Plenty ventured, little gained as Dunloy and Cushendall draw
Bathshack Antrim SHC Group Two: Dunloy 1-18 Cushendall 0-21
YOU’D be tempted to say nothing ventured and nothing gained from a drawn opening group game, but it’s a rare night that you don’t learn something about the opposition.
Dunloy and Cushendall were pretty much inseparable from the first sunlit ball was tossed in until the Ruairi Ógs were celebrating Christy McNaughton’s equaliser in the dusk.
And having played the first 41 minutes minus Neil McManus, and trailed for a large percentage of that time, you could only conclude that Cushendall will wear the broader smiles this morning.
They didn’t win, but more importantly, they didn’t lose. They came into Dunloy and brought fierce endeavour with them.
In the form of Arron Graffin, they brought a serious brain. The amount of ball he cut out as his side’s sweeper was almost funny.
But back to the idea of learning something from every game.
At the second water break, Cushendall had just gone ahead for the first time in the game.
Dunloy threw on Nicky McKeague. Whether it was instruction or his own intelligence, he ran the width of the pitch to get to Graffin on the puckout to restart the game.
Cushendall had no short ball. Martin Burke left his full-back station to make one at centre-half. Eoin McFerran stepped in and broke the ball away from him, and the visitors were wide open.
Chrissy McMahon fed Seann Elliott to cut in and find the net. And just like that, one simple tactical play threatened to blow the whole game open.
There’s no doubt that tactically, Dunloy are ahead of everyone else in Antrim. But at times last night it was almost crying out for a bit of orthodoxy. It felt like if they pushed up on Graffin and didn’t leave him free, they might have cut Cushendall with their pace.
Perhaps that’s for down the line somewhere. It won’t be so handy done either. Brian Delargy’s side is laced with championship experience and guts.
In the first half, at different times they were three points down, two points down and four points down. They ended the half back by just one at 0-12 to 0-11.
Dunloy had been the better side, more organised and in-tune with what they were doing, and Cushendall were a bit more reliant on the odd flash from Christy McNaughton or Alex Delargy, who was excellent in the first half.
Cushendall struggled on their own short puckouts in the first half, with Dunloy’s forwards laying pressing traps into which they kept stepping down the middle of their own goal. It took the water break to sort it out and thereafter, the lack of issue around it contributed hugely to the Ruairi Ógs’ improved resistance.
Keelan Molloy was outstanding for Dunloy, hitting 0-6 from play from midfield, while youngster Eoin McFerran caught the eye too. But it was a night on which their attack nearly truly fired.
Christy McNaughton took on the frees in McManus’ absence for most of proceedings and was excellent on them. Francis McCurry’s pace threatened to wreak havoc but it just wouldn’t come off for him.
Seann Elliott’s goal looked like being the score to break the deadlock but for all that Dunloy looked leaner, Cushendall were meaner. The ball that needed to be won in the final quarter was almost always won by a maroon shirt.
They were still two down when Paul Shiels earned a second booking for flooring Eoghan Campbell and with the resulting free cutting the gap to one, Cushendall smelt blood.
It was the visitors who had the six of the game’s last seven chances, but they only took two and perhaps left the game behind.
They took enough home to do.
Dunloy: R Elliott; P Duffin, C McKinley; A Crawford; R McGarry (0-1), C Kinsella, R Molloy; P Shiels, Keelan Molloy (0-6); E McFerran (0-2), Kevin Molloy (0-1), E O’Neill; C McMahon (0-2), C Cunning (0-6, 0-3f, 0-1 65’), S Elliott (1-0)
Subs: N McKeague for E O’Neill (46), L McCann for Crawford (50), S Dooey for McFerran (58)
Cushendall: E Gillan; M Burke, S McKenna; A Graffin; S Walsh, P Burke, R McCollom; A Delargy (0-2), R McCambridge, E Campbell; F McCambridge, C McNaughton (0-14, 0-9f, 0-1 65’), P McGill (0-1); F McCurry (0-2), N McCormack
Subs: N McManus (0-2) for McGill (41), C Carson for F McCambridge (48), A McNaughton for McCormack (52)
Referee: T Conway (Ballinascreen)