Shamrocks on the ‘Boyle’ as they stun Cuchullains

Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship Semi-Final

Loughgiel 1-21 Dunloy 0-13

Sunday 1 October

Brendan McTaggart reports from Pairc Mac Uilin, Ballycastle

When Dunloy were last beaten in the senior hurling championship, it was called a Loughgiel ambush and ‘dug-out gate’.  Fast-forward some five years later and the Shamrocks derailed the Cuchullains drive for five in 60 minutes of skill, intensity and out-hurling the reigning champions. 

Eleven points at the end of the hour, a score line that certainly didn’t flatter Hugh McCann’s side, Loughgiel were superior all over the field.  Indeed, were it not for those in red and white having an off day from placed ball, it could have been a greater margin of victory for the Shamrocks.

They started with a fire in their belly and that fire showed no signs of extinguishing as they played a silky brand of hurling that tore Dunloy apart with the Cuchullains defence chasing shadows. 

On a day where Dunloy couldn’t buy a first touch and struggled in rucks, Loughgiel dominated puck outs and their attacking unit were on fire.  Paul Boyle walked away with the Man of The Match award and rightly so, but it could have easily gone to Rian McMullan, Ryan McKee or Christy McGarry on an afternoon where the young Shamrocks came of age.

Their touch, their ability to round a player and find the yard needed, you see for periods in a game of championship hurling.  Loughgiel produced it from start to finish and never gave Dunloy an inch of space to make any kind of fightback.

It’s fair to say Gregory O’Kane’s men looked lethargic and flat with their play, some will look at the schedule they’ve endured in both hurling and football and while the majority of the Cuchuallins handling errors were of their own doing, the Shamrocks work rate led to a considerable number of turnover ball on a day where they were in the mood to capitalise at every opportunity.

Playing with the wind in the first, while Dunloy and Coby Cunning opened the scoring, it was Loughgiel who was making all the early running.  They had already registered three wides, two from placed ball before Rian McMullan split the posts in the 5th minute.

Cunning was giving the Louhghgiel defence their fill of it in those opening exchanges while Nigel Elliott was a handful in midfield.  Dunloy did mange the next two scores of the game, a brace from Cunning but it was answered from two long ranged efforts from Ryan McKee.

Keelan Molloy and Seaan Elliott fired points either side of Christy McGarry’s opening score of the semi-final before the only goal of the game came midway through the first half.

Collecting the ball down the Loughgiel left, Paul Boyle showed the Dunloy defence a clean pair of heels and unorthodoxly hitting the sliotar beyong the rushing Ryan Elliott.

The Cuchullains responded with the next score of the game, Chrissy McMahon with an instant reply before Coby (free) and Dan McCloskey exchanged scores to leave the minimum between the sides with nine minutes of the half remaining.

Dunloy midfielder Eoin McFerran in action

Cunning’s fourth point of the half would be Dunloy’s last score however as Loughgiel finished the half superbly.  A quite brilliant score from Boyle from wide on the left, punishing another error in the Dunloy defence was followed by scores from James McNaughton and Shan McGrath (2). 

After a recount during the half time interval, referee Mark O’Neill corrected the score to 1-9 to 0-6 for the Shamrocks and while there were plenty thinking in the bumper crowd at Pairc Mac Uilin that it could be a bone of contention, it actually mattered little in the end.  Loughgiel did play into whatever wind was blowing after the restart but it would be a push to say it was a six point wind.

It was far from an insurmountable lead and if anything, the Shamrocks could and probably should have been further ahead at the short whistle.  Dunloy did start the second half with more urgency, twice reducing the Loughgiel lead to four points in the opening ten minutes of the second half.  The introduction of Deaglan Smith and Eoin O’Neill having an instant impact for the Cuchullains but the Shamrocks weren’t going to be denied.

By the time McNaughton fired over his third of the half, first from free and fourth overall, the Loughgiel lead had already reached five points again before Christy McGarry and Shan McGrath split the posts to put daylight between the sides.

Conal Cunning (14) goes for goal from a late Dunloy free but Loughgiel’s last line of defence managed to keep it out

Keelan Molloy did respond for the Cuchullains to leave six between the sides with 14 minutes remaining.  The Cuchullains were going to have to dig deep in the last quarter to revive their championship hopes.

