Cushendall build the buzz with Antrim SHC semi-final win over Ballycastle

Eoghan Campbell helped power Cushendall into the Antrim SHC final with victory over Ballycastle
Eoghan Campbell helped power Cushendall into the Antrim SHC final with victory over Ballycastle

Antrim SHC semi-final: Cushendall 4-15 Ballycastle 1-9

CUSHENDALL manager Brian Delargy is happy to be bringing a bit of a buzz to the north Antrim village thanks to Saturday’s Antrim Senior Hurling Championship victory over Ballycastle.

Played in horrendous conditions at Fr Healy Park in Loughgiel, underdogs Ballycastle were more than fired up for Saturday’s last-four clash, and briefly took a three-point lead thanks to a Cailin O’Connor goal midway through the first-half.

However, Ruairí Óg’s more than rose to the challenge of Ballycastle’s physical approach, and a hat-trick of majors from star corner-forward Joseph McLaughlin and another from ever-reliable veteran Neil McManus underlined their much greater resources.

Ruairí Óg’s now have an Antrim final with Loughgiel Shamrocks to look forward to in a fortnight’s time and, with the darker nights of October coming in, Delargy says the prospect of that decider will give Cushendall people a spring in their steps.

“Getting into the final is class for the whole village, but especially for the young ones,” said Delargy.

“My own wee girl is 12 and she’s already excited about the decider, and a lot of her friends will be the same. There’s already talk of fundraising events in the run up to the final, and people are talking about a couple of breakfast mornings and the like of that, and that will bring people together as well.

“We’re coming into the winter months now and the darker nights with less people about the village, so this will give everyone a lift and I’m delighted to be able to play my part in that.”

While McLaughlin may take the headlines with his semi-final hat-trick, Delargy was keen to emphasise the team effort that went into overcoming what was, as expected, a ferocious Ballycastle challenge.

“It was a very physical encounter, but we got the goals at the right time, and we capitalised on Ballycastle’s mistakes,” added the Cushendall boss.

“We didn’t expect anything other than a tough, physical challenge from Ballycastle and, given the conditions were so tough as well, we had to grind it out and it took a while for us to get into our stride.

“When you’re looking at Joseph’s goals, they were all put on a plate for him, the boys had to work hard to serve those chances up, but the cub did well in finishing them.

“Eoghan Campbell stood out for us as well, he stood up to be counted as usual and drove us on when it was tough, he got a lovely score of his own in the first-half.”

The Antrim final many had been expecting before the weekend was a rerun of last year’s, with Cushendall aiming to get revenge on Dunloy, but it was Loughgiel who came through Sunday’s other semi-final.

“I’m not really surprised, because this is the Antrim championship,” said Delargy, who was just home from watching the Shamrocks prevail in Ballycastle.

“Loughgiel were very clinical and demonstrated how anyone can beat anybody at this stage in Antrim.

“I know we got the win over them in the group stage, but that game and the final will be like night and day.

“Our Championship didn’t really get started proper until Saturday afternoon and Loughgiel will be feeling the same.”