Paddy Burke: “we’ve put the work in and hopefully its enough come Sunday.”

Cushendall defender Paddy Burke speaks with Brendan McTaggart ahead of Sundays final…

Cushendall and Antrim defender Paddy Burke has been one of the most consistent performers in both maroon and Saffron shirts for the better part of five years.  A player who has fully committed to hurling life and he’s reaping the rewards with his performances in 2022.

Equally adept at playing either three or six, Burke helps form part of a formidable Cushendall defence.  With his brother Martin and Liam Gillan usually lining out either side of him in the full back line, it’s fair to say you have to earn what you get from that trio and it’s why the concession of two late goals to Loughgiel in the semi-final was very un-Cushendall like.  Burke said the Ruairi’s were almost the masters of their own downfall: “We worked well for maybe 90% of the game.  We got ourselves into a good position but the sending off put us onto the back foot.  We didn’t react well to it.”

Liam Gillan second yellow card seemed to spark a Shamrock revival.  Having looked to be home and hosed, Burke and his side were left clinging on: “Loughgiel made the most of our sending off, pushing up and it looked like we had no bodies to recover.  They got two fortunate late goals and it was definitely closer than I was hoping for at the end.

“We were definitely reaching for that final whistle.  No doubt about it, we were scrambling for them last five or so minutes and there was definite relief when the final whistle went.”

To look for a silver lining from what was close to a dire situation, Cushendall’s championship hopes are still alive and well.  They have come through the acid test of facing Loughgiel in the semi final and will be battle hardened for that but Burke mentioned that it showed growth in his side from 12 months ago when they fell at the last four to a late major: “I suppose it (tough match) will help.  It wasn’t ideal, far from it to concede the two goals like we did but we’ve been working hard on that to ensure that doesn’t happen again” Burke continued: “We conceded late against Rossa last year and it finished our championship.  Thankfully we had a bit of a cushion but the similarities were there, definitely.”

Playing in what will be his seventh county final, Burke knows fine well what he needs to do ahead of Sunday.  There’s a time for dealing with the media and there’s a time for business and he told us that the Ruairi’s have been hugely focussed on what lays ahead: “There’s been a sense of business as usual.  We’ve been working hard in training with fierce competition for places.  It’s our first final since 2019 and to be back there is a good feeling.

“The schools get involved and are a big part of the whole occasion.  We had the maroon and white day down there today and it’s brilliant to see the excitement around the kids.”

With the Cuchullains going for four in a row, Burke knows the size of the task that lays ahead for the Ruairi’s.  Dunloy’s semi final performance was an eye opener, Burke added: “Dunloy looked good in the semi-final.  Over the last couple of years they look like they’ve been timing their run and best form for the knock out stages but it’s up to us to try and stop them.

“I suppose looking at the championship this year and how we’ve played, it is the two best teams that have reached the final but you have to take in to consideration the injuries that Rossa have had this year.

“Dunloy look to be flying and there’s no doubt we have to improve from our game against Loughgiel if we’re going to get anything out of the final but we’ve put the work in and hopefully its enough come Sunday.”

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Nigel Elliott: “I missed that, and I missed them, but I hope to add to my collection come Sunday.”

Brendan McTaggart speaks with Nigel Elliott ahead of Sunday’s final with Cushendall…

Nigel Elliott has been a welcome re-addition to the Dunloy attack in 2022.  Having left in 2019 after the Ulster Final defeat to Slaughtneil, ‘wee Nigel’ and his fiancé Kathryn Boyle left for sunnier climes.  Since coming back into the team, it’s like he has never been away.  If anything, Elliott is playing the best hurling of his career.

A quiet, unassuming genius of the game, Elliott normally steers away from interviews but we managed to coax him into a chat.  Having missed collecting winners medals in 2020 and 2021, Elliott is hungry for more success to add to his own collection but admits he wouldn’t swap the experiences he has gained while on his travels: “Two and a half years was never the plan but Covid hit but I wouldn’t change it.  I’m glad it hit and I’m glad I done everything that I did do, the experience is there but it’s good to be back.”

