senior hurling championship.

Barney McAuley hits a long range free for Loughgiel

It’s fair to say 2019 has been a chastening year for St Galls with the small ball.  Playing in Division One, they managed just one league win all year and a couple of draws.  The two points coming from a big home win against Ballygalget at the start of July but there have been notable performances throughout the campaign.  A hugely creditable draw against Cushendall in the Glen’s after two late goals from Sean McAreavey giving the west Belfast side their first point of the season while a draw at home against Ballycran wasn’t enough to stave off relegation

When the two sides met in June, the match ended 0-13 to 4-18 at the end of the hour in De La Salle Park.  Loughgiel were ahead by just one point at the break but second half goals from Dan McCloskey and three in the space of ten minutes from Shan McGrath ensured the Shamrocks were in cruise control in the second half.

The Shamrocks display against St John’s wasn’t one for hurling purists.  It was played in horrendous conditions however and despite a brilliant start from St John’s, Loughgiel got over the line with six points to spare – a late Odhran McMullan goal adding gloss to the score line.  A gritty, tenacious and dogged display but ultimately a winning start and when it comes to the championship, that’s all that matters.

Pic by Mark Marlow

The rumours circulating out of the St Galls camp surrounding player availability doesn’t make for good reading for the Milltown Row men.  Tomás O Ciarán, Conor Burke, Sean McAreavey, Mark Napier and Marcus Donnelly all rated as either doubtful or not available.  They will look to Conor and Kieran McGourty for leadership with Jackson McGreevey and Karl Stewart pulling the strings in the middle of the park while Kurtis McGreevy is one of the best ‘keepers in the county. 

Loughgiel will be missing the services of Seamus Dobbin after his red card in the Shamrocks victory in match day one against St John’s while they may consider whether to risk starting Liam Watson.  The Loughgiel forward taking a blow to the head and was hospitalised, having to come off at half time but other than that, they have a full hand to pick from.

The bookies are so confident of a Loughgiel victory, you would have to place £100 on to get a nugget back.  It’s hard to argue against odds like that.  It will take something biblical to stop the Shamrocks from booking their place in the semi-finals.

Senior Hurling Championship

Group 1

Rossa vs Dunloy

Saturday August 17

Cuchullains favourites but Rossa can cause an upset

By Brendan McTaggart

Venue: Rossa Park, Belfast

Throw In: 2pm

Referee: Colm McDonald (St Galls)

Rossa open their round robin campaign with a home match against Dunloy on Saturday afternoon.  The Jeremiah’s are right in middle of a gruelling schedule with their big ball commitments taking precedence during the week when they confirmed their return to Division One at the first time of asking. 

They come into Saturday’s match on the back of an aggregate win over Ballycastle in the preliminary round stage.  A resounding home win set Colly Murphy’s side up for a 12 point aggregate victory over the Town, despite a much better performance from the McQuillan’s, Rossa always kept them at arms length.  Deaglan Murphy starring in the first ‘leg’ with Mickey Armstrong while Thomas Morgan has been the one constant for Rossa in the championship.  His performances have illuminated the two matches and will be a handful for the Dunloy defence.

Can the Rossa rearguard keep Dunloy’s forward line at bay

Stephen Shannon’s display at centre half for Rossa in Páirc MacUílín was pivotal.  Ballycastle went in search for goals with a barrage of high ball into the forward line and Shannon led by example.  I’d expect a different line of attack from the Cuchullains but Shannon will once again need to put in a captain’s performance.  They will have the talented James Connolly closer to full fitness after a brief cameo late against Ballycastle, whether he start’s is another story but Connolly’s got the ability to change games, sway momentum and create something from nothing.  He could have a roll to play over the hour, without a doubt.

The Cuchullains come off the back of winning their opening match in the championship last weekend.  A one point win over reigning champions Cushendall in front of a big crowd in Pearse Park but it wasn’t the convincing victory some had expected.  The Ruairi’s looked like they were going to push on for victory having reeled in a three point half time deficit and were making all the early running.  Gregory O’Kane’s men dug deep in the final quarter with Paul Shiels dropping deep a pivotal move along with the performances of Nigel Elliott and Keelan Molloy.

Gabriel McTaggart will miss out after his red card late in the game against Cushendall but Dunloy will welcome back Nicky McKeague into the squad after his one match suspension was carried over from last year’s campaign and it gives the Dunloy management a decision to make.  McKeague is a ‘worker’ and lives in rucks in the middle of the park, you could make a case for him starting without any shadow of a doubt but who makes way?  I’ll leave that one to the Dunloy management, a decision I wouldn’t like to be making.