It never materialised as Loughgiel continued to score at will and defend with feverish intensity to nullify the Cuchullains threat.  They kept Dunloy scoreless in a 16 minute period where they hit five points unanswered and Dunloy had Nigel Elliott sent off for a second yellow card.

When the final whistle came, it signalled the end of the Cuchullains reign as county champions and Shamrocks sealing their date in the county show piece final for the first time since 2020 where they’ll face familiar foes Cushendall. 

The Ruairi’s having already defeated Loughgiel earlier this championship campaign will start that one as favourites but on this showing, the Shamrocks will take some stopping.

Young Loughgiel fans jump for joy on the banking behind the Rathlin End goals after Paul Boyle scored his teams’s goal


Loughgiel: Chrissy O’Connell; Tiernan Coyle, Rory McCloskey, Ruairi McCormick; Declan McCloskey, Damon McMullan, Caolan Blair; Enda Og McGarry, Ryan McKee; Dan McCloskey, James McNaughton, Rian McMullan; Shan McGrath, Paul Boyle, Christy McGarry

Subs: Ben McGarry for E McGarry (34); Jack McCloskey for R McKee (inj)

Scorers: P Boyle 1-3; S McGrath 0-5 (2fs); J McNaughton 0-4 (1f); R McKee 0-3; C McGarry 0-3; R McMullan 0-2; D McCloskey 0-1

Dunloy: Ryan Elliott; Oran Quinn, Conor McKinley, Phelim Duffin; Eamon Smyth, Ryan McGarry, Conor Kinsella; Paul Shiels, Eoin McFerran; Seaan Elliott, Ronan Molloy, Keelan Molloy; Nigel Elliott, Conal Cunning, Chrissy McMahon

Subs: Deaglan Smith for C Kinsella (HT); Eoin O’Neill for C McMahon (HT); Aodhan McGarry for R Molloy (42)

Scorers: C Cunning 0-6 (3fs); S Elliott 0-2; K Molloy 0-2; P Shiels 0-2 (1f); C McMahon 0-1; Eoin O’Neill 0-1

Referee: Mark O’Neill (Armoy)

Dominant second half sees Cushendall book final spot

Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship

Cushendall 4-15 Ballycastle 1-9

McLaughlin hat trick sets up the Ruairis

Cushendall secured their place in the final of the Senior Hurling Championship when they beat Ballycastle in Saturday’s semi-final at Fr Healy Park, Loughgiel. A hat-trick of goals by their young corner forward Joseph McLaughlin and one from veteran centre forward Neil McManus were the scores that did the trick for the Ruairis. Ballycastle battled hard against the odds and midway through the opening half it appeared there might be a shock on the cards when a goal from Cailin O’Connor gave them a three point lead, despite playing into the driving wind and rain.

Jospeh McLaughlin celebrates after completing his hat-trick early in the second half

However Cushendall came back with a bang and two goals from McLaughlin saw them turn the game back in their favour, the St Killian’s College student making no mistake from close range. Despite trailing by six at half time the Ballycastle side must have felt they were still in the game, but when they came out after half time to find the rain had gone and wind well reduced, they probably knew it was not going to be their day.

However that is not to suggest that Cushendall were not fully deserving of their win, for when they were challenged they were able to up the pace and in Eoin Campbell, Neill McMcManus and Joseph McLaughlin they had players who were a class apart.

Ballycastle were more than holding their own in the opening quarter but in horrendous condition both sides were struggling to find the target. Right half forward Ronan McCollum opened Cushendall’s account with a well taken point but Tiernan Smyth soon had Ballycastle level when he sent over a free at the other end on seven minutes. Neil McManus put Cushendall back in front when he pointed a free from out on the sideline but Smyth had Ballycastle level four minutes later when he sent over at the other end.

Cailin O’Connor celebrates after scoring Ballycastle’s goal

When Ballycastle’s Cailan O’Connor connected perfectly on a free that dropped in around the Cushendall goalmouth, and sent it flying to the net through a crowded goalmouth his team were three clear after sixteen minutes, and things were starting to look promising for the ‘Town’. However they got little time to enjoy their advantage and when Neil McManus intercepted a wayward hand-pass in the Ballycastle rearguard a minute later, he sent Joe McLaughlin clear for the first of his three goals and Cushendall were back on top. Still Ballycastle must have felt they were still in a good position with just five minutes of the opening half still to play, but the Ruairis finished strongly and after Eoghan Campbell soloed out of defence, before sending over a lovely point, McLaughlin added a point from play soon aftewards. Things went from bad to worse for Ballycastle as following the poc-out from McLaughlin’s point he took advantage of another wayward hand pass and fired in his second goal to give his team a six point lead at the break.