Having left at the age of 28, some would say he was hitting the prime of his career.  But instead of winning championships in the cold and dark of an Irish autumn, Nigel found success Down Under: “I won a championship medal out there playing with Melbourne Sinn Fein.  There was a lot of north Antrim boys over there as well, it wasn’t like I was away for two years but I was still hurling away.  There was a big Ballycastle connection out there, Eoin McAlonan, Dermot Donnelly, Fergus Donnelly, Paul McLernon and Aaron Mooney.

“It was a relaxed but when it came to championship time we took it serious.  It was nice to be at a different part of the world and meeting a lot of new friends.  I’ll always keep in touch.”

Elliott was living his best life out in Australia and making memories to last, but admitted his thoughts were never far from home when it came to the championship: “The two days I missed while I was away, the two county final days I wasn’t there for but hopefully I’ll add another one this weekend.

“The last one (2022) I missed was the hardest one to take.  I’ll never forget the first one (2020), I was up at 4am doing regional farm work in Australia.  Me and Kathryn (Boyle) were trying to get signal.  We watched it with two older Aussie’s and they sat and watched it with us, supporting the team with us.  It was great at the time but I was trying to get to sleep and the boys ringing me, it was all good craic.  I missed that and I missed them but I hope to add to my collection come Sunday.”

With Elliott returning from his travels, the obvious question was whether he would return to the Dunloy fold again.  Nigel said it was never in doubt: “I just rocked up to training one Tuesday night and it was like I never left.  Just kept doing what I was doing when I left.

“Not much has changed to be honest.  They welcomed me back with open arms and it was like I never left.  I was straight back in and it was just the way I wanted it.  No fuss.”

Two and a half years can be a long time in the development of young players and Elliott laughed, one of the most noticeable changes he has been bestowed with is the fact he is no longer young Nigel.  But he told us: “What I have notices is the likes of Seaan (brother), Keelan (Molloy) and Coby (Conal Cunning) have all matured.  They are conditioned well and in the team now there’s boys who are coming out of everywhere.  The talent is there.  I know it’s only two or two and a half years but you do notice the whole structure of the management as well.  It’s good to see.  Not a lot has changed but what there has been is all positive.”

Nigel was one of Dunloy’s top performers in a semi-final where the Cuchullains really went through the gears.  For 15 minutes they played hurling that very few could deal with and Nigel told us they were well prepared for anything the Johnnies could throw at them: “Going into that game, we all thought it was going to be a tough task.  We always expect a tough one against St John’s and they got their spell in the first 10 or 15 minutes but I suppose it was a month from our last game and they were coming in from a two week turnaround I thought we dealt with it well.  Some of the scores, the work rate and the way we played the ball was very good.  I feel like we were well on top when they got a man sent off.

“We never panic and made great use of the ball.  It’s a joy to play with the boys when they’re playing like that.”

The final words from Nigel went towards the Ruairi’s as he ended by saying they know that Sunday will be the acid test: “We know Cushendall, a big physical team.  The two teams that reach the final are there for a reason.  They’re normally the two best teams in the county at the minute.  Is there ever an easy game against Cushendall?  I don’t know, I don’t think there is.  I know what to expect, the boys know what to expect and we’ll just take it as it comes.”

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Dunloy v Cushendall finals

Sunday will be the sixth meeting of Dunloy and Cushendall in a count final and to date Dunloy are well head of their rivals. Since Dunloy made the breakthrough in 1990 these two have been the dominant teams in Antrim hurling, winning 26 titles between them, while Loughgiel have four and Rossa one. They first met in a final in 1999 when a late goal by Terence Sambo McNaughton sealed the winn for the Ruairis, but Dunloy have won the subsequent finals between the two, in 2002, 2009, 2017 and 2019.