Conal Cunning

Dunloy will travel to the city as favourites to make it two wins from two but Rossa have shown in recent times that if the Cuchullains aren’t firing, they have the team to punish.  The Jeremiah’s will relish the opportunity of hosting the Cuchullains at Rossa Park as they look to exorcise the ghost of last year’s disappointing performances and they’ve been building momentum at the tail end of the league with last weekend’s loss to Ballycastle was off the back of five straight wins.  They will come into the tie full of confidence but I see Dunloy winning this one.  The Cuchullains have a settled defence with Ryan Elliott’s poc outs a major asset and despite the huge loss of Deaglan Smith from injury and Eoin O’Neill to America, they still have an abundance of firepower in attack.  Dunloy to progress but don’t be expecting any landslide victories. 

Cuchullains edge Ruairis in tense finish

Senior Hurling Championship – Group One

Dunloy 1-14 Cushendall 1-13

Sunday August 11

Brendan McTaggart reports from Pearse Park, Dunloy

Just like 12 months ago at the same stage, these two rivals served up another nail bitter in the opening round of the championship and just like 12 months ago, one point separated the sides.  Dunloy edged past the reigning county champions in a tense battle in Pearse Park.

Neither side were at their fluent best during this one with the elements playing havoc on both sides from placed ball.  The Cuchullains reached double figures in wides with almost half coming from dead ball while the Ruairi’s will rue the three missed from placed ball in the second half.  That being said, both free takers were the respective top scorers.  Conal Cunning with seven points from placed ball in his tally of 0-8 while Paddy McGill fired over four frees in his 0-6. 

Both goals came in the first half, Fergus McCambridge accentuating the bright start made by the Ruairi’s with his seventh minute goal while Keelan Molloy was in the right place at the right time for the Cuchullains to fire in the rebound after ‘keeper Conor McAllister saved superbly from Seán Elliott.

Dunloy held a three point lead at the interval but with the wind at their back in the second half, Cushendall would have been more than happy with their efforts in the first period.  They reeled in the Cuchullains after the restart and kept them scoreless for 12 minutes while taking the lead in the same time.

Dunloy dug deep in the closing stages with Paul Shiels instrumental and Nigel Elliott a constant threat in attack.  ‘Shorty’ firing over a 59th minute penalty to take the Cuchullains lead to two points and while they were reduced to 14 men after the dismissal of substitute Gabriel McTaggart, they held on in the time that remained.

Keelan Molloy celebrates after scoring Dunloys goal

Cushendall, who started short a good few regulars, got their match-ups right to match the Dunloy attack.  David Kearney kept tabs on Seán Elliott, Stephen Walsh on Ronan Molloy and Fred McCurry looked to pick up Conal Cunning.  With Eoghan Campbell sitting deeper, they starved the Cuchullains of space and scoring chances weren’t give freely.  Up front, Fergus McCambridge started in top gear with 1-2 in the opening 15 minutes while Paddy McGill gave an exhibition on how to play on the edge of the square.  They were more clinical and efficient in the first half but when they got back on terms in the second, their radar left them.  

In fairness it felt like neither side wanted to win this one with a series of wides before the Cuchullains dug deep to get the scores that made the difference in the end.

The home side hit the opening point of the match, Keelan Molloy from distance in the third minute before Cushendall went through the gears.  Fergus McCambridge with their first score before scoring the opening goal of the game.  Alex Delargy breaking the challenge of two Dunloy defenders before finding Fergus McCambridge in space and he duly obliged, hammering the sliotar beyond Ryan Elliott into the Dunloy goal in the seventh minute.

Dunloy began to find their game however with Coby Cunning firing over three points in as many minutes before the mid-way mark in the half to tie the scores.  McGill (free) and Fergus McCambridge opened a two point lead for the Ruairi’s before Dunloy hit back.  Kevin Molloy and Cunning (free) restored parity for the third time in the match before Keelan Molloy scored the Cuchullains first goal of the 2019 championship.  Seán Elliott breaking down the right and showing his marker a clean pair of heels, cutting inside and creating a perfect opportunity.  His effort was well saved by Conor McAllister in the Cushendall goals but Keelan Molloy was first to the rebound and he pulled first time into an empty net.

Dunloys Paul Shiels in action against Cushendalls Niall McCormick and Aidan McNaughton

With McGill firing over a brace of frees either side of Niall McCormick’s white flag in response to two points from Cunning (one free) and Keelan Molloy, Dunloy led 1-9 to 1-6 at the interval.

