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.
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.
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.
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)