This is a pictorial recored of those meeting in the finals


Cushendall v Dunloy at Casement Park

Wee John welcomes GAA President Joe MacDonagh to Casement Park on the day of the 1999 final


Dunloy 3-12 to 1-8 at Casement Park


Dunloy 3-14 Cushendall 1-13 at Casement Park

One of the stars of the 2009 win was a young Darren Quinn who is seen here celebrating after scoring a goal


Dunloy 2-15 Cushendall 2-9 at Ballycastle

Dunloy celebrate on the day this new Dunloy team made the breakthrough


Dunloy 3-16 Cushendall 2-15 at Ballycastle

2019 was the closest of the finals between the sides. Dunloy held a one point lead with time almost up, before Seaan Elliott sealed the win with a late goal after good approach work with his brother Nigel.

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Cuchullains storm to decider

Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship Semi Final

Dunloy 5-21 St John’s 1-12

Sunday 2 October

Brendan McTaggart reports from Dunsilly

While many within the county had predicted a Dunloy victory in this semi final, not many would have prophesised this outcome.  Dunloy stormed to the final of this years senior hurling championship with what was quite simply a breathtaking display against St John’s.  

Yet for the first ten minutes of this tie, the Johnnies looked really good.  Using the sliotar intelligently with crisp and precise passing, pulling the Dunloy defence and creating space.  But once the reigning champions clicked into gear, they produced a simply dazzling brand of hurling that left the Corrigan Park men chasing shadows.  The Johnnies weren’t helped with a series of unforced errors and any discrepancies were punished by the men in green and gold as Dunloy went through the gears with relentless ease and played with a frightening pace.

A pace that was sustained for 20 plus minutes of the second half as Dunloy all but sealed their place in the final by half time.  Three goals in the opening 30 minutes, 2-6 in a 10 minute period that saw St John’s register one attempt at the Dunloy goal and 2-5 of that tally all coming from play.

The only break in the Dunloy momentum in that period was a red card for Miceal Dudley.  Referee Mark O’Neill cutting short the St John’s midfielders game for an off the ball incident involving Paul Shiels and effectively hammering the nail into the Johnnies championship coffin.

The second half was more about damage limitation for St Johns.  Dunloy looked like they could cut loose at any moment.  The Cuchullains movement, passing and vision was only matched by their athleticism and fitness.  A willingness to run endlessly, cutting St John’s open and creating chances at will. 

The opening goal came when St John’s held a one point in the ninth minute.  It was the minimum the Johnnies had deserved such was their play in the opening exchanges but a series of wide’s meant they couldn’t put any score board pressure on the Cuchullains.  A break from Nigel Elliott sent Conal Cunning free and Coby finished to the back of the net.

Oisin McManus hit his third free of the match in response but Dunloy began to go through the gears.  By the time their second goal came in the 22nd minute they held a five point lead.  Nigel Elliott capitalising on a poor puck out from Simon Doherty to find the net.  The third goal came four minutes later and was simply brilliant.  Forcing a turnover in midfield, Coby Cunning found Ronan Molloy.  Another one-two between the pair saw Cunning through on goal and he added his second major to give Dunloy a 12 point lead.

The red mist descended on Dudley and for the second year in succession, the Johnnies were down to 14 men against the Cuchullains in the semi final.

Leading 3-11 to 0-5 at half time, Dunloy never lifted their foot off the throat of the Johnnies championship hopes.  Their fourth goal came just three minutes into the second half, Keelan Molloy taking his tally to 1-3 for the game after Ryan McGarry and Cunning combined to set him free.

St John’s responded with a major of their own in the 36th minute.  Padraig Nugent firing low from a 21 yard free with the sliotar deflecting to the back of the net.  Dunloy were spraying the sliotar to all corners of Pitch One at Dunsilly and the game descended into all the intensity of a challenge game.  St John’s suffocated the space in their defence and restricted the Cuchullains to striking from distance, which they duly took on a number of occasions.