There’s no doubting Cushendall would have been pleased with their efforts in the first half and by the 13th minute of the second half, they had tied the scores once again.  Alex Delargy and a trio of white flags from McGill (one free) came after Cunning took his tally to six points for the match and when Ryan McCambridge fired over from distance in the 44th minute, there looked only one winner.

The Ruairi’s and ‘keeper Conor McAllister were launching a tirade of long high ball into the heart of the Dunloy defence and had the Cuchullains under pressure.  Dunloy went without adding to Cunning’s 33rd minute free until he split the posts to tie the sides for the fifth time in the match but Cushendall still looked more likely to take the points.

Stephen Walsh gave them the lead once again in the 50th minute but they wouldn’t score another until injury time.  Their radar left them with a number of glaring misses in front of the posts and they were punished when Seán Elliott and Cunning (free) restored the Dunloy lead before the Cuchullains were awarded a penalty after a foul on Keelan Molloy.  Shiels elected for a point to leave two between the sides going into injury time but the drama hadn’t ended.  The home side were reduced to 14 men when Gabriel McTaggart was sent off by Mark O’Neill after consultation with his umpires but Cushendall could only manage another point from an Eoin Laverty free in the time that remained.

The Cuchullains travel to the Shaw’s Road on Saturday with the knowledge that a victory will see them into the semi-finals while Cushendall and Rossa will have a winner takes all match in the Glens on August 31.


Dunloy: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin, Conor McKinley, Conor Kinsella; Kevin McKeague, Ryan McGarry, Kevin Molloy; Paul Shiels, Eamon Smyth; Nigel Elliott, Chrissy Brogan, Keelan Molloy; Seán Elliott, Conal Cunning, Ronan Molloy.

Subs: Gabriel McTaggart for K McKeague (44); Shane Dooey for E Smyth (56)

Scorers: Conal Cunning 0-8 (6 f’s, 1 ’65); Keelan Molloy 1-2; Paul Shiels 0-2 (1 pen); Seán Elliott 0-1; Kevin Molloy 0-1.

Cushendall: Conor McAllister; Martin Burke, Paddy Burke, David Kearney; Fred McCurry, Eoghan Campbell, Stephen Walsh; Aiden McNaughton, Scott Walsh; Fergus McCambridge, Eunan McKillop, Ryan McCambridge; Alex Delargy, Paddy McGill, Niall McCormick.

Subs: Eoin Laverty for E McKillop (52); Ruari McCollam for F McCambridge (60)

Scorers: Paddy McGill 0-6 (4 f’s); Fergus McCambridge 1-2; Niall McCormick 0-1; Alex Delargy 0-1; Ryan McCambridge 0-1; Stephen Walsh 0-1; Eoin Laverty 0-1 (1f)

Referee: Mark O’Neill (Armoy)

Ballycastle win the battle but Rossa win the war

Senior Hurling Championship Preliminary Round (Second Leg)

Ballycastle 3-09 (29) Rossa 1-13 (41)

Brendan McTaggart reports from Paírc MacUílín

Rossa progressed to the round robin stage of the 2019 championship on Sunday afternoon after surviving a scare against Ballycastle in Paírc MacUílín.  Despite opening with the first four points of the match in just six minutes, Rossa wouldn’t register another score until Tiarnan Murphy scored their major in the 26th minute.  Between times, Ballycastle hit 2-4 and got the scent for blood with a dramatic comeback on the cards.

The potential turning point came in the 25th minute.  The Town were throwing everything at the Rossa defence, including the kitchen sink.  They reduced the aggregate lead to eight points when they were given a major lifeline through a penalty.  Ciaran Clarke had already bagged a major from a 21 yard free and stood over the penalty.  You would have put your house on him to find the back of the net but his effort went to the left of the posts and wide.  They had Rossa against the ropes and the city side were all at sea, the penalty miss was the impetus they needed and from there they gained control, highlighted with Murphy’s major.  They lost influential half forward Callum McVeigh to a second yellow card at the end of the half but half time came at the right time for Colly Murphy’s men as they reorganised at the break.

Ballycastle launched an aerial assault on the Rossa defence in the second half and but for the reflexes of Matt Devlin, they could have had more goals than that of Kevin Barry McShane’s in the second period, but Rossa did enough in the end.  Thomas Morgan was once again their star player in attack, the lively forward finished with 0-5 to his name in another action-packed display.  He was the one constant threat for the Jeremiah’s with other players coming in and out of the game while captain Stephen Shannon was immense and my choice for man of the match.  As Ballycastle went in search for goals, the Rossa centre half was in the right place at the right time to repel the threat of the McQuillan’s.

