Bathshack Antrim Senior Hurling Championship semi-final: Cushendall 3-14 Loughgiel 2-16
WITH just one minute of the hour remaining in Ballycastle, it looked like Cushendall were home and hosed. Christy McNaughton had just scored their third major of the afternoon and took them to an eight-point lead.
With three minutes of injury time announced, Loughgiel rolled the dice one last time.
Two goals from substitute Rian McMullan and Maol Connolly brought the Shamrocks to within touching distance but in the end, Hugh McCann’s side ran out of time.
It was an incredible ending to an absorbing game of hurling and one that Cushendall looked to have done enough to win midway through the second half.
A quite brilliant move through the heart of the Loughgiel defence set Alex Delargy through with the busy midfielder finding the back of the net for the Ruairi’s second goal and putting daylight between the sides.
The Loughgiel response was there but their accuracy was lacking. Before Cushendall raised another white flag, the Shamrocks hit four wides and dropped a free short with just two points to show from their domination in a ten minute period that they will ultimately rue when looking back on this game.
In a first half that had all the passion and intensity these two sides are famed for, Cushendall had the edge. Neil McManus with the lions share of the scoring for Cushendall with six points in the opening 30 minutes. Christy McGarry was proving to be a thorn in the side of the Cushendall defence and was a shinning light for the Shamrocks throughout. James McNaughton’s frees kept the score board ticking with no more than two points between the sides until the opening goal of the game in the 27th minute. McManus collecting a side line before releasing Fred McCurry. He laid the sliotar through to Sean McAfee and he made no mistake.
Two points separated the sides at the half time whistle and with whatever wind there was at their back, Cushendall looked to have the advantage. They were on top in the midfield exchanges with McAfee and Eoghan Campbell prominent while Paddy Burke was a colossus at full back. Loughiel’s struggles in front of the posts started early in the second half and resulted in Maol Connolly taking over the free taking duties from the usually reliable McNaughton but the Ruairi’s were playing with more fluidity and pace in attack. Their movement for Delargy’s goal in the 42nd minute was quite superb but was their last for almost ten minutes. Loughgiel looked to their bench with Rian McMullan and Enda Og McGarry having a huge impact.
Six points separated the sides when Cushendall were reduced to 14 men. Liam Gillan seeing red for a second yellow card after a foul on Eddie McCloskey, the veteran Shamrock looked to have goal on his mind when dragged to the ground.
Cushendall introduced Christy McNaughton off the bench and he showed all his quality with a couple of points either side of scores for Rian McMullan and Rian McKee for Loughgiel. His major came and looked to have settled the contest but Loughgiel kept pushing. Their first goal was wonderfully crafted with Maol Connolly finding Eddie McCloskey with a short free. They worked the sliotar to Rian McMullan and he riffled to the back of Chrissy O’Connell’s net. James McNaughton followed it up with a fine score before Loughgiel’s second major set up a grandstand finish. Eddie McCloskey again involved before Connolly hammered the sliotar to the back of the net.
They ran out of time however as Cushendall progressed to the decider.
Loughgiel: C O’Connell; T Coyle, T McCloskey, Ronan McCloskey; C Blair, D McCloskey, Rory McCloskey; D McCloskey, J McNaughton (0-4, 0-3 frees); P Boyle, E McCloskey, D McKinley; C McGarry (0-2), M Connolly (1-4, 0-2 frees), 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 (1-0), R McCambridge (0-1); D Delargy, S McAfee (1-1), N McCormick; A McNaughton, N McManus (0-10, 0-6 frees), 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
Referee: Colm McDonald (St Gall's)