Senior Hurling Championship Group One
O’Donovan Rossa 1-17 Dunloy Cuchullains 2-21
Saturday August 17
Brendan McTaggart reports from Rossa Park, Belfast
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.
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.
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.
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)