Playing with the wind in the first half, Rossa made the perfect start.  Thomas Morgan, Seaghan Shannon, Deaglan Murphy and Stephen Beatty all adding their names to the scoresheet by the sixth minute.  Ballycastle couldn’t get a footing in the game and it looked like it was going to be a long afternoon for the McQuillan’s but they scored the first goal of the game in the 11th minute to get the scoreboard ticking.  Saul McCaughan with the initial shot, bringing the best out of Matt Devlin who also saved the first rebound but Ronan McCarry swept home to boost the Town’s hopes. 

The home side began to dream the impossible just two minutes later.  McCaughan wa felled enroute to goal and Clarke stood over the 21 yard free.  It wasn’t the cleanest strike the Ballycastle man has struck but it still managed to hit the back of the Rossa net.  When Tiernan Butler split the posts with a massive point from inside his own half, the Ballycastle crowd found their voice and Rossa were stuttering.  The Town were winning every ball and Rossa had no answer.  A brace of frees from Clarke and a point from Diarmuid McShane had Ballycastle ahead by six and things were looking nervy for Rossa.

Those nerves would have been thread bear when the clocked ticked into the 25th minute.  A long ball into Owen Kinney had Rossa in trouble and he was dragged to the ground with referee Kevin Parke awarding a penalty.  Clarke stepped up and nailed the sliotar with a sweet strike but his effort went to the left and wide.

A let-off for Rossa and they made the most of it as just over a minute later they had their first goal.  Callum McVeigh with the assist for Tiarnan Murphy to lift any pressure starting to mount.  Ballycastle’s hopes were given another boost when Callum McVeigh saw red for a second yellow card in the last minute of normal time in the first half but Rossa responded well with Morgan and Deaglan Murphy (free) reducing the Ballycastle lead to the minimum before Clarke struck a free in the seventh minute of injury time to leave two between the sides at the interval.

Now with the wind at their back, Ballycastle were going to need something special to keep their championship dream alive.  12 points was the aggregate lead for Rossa but Ballycastle weren’t going down without a fight.  They tackled, harassed and when Kevin Barry McShane doubled on the sliotar in mid-air to score their third goal in the 38th minute, the home crowd found their voice once more.

Ballycastle kept Kevin Barry McShane and Owen Kinney on the edge of the square and sent high ball after high ball into them.  They went close on a number of occasions with Rossa ‘keeper Devlin showing some more than handy reflexes and outstanding bravery to keep them at bay. 

They couldn’t get the goals that would make a further dent in the Rossa advantage however.  Points from Clarke (free), Saul McCaughan and Tiernan Butler (free) were answered to by scores from Deaglan Murphy (two frees), Morgan (two) and Beatty in the time that remained.

A two point win for the Town but Rossa progress.  A 100% improvement from Bamba McAuley’s side who will rue their performance in the City two weeks ago and look back on what might have been but the Shaws Road men progress to the round robin and a home meeting with Dunloy on Saturday afternoon.


Ballycastle: Ryan McGarry; Oran Kearney, Matthew Donnelly, Sean Kelly; Shane McCarry, TT Butler, James McLister; Ciaran Clarke, Conor Boyd; Eamon Elliott, Kevin Barry McShane, Ronan McCarry; Owen Kinney, Saul McCaughan, Dairmuid McShane.

Subs: Oisin McAuley for E Elliott (54); Lorcan Donnelly (59)

Scorers: Ciaran Clarke 1-5 (1-4 f’s); Kevin Barry McShane 1-00; Ronan McCarry 1-00; TT Butler 0-2 (2 f’s); Dairmuid McShane 0-1; Saul McCaughan 0-1

Rossa: Matt Devlin; Niall Crossan, Chris McGuinness, Aidan Orchin; Gerard Walsh, Stephen Shannon, Ciaran Orchin; Michael McGreevey, Michael Armstrong; Seaghan Shannon, Callum McVeigh, Stephen Beatty; Tiarnan Murphy, Thomas Morgan, Deaglan Murphy

Subs: Aodhan O’Brien for N Crossan (40); Conal Shannon for M McGreevey (50); James Connolly for T Murphy (inj).

Scorers: Thomas Morgan 0-5; Deaglan Murphy 0-5 (4 f’s); Tiarnan Murphy 1-00; Stephen Beatty 0-2; Seaghan Shannon 0-1

Referee: Kevin Parke (Naomh Éanna)