Dunloy’s lead had stretched to 17 points when they scored their final major of the evening.  With 56 minutes on the clock, Ronan Molloy surging down the right hand side and sending a rasping drive from an acute angle to add further gloss to a health scoreline for the Cuchullains.

On this kind of form, it will take a special performance to stop the Cuchullains from keeping the Volunteer Cup in Pearse Park for a fourth year in a row.  An intriguing match lays ahead in two weeks time.  


Dunloy: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin, Ryan McGarry, Oran Quinn; Aaron Crawford, Kevin Molloy, Eamon Smyth; Paul Shiels, Deaglan Smith; Nigel Elliott, Gabriel McTaggart, Ronan Molloy; Seaan Elliott, Conal Cunning, Keelan Molloy

Subs: Anton McGrath for D Smith (30); Nicky McKeague for K Molloy (45); Kevin McKeague for R McGarry (45); Eoin McFerran for N Elliott (51); Chrissy McMahon for C Cunning (51)

Scorers: C Cunning 2-7 (4fs); Keelan Molloy 1-3; N Elliott 1-1; P Shiels 0-3 (1f); R Molloy 1-00; C McMahon 0-2; S Elliott 0-1; R McGarry 0-1; D Smith 0-1; A McGrath 0-1; N McKeague 0-1

St John’s: Simon Doherty; Odhran Carleton, Ryan McNulty, Conal Morgan; Peter McCallin, Padraig Nugent, Michael Bradley; Andy McGowan, Miceal Dudley; Shea Shannon, Ciaran Johnston, Conor Johnston; Ruairi Galbraith, Aaron Bradley, Oisin McManus

Subs: Oisin Donnelly for A McGowan (26); Jack Bohill for R McNulty (40); Stephen Tierney for P Nugent (49)

Scorers: O McManus 0-5 (5f); P Nugent 1-00 (free); R Galbraith 0-2; Ciaran Johnston 0-2; S Shannon 0-1; A Bradley 0-1; O Donnelly 0-1

Referee: Mark O’Neill (Armoy)

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Ruairi’s hold out to reach final

Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship

Semi Final

Cushendall 3-14 Loughgiel 2-16

Brendan McTaggart reports from Pairc Mac Uilin, Ballycastle

As the clock ticked into the last minute of the hour in Ballycastle, Cushendall looked like they had the job done.  Eight points ahead, three minutes of injury time to come and the Ruairi’s could have been forgiven for thinking on the decider.

Loughgiel had other ideas.  Two goals from Rian McMullan and Maol Connolly either side of a point from James McNaughton left Cushendall hoping for the sharp shrill of Colm McDonald’s whistle.  It eventually came as the Ruairi’s booked their place in their first decider since 2019 but they were pushed all the way by a Loughgiel side who will feel like they left this one behind them.

That being said, some of the play from Cushendall was scintillating.  Moreso in the second half when they looked to cut loose on a number of occasions.  The passing for their second and third goals was sublime and impossible to defend against.  Vision, craft, running off the shoulder and sharp finishes.  It had the Ruairi’s faithful in Pairc Mac Uilin purring.

Cushendall substitute Christy McNaughton had three touches of the ball during his short cameo and scored a goal and two points. He is seen here celebrating the goal before having to retire again through injury

In a first half where both sides really cancelled each other out, Cushendall were reliant on Neil McManus for their scores.  The Ruairi’s talisman fired over their opening six points (four frees) while Loughgiel did the majority of the early running.  With Maol Connolly busy in attack and Christy McGarry causing plenty of problems for the Ruairi’s, Eddie McCloskey and James McNaughton pulling the strings, the Shamrocks looked like they had more scoring options.  A stream of early wides from the Shamrocks looked like it would take the sting out of their challenge but by the time James McNaughton fired over his third point of the tie, Loughgiel has opened a two point lead with six minutes of the first half remaining.