Cushendall’s Eoghan Campbell wins possession.

When the sides re-emerged for the second half the rain and the brollies had gone but Ballycastle made a promising start when centre back Conor Boyd sent one over from distance, but McLaughlin cancelled that out a minute later. James McShane cut it back to five again but Cushendall were starting get on top and following a Ronan McCollum point Joseph McLaughlin completed his hat-trick when he burst through from outside the ‘D’ and batted a ball down past Ryan McGarry in the Ballycastle goal.

Conor Boyd kept Ballycastle in touch with his second point of the half but two pointed frees by McManus and one from play by Campbell stretched that advantage even further. McShane pulled another one back for Ballycastle but McManus came back with two in as many minutes, both from frees. A superb point on the run from James McLister lifted Ballycastle spirits but Cushendall were dominant by this stage and it took and incredible save from close range by Ballycastle’s goalkeeper Ryan McGarry to deny McManus.

Points followed from McManus and Campbell before the former finished the goal scoring with a top class strike after cutting in from the left corner.

Ballycastle goalkeeper Ryan McGarry gets a consoling hug from his sons after the game

Super Shamrocks seal semi-final place

Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship – Quarter Final

Loughgiel 3-26 St John’s 0-15

Sunday 17 September

Brendan McTaggart reports from Pearse Park, Dunloy

We were always going to get a reaction from their defeat to Cushendall.  Just two short weeks ago, the knives were out for the Shamrocks but my word Loughgiel answered a lot of their critics in spectacular fashion on Sunday afternoon. 

Plenty of pundits had speculated that St John’s would give Loughgiel their fill of it and more in this quarter-final.  The Johnnies were much improved against Dunloy in their last group game but they simply had no answer to a rampant Loughgiel side who were relentless for the full 60 minutes.

Nine different scorers and just six points of their final tally of 3-26 coming from placed ball, Loughgiel purred through the gears to book a mouth-watering semi final against Dunloy.  Goals from Dan McCloskey and Shan McGrath came before Paul Boyle’s major with just over ten minutes of the hour remaining.  Boyle giving a stunning performance and finishing top scorer with 1-6.  He had plenty of support on the day though with Dan McCloskey knocking over three points along with his goal and Rian McMullan with four points all from play.

Shan McGrath celebrates after scoring Loughgiel’s third goal

St John’s looked to set up the same way as they did with such success against Dunloy and play an intricate and precise, short passing game with runners from midfield.  They couldn’t get their rhythm or fluency however.  In a largely forgettable contest for the Corrigan Park men, they managed just five points from open play and one of those coming in a second half that saw them struggle in the face of the barrage of hurling brilliance from Loughgiel.

From the first whistle, Loughgiel were firing on all cylinders with their first major coming after just three minutes.  James McNaughton playing the ball into Christy McGarry and while he was well tackled, Dan McCloskey was on hand to take advantage of the loose sliotar and slam it home.

Loughgiel’s ability to win possession in midfield and find runners coming from deep carved open the Johnnies defence on numerous occasions.  Despite playing against the wind, Loughgiel roared into a seven point lead after the first quarter.  St John’s kept in touch with Oisin MacManus’ frees but they couldn’t stop the Shamrocks rampage.  Ruairi McCormick, Rian McMullan (3) and Shan McGrath (free) putting the difference to double figures – ‘Bubbles’ trio of points coming in the space of two minutes.

St John’s did finish the half on top, Conor Johnston splitting the uprights in the 27th minute for what was their first score from open play for 13 minutes while MacManus fired over a brace of frees in the time that remained to leave seven points between the sides at the half time whistle.  1-13 to 0-9.

St John’s centre back Ciaran Johnston solos out of defence

While seven points isn’t an insurmountable lead by any stretch of the imagination, it was going to take something special for St John’s to turn their fortunes around.  It didn’t happen.  What we did get was more brilliance from the young Shamrocks as the Johnnies floundered.  

