Battling Loughgiel miss out on final slot

Antrim SHC semi-final: Cushendall 0-15 Loughgiel 0-14

Loughgiel exited this year’s championship at semi final stage but didn’t give up without a fight and were narrowly beaten by Cushedall by a single point. The game finished Cushendall 0-15 Loughgiel 0-14 with both teams fighting and tackling for everyball.

The men from the Glens were to prevail in the end and came out the better winning the semi final and booking their place in the final against McQuillan’s for the second year running.

This Antrim Senior Hurling Championship semi-final turned into a shootout between two legends of Antrim hurling, Neil McManus and Liam Watson.

Between them they scored 20 one of the games 29 points, 16 of them coming from the dead ball, as this battle went right down to the wire. With wind advantage, the champions Ruairi Ogs looked to have lost some of their edge from the previous Sunday and when they went in a point in arrears, they had left themselves a mighty second-half task.

Lady luck didn’t appear to be on their side when Conor Carson fired in a great ground stroke in the opening minute only to see his effort whizz past the post but it was McManus from the first of four first half frees who got his side away after three.

Following a Barney McAuley opener for the Shamrocks, the great shoot out began with Watson claiming his first in the eighth minute in reply to McManus’ sixth minute effort.

Three more from the champions, two from McManus and the other from Cormac McAllister saw a three point gap open but three more from the mighty Watson, the last from a well nigh impossible angle, and it was truly game on.

Sean Delargy got the ‘Dalls seventh and last point with seven minutes remaining during which period Loughgiel looked the much more organised side. McAuley, Watson and Joey Scullion points gave them a one point interval advantage, 0-8 to 0-7.

On the restart Watson whacked over two more from the dead ball in the opening three minutes and certainly the Shamrocks looked the form side.

Back came the champions and despite wind and rain two from McManus and another from Carson had matters level by the sixth minute. Dan McCloskey again pushed Loughgiel to the front in thirteen only to see another McManus response. Another Watson/McManus exchange of fire made it twelve each with Watson and Shane McNaughton again seeing the sides inseparable.