Hurling and camogie

Dunloy hurlers hungry for more silverware: Keelan Molloy

Dunloy's Keelan Molloy says playing for his county has improved his all-round game Picture: Seamus Loughran

DUNLOY’S Keelan Molloy says they are “hungrier than ever” and “more experienced” than two years ago as the Cuchullains prepare for another assault on the Ulster Club SHC title later this month.

Dunloy claimed their second county championship crown in three seasons after overcoming defending champions Cushendall in Ballycastle on Sunday.

Two late goals from 19-year-old substitute Seaan Elliott sealed the deal and saw Dunloy advance to the Ulster semi-finals where they will face Down champions Ballycran on Sunday October 27.

The clubs met in the 2009 provincial final with the Antrim champions easing to a five-point win but the north Antrim men fell to Galway champions Portumna in the All-Ireland semi-finals.

In 2017, the Cuchullains defeated Cushendall in the county final but came unstuck against a more seasoned Slaughtneil team in the Ulster semi-finals.

But Molloy, who bagged three points from play in last weekend’s pulsating decider, believes that bitter experience of two years ago will help Dunloy.

“We definitely have the talent to push on as far as we want to go,” Molloy said, “but there are good teams out there and you never underestimate who you’re going to play. We’ll just try our best every game.

“We didn’t really have a lot of experience going into Ulster the last time. It was the first bite at the cherry. We got off to a good start [against Slaughtneil], but we kind of slowed down a bit and we didn’t have the experience. Hopefully the experience we have now will help us the next time.”

Played in front of 6,000 supporters in Owenbeg in October 2017, Dunloy raced into a 1-4 to 0-1 lead against the Derry champions but were pegged back and lost by seven points.

Still fancied to retain the county title in 2018, Loughgiel Shamrocks ambushed them in the semi-finals – but given the age profile and the boundless talent of Gregory O’Kane’s young Dunloy side there were more county championships in them.

Their forward line claimed all but one of their 3-16 tally in Sunday’s county final with the Elliott brothers, Nigel and Seaan, sharing 3-1 between them.

Molloy added: “I think last year when we got beaten [by Loughgiel Shamrocks], it actually helped us because some of the lads were in their first year of senior and maybe they thought it would be easy all the time but I think we’ll be hungrier than ever this year. Getting beaten isn’t a nice feeling, so we just want to go as far as we can."

After winning his second senior championship, Molloy said: “I can’t put it into words.

“Every time you win the Volunteer Cup it’ll be the same feeling. It doesn’t get old, especially losing one last year and to be back on top, it’s unreal.

“We hit a lot of wides in the first half, but it was never going to be easy. You have to expect stuff like that. The goal before half-time give us a wee bit of a boost but we always knew we had it in us to do the job. So we just came out and kept playing.”

One of the brightest talents to come out of Antrim in recent years, Molloy has been able to bring some of his excellent club form to the county scene over the last season-and-a-half.

And the 20-year-old feels playing inter-county hurling has improved his all-round game.

“It definitely helps because there you’re going to play teams like Laois and Westmeath. It makes you a better hurler, a better all-round hurler. You definitely feel it in your speed. Everything is faster [at inter-county level] and you just take that into the club hurling.”

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