Like the first half, Loughgiel found the back of the net soon after the restart.  They already had another point on the board from a Shan McGrath free before the Loughgiel forward found the back of Simon Doherty’s net.  On hand to punish indecision in the St John’s defence, McGrath was never going to pass up the opportunity.

St John’s looked to the bench with Ruairi Galbraith and Lorcan Heenan coming on in a move that saw Conor Johnston play further up the pitch but they got no change from a tight Loughgiel defence that looked a completely different prospect from their previous outing against Cushendall.  St John’s rarely looked like troubling Chrissy O’Connell between the sticks for the Shamrocks, although he did make one super save to deny Conal Bohill in the 40th minute.  Loughgiel had already opened the gap to 11 points by that stage with scores coming from Paul Boyle, McNaughton (free) and Ruairi McCormick.  McCormick’s score coming from easily 100 yards out and brought about the biggest cheer of the day from the Shamrock support.

With MacManus one of the changes made by the Johnnies, Aaron Bradley took over the free-taking duties and looked composed.  He fired over five points in the second half from placed ball but St John’s really were living off bread crumbs, such was the dominance of Loughgiel all over the pitch. 

With Boyle in magnificent form and Dan McCloskey putting in a mountain of work, Loughgiel never wavered.  Points from all angles, touches of brilliance and movement off the ball that certainly would have pleased Hugh McCann and his backroom team. 

Paul Boyle punches the air after scoring the Shamrocks fourth goal

The third major came in the 49th minute and had its own touch of class about it.  Caolan Blair delivering the ball into McGrath who deflected the sliotar into the path of Boyle.  A very deliberate deflection that wrong footed the St John’s defence with Boyle hammering home from the angle. 

St John’s continued to look for ways to penetrate the Loughgiel defence but found little change while the Shamrocks continued to have no such problems at the other end of the pitch.

When the final whistle came, it felt more like a relief for the Johnnies.  Loughgiel were rampant and while St John’s did hit an inordinate number of wides throughout the hour, they couldn’t live with the Shamrocks in this type of form.

Loughgiel progress to the semi-final and a meeting with their old rivals and reigning champions, Dunloy.  On this type of form, that one promises to be a cracker.


Loughgiel: Chrissy O’Connell; Tiernan Coyle, Rory McCloskey, Ruairi McCormick; Declan McCloskey, Damon McMullan, Caolan Blair; Enda Og McGarry, Ryan McKee; Dan McCloskey, James McNaughton, Rian McMullan; Shan McGrath, Paul Boyle, Christy McGarry

Subs: Ben McGarry for D McMullan (44); Jack McCloskey for J McNaughton (57); Donal McKinley for R McCormick (60); Cathal Hargan for C McGarry (60)

Scorers: P Boyle 1-6; J McNaughton 0-6 (4fs); Dan McCloskey 1-3; S McGrath 1-2 (2fs); R McMullan 0-4; R McCormick 0-2; R McKee 0-1; Declan McCloskey 0-1; C Hargan 0-1

St John’s: Simon Doherty; Darragh McGuinness, Jack Bohill, Matthew McCartin; Conall Morgan, Ciaran Johnston, Sean Wilson; Shea Shannon, Conor Johnston; Ryan McNulty, Conal Bohill, Danaan McKeough; Oisin Donnelly, Oisin MacManus, Aaron Bradley

Subs: Ciaran McKenna for O Donnelly (19); Ruairi Galbraith for D McGuinness (37); Lorcan Heenan for O MacManus (37); Michael Darragh for S Wilson (52); Jordan McAllister for D McKeogh (52)

Scorers: A Bradley 0-7 (5fs); O MacManus 0-6 (5fs); S Shannon 0-1; Conor Johnston 0-1

Referee: Colum Cunning (Dunloy)

McAlonan’s last gasp strike steers the Town into last four

Bathshack Antrim Senior Hurling Championship Quarter-final 

Rossa 1-16-1-17 Ballycastle 

Kevin Herron reports from Corrigan Park 

Eoin McAlonan steered over the winning point in the 65th minute at Corrigan Park as Ballycastle stunned favourites Rossa with a full deserved 1-17-1-16 win in the quarter final of the Bathshack Antrim Senior Hurling Championship on Sunday afternoon. 