The Ruairi’s had that lead halved before scoring the opening goal of the game.  McManus gathering the sliotar and finding substitute Fred McCurry in space.  He passed the sliotar to Sean McAfee and he made no mistake despite the close attentions of Chris O’Connell.

Ryan McCambridge and McNaughton (free) swapped scores before the short whistle to leave Cushendall two clear at the half way mark.

In a half where both sides flattered to deceive, neither really took control of the contest.  Both hit wides that were out of character but Cushendall just made less mistakes to edge the opening half.

Loughgiel’s Paul Boyle gets past Cushendall’s Eoghan Campbell during the opening half

With an air of anticipation still rumbling around Pairc Mac Uilin, the game was well in the melting pot.  Shan McGrath and McManus (free) swapped white flags but the Shamrocks began to misfire.  McManus and McAfee split the posts either side of Maol Connolly’s 39th minute point before Cushendall put daylight between the sides with their second major.  A brilliant move involving Niall McCormick, Paddy McGill and McAfee before Alex Delargy hit the back of Eoin Gillan’s net.

Six points separated the sides and Loughgiel looked to the bench with Rian McMullan, Enda Og McGarry and Rian McKee all being introduced with a positive impact.  Loughgiel bgean to dominate the middle third and with Connolly taking over the free-taking duties, he fired over before McMullan scored with his first touch since coming off the bench.  The Shamrocks couldn’t make the most of their dominance however with four wides and a free dropping short before McManus fired over for Cushendall’s first score for nine minutes.

Late goals brought Loughgiel back to within a point, but Cuhendall held out to book a final place.

Loughgiel were thrown a life line when Liam Gillan saw red for a second yellow card.  Referee McDonald booking Gillan for bringing Eddie McCloskey to the ground when he had the Cushendall goal in his sights.  Connolly converted the resulting free to leave five between the sides.

Substitute Christy McNaughton fired over either side of points from McMullan and Rian McKee before he would score the Ruairi’s third major.  Another brilliant move resulted in McNaughton in space and while O’Connell got his hurl to the sliotar, he couldn’t stop it from crossing the line.

With their championship hopes hanging in the balance, Loughgiel rolled the dice one more time.  Their first goal came from a piece of quick thinking by Connolly from a free.  Playing a one-two with Eddie McCloskey, they found McMullan in space and he hammered the sliotar to the back of the net.  James McNaughton followed it up with his fourth point of the semi final in the first minute of injury time.

Neill McManus gave another man of the match performance to get Cushendall home

Another quick free from ‘keeper O’Connell this time found Eddie McCloskey.  His effort was stopped but the Shamrock’s recycled and Connolly was in the right place at the right time.

But time had ran out for the Shamrocks.  They couldn’t muster another opportunity to take the tie to extra time and Cushendall held on.  A gripping end to another titanic battle between these two giants of the game with the Ruairi’s taking the honours.

Maol Connolly sends over a Loughgiel point.


Loughgiel: C O’Connell; T Coyle, T McCloskey, Ronan McCloskey; C Blair, D McCloskey, Rory McCloskey; D McCloskey, J McNaughton (0-4 3f); P Boyle, E McCloskey, D McKinley; C McGarry (0-2), M Connolly (1-4 2f), S McGrath (0-2)

Subs: Shay Casey for D McCloskey (46); Rian McKee (0-1) for R McCloskey (44); Rian McMullan (1-2) for D McKinley (44); Enda Og McGarry for R McCloskey (49)

Cushendall: E Gillan; L Gillan, P Burke, M Burke; S Walsh, E Campbell, M Donaghy; A Delargy (1-00), R McCambridge (0-1); D Delargy, S McAfee (1-1), N McCormick; A McNaughton, N McManus (0-10 6fs), P McGill

Subs: Ronan McAteer for M Donaghy (14); Fred McCurry for D Delargy (23); Christy McNaughton (1-2) for P McGill (44); Fergus McCambridge for S McAfee (54); Shane McKenna for C McNaughton (inj)

Referee: Colm McDonald (St Galls)

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