Hurling and camogie

Record-breakers Ballycran pick up 26th Down Hurling Championship

Diarmuid Pepper

Ballycran claimed the Down Senior Hurling Championship for a record 26th time with a seven-point victory over Portaferry in yesterday’s final.

In doing so, Ballycran also claim their first ever back to back Championships. 

In what was a repeat of last year’s decider, it was Portaferry who started the fastest as they registered a goal in the first minute of the game.

Portaferry’s Brendan Coleman gained control of the sliotar near the end-line and he was too strong and powerful for the Ballycran defence.

He out-muscled several Ballycran defenders and fired the ball into the roof of the net.

But the end of the half was also bookmarked by a goal, this time coming from Ballycran.

The sliotar was hit in high towards goal and Ballycran’s Stuart Martin was able to outsmart his marker and the onrushing Portaferry keeper and nudge the ball into the corner of the net.

Martin’s goal helped Ballycran open up a 1-10 to 1-6 lead at the half-time interval.

Both teams were also reduced to 14 men in the first half. Having scored two frees, Ballycran’s Colum McManus then received a straight red in the 22nd minutes. 

Portaferry’s Conor O’Prey, who had notched up four points, was also given his marching orders for a second yellow just before the conclusion of the first half.

In the second half however, Ballycran wrestled control of the game and hit six points without reply as they began to open up a sizeable lead.

Ballycran outscored Portaferry 0-10 to 0-7 in the second half, which delivered them a 1-20 to 1-13 victory.

There were jubilant scenes at the end when Padraig Flynn lifted the trophy for a recording breaking 26th time.

Mick Braniff, who co-manages the men in black and amber alongside Gary Savage, was chuffed with the efforts of his team.

"It’s unbelievable, this team has never put back to back championships and then all you ever have from everyone is, "they’re one hit wonders, they’ll get a championship this year but sure next year it’ll not happen, they haven’t the heart for it", but they showed the heart they have. They’re a serious team and there are some serious players in it," Braniff said.

Looking back to last year’s ‘smash and grab’ victory over the same opposition, when a last minute goal snatched victory from the Portaferry hands, Braniff was pleased with his sides convincing win yesterday.

Speaking after the game, Braniff said: “I think last year was a nervy final. We have a great panel of players, we’ve some tremendous hurlers over the years, they’ve hurled for Down, they’ll hurled for Ulster.

"I think at club level they under-achieved for a lot of years but this year, I think they showed their dominance. Today from one to fifteen, we were immense."

While the Ballycran men can celebrate a famous night in their club's history, Braniff will have his eye on the Ulster Championship.

Ballycran have been drawn against Antrim Champions Dunloy in the semi-final, which will take place in four weeks time.

Looking ahead to the semi-final, Braniff said: "We’ve Dunloy next, that’s the be all and end all. Dunloy are a different proposal, they’re a good, fast, quick, young team but we would probably be more mature, we might be more experienced so we’ll just wait and see what happens in that one."

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