Despite making a slow start a Ciaran Butler goal on the stroke of half time ensured Ballycastle only trailed by two at the short whistle and they would eventually forge ahead through a Tiernan Smyth free on the 43rdminute. 

Having looked in control of proceedings for much of the opening half, Rossa were chasing and levelled on a few occasions via Gerard Walsh frees before their talisman departed to a red card in injury time. 

Lady-luck looked to have smiled on the Shaws Road outfit however as Stephen Beatty looked to have forced extra time with a last gasp equaliser, only for McAlonan to win the game at the other end and book the North Antrim side a semi-final with Cushendall in a fortnights time. 

Gerard Walsh sends over an early point as Rossa get off to a flying start

Rossa came flying out of the blocks at Corrigan Park with five unanswered points in the opening minutes. 

Dominic McEnhill began the procession with an angled effort that dropped over before Thomas Morgan doubled the lead. 

A good link-up between Eoin Trainor and Dara Rocks resulted in Rocks adding his sides third and Trainor himself would add his name to the scoresheet with a confident effort.

Gerard Walsh converted his first free of the half before Seamus McAuley responded for Ballycastle. 

Rossa extended their lead through points from Aodhan O’Brien and Walsh (free), but back-to-back points from James McShane and Tiernan Smyth (free) saw the North Antrim side remain in touch. 

After a few scoreless minutes Aidan Orchin dropped over from range, only for Ciaran Butler to respond after collecting Tiernan Smyth’s side-line ball, holding off the subsequent pressure and guiding the shot over. 

James McShane’s second score in as many minutes had three between the sides (0-08-0-05), though points from Thomas Morgan and a converted Gerard Walsh free restored Rossa’s five-point advantage. 

Points were traded between Eoin McAlonan and Dominic McEnhill before Ballycastle landed a blow on the Rossa rear-guard before the break. 

On the stroke of half time Ryan McGarry drove a long ball forward that dropped in the area, a scramble ensued, and Ciaran Butler pulled on the loose ball and found the net to ensure his side trailed 0-11-1-06 at the interval. 

Ciaran Butler (extreme left) got Ballycastle back in the game with a goal nearing half time

Both sides were off the mark within the opening sixty-seconds of the restart as Thomas Morgan’s early point was cancelled out by Matthew Donnelly at the other end. 

Aodhan O’Brien doubled his account for afternoon, but a foul on Ronan McCarry allowed Tiernan Smyth the opportunity to hit back and he doubled his account from the placed ball.

For the third time since the restart Rossa went three clear with Walsh squeezing a shot inside the near post, again Ballycastle replied as Eoin McAlonan found Reuben McClean to slot over the bar. 

Ballycastle closed the deficit for the first time in the half after Dominic McEnhill was penalised for chopping down on Seamus McAuley’s hurl and Smyth converted the resulting free. 

By the 41st minute the sides were level for the first time thanks to a superb Conor Boyd shot that dropped over the black spot.

Momentum was with Ballycastle and they hit the front for the first time through a fourth Smyth free of the contest. 

Rossa were back on terms through free-taker Walsh’s third of the game, but after Pearse Short was adjudged to have unfairly barged Ciaran Butler off the ball it allowed Tiernan Smyth to edge his side 1-13-0-15 in front. 

It was a lead that Ballycastle would hold until the 58th minute when Rossa had the chance to pull level through Walsh and he made no mistake, temporarily tying things up again. 

Substitute Feargal McKiernan who hit two excellent points in the last quarter

A super Tiernan Smyth free had Ballycastle out in front with 60-seconds remaining and they would double their advantage through a fine point from substitute Feargal McKiernan. 

Rossa had four minutes to try and salvage things but midway through added time they were reduced to 14-men after Gerard Walsh was cited for fouling Ryan McGarry off the ball. 

With the use of an extra-man Ballycastle appeared to have sealed victory thanks to a superb, angled point from McKiernan that had his side 1-16-0-16 to the good. 

There was to be late drama however as Eoin Trainor dropped a high ball into the area that spilled away from Ryan McGarry and Stephen Beatty was on hand to scramble the loose ball over the line and tie things up at 1-16 apiece. 

There was still time for a winner and Ballycastle showed their composure in the dying embers with Eoin McAlonan picked up a loose ball just inside his own half and fired it over the bar to the delirium of the Ballycastle supporters- who sensed it was enough. 

In the end it was as referee Kevin Parke sounded his full-time whistle in the aftermath of Matthew Devlin’s puck-out as Ballycastle were able to celebrate a win that wasn’t predicted pre-match. 

Stephen Beattie appeared to have brought the game to extra time when he scored a Rossa goal five minutes into injury time

Rossa: M Devlin, C Orchin, C McGuinness, C Shannon, A Orchin (0-01), S Shannon, P Short, D McCartney, S Beatty (1-00), D Rocks (0-01), E Trainor (0-01), G Walsh (0-06, 0-04f), T Morgan (0-03), D McEnhill (0-02), A O’Brien (0-02). Subs: C McGettigan for A Orchin (38), D Rogan for D Rocks (44). 

Ballycastle: R McGarry, O Kearney, C Colgan, R McClean (0-01), J McLister, C Boyd (0-01), E McAlonan (0-02), J McGowan, R McCook, R McCarry, J McShane (0-02), S McGarry (0-01), C Butler (1-01), M Donnelly (0-01), T Smyth (0-06, 0-05f). Subs:  C Waldron for R McClean (44), F McKiernan (0-02) for M Donnelly (52), L Donnelly for R McCarry (56). 

Referee: Kevin Parke (Naomh Éanna)

The Town hold on in tight finish to set up quarter final meeting with Rossa.

Bathshack Senior Hurling – Round robin 3

Ballycastle 2-21 St Enda’s 3-17

Ballycastle booked their place in the quarter final of the Bathshack Antrim Senior Hurling Championship when beat St Enda’s on Sunday in their last group game at Pairc MacUillin.

It might not have been the highest standard we have seen over the weekend but this game was well contested and produced a series of top class scores, with the outcome in the balance right up to the final seconds.  

Ronan ‘Rambo’ McCarry got the first score of the game inside ten seconds when he won possession at the throw-in and soloed through to split the posts, but quick points from Conor Bradley and Cormac Jennings had St Enda;s ahead two minutes later. McAuley and McCarry sent over points to put the home team ahead but Ronan Eager, Cormac Ross and Niall O’Connor all pointed to turn things in their favour,

Naomh Eanna had gained the upper hand and were a few points ahead when Ballycastle corner forward Aaron Mooney got in behind their defence and fired an angled drive low to the net and the home team pushed on lead by 1-9 to 0-11 at the half time whistle.

Ballycastle started the second half strongly, and with goalkeeper Ryan McGarry landing his poc-outs down in the danger area they started to create chances.

 Corner forward Tiernan Smyth opened the second period with two lovely points from the narrowest of angles on the left, and after James McShane added one from 40 meters, Smthy came with a third one from the centre, which just flashed over the bar. Cormac Jennings and Seamus McAuley exchanged points to keep the Town five ahead and everything appeared to be going smoothly for the home side, but St Enda’s Joe Maskey turned the game on its head when he doubled overheard on a dropping ball and sent it to the Ballycastle net. Two more superb points from Smyth and one from Eoin McAlonan restored the Town’s five point cushion, but Naomh Eanna corner forward Conor Bradley got in for a second goal. Lorcan Donnelly came back with a point for Ballycastle, but St Enda’s appeared to have taken control when John McGoldrick got his team’s third goal to bring them level. Points from Luke and Niall O’Connor gave the Glengormley men a two point cushion with just seven minutes of normal time left to play, and it looked like Ballycastle’s championship campaign was grinding to a halt.

However full forward Ciaran Butler, who had been largely quiet up to this stage, suddenly found another gear and he collected a ball on the edge of a ‘ruck’ and cut through to fire it to the net. Tiernan Smyth hit his sixth point of the second half, once again from an outrageous angle, before Butler sent over a point.

St Enda’s kept coming back however and late points from corner back Dairmuid Maguire and Eddie O’Connor left just a single point between the sides. Butler completed his little cameo with another excellent point, and though St Enda’s had the last point of the game from a 65 that was as close as they got and Ballycastle survived to set up a quarter final meeting with Rossa in two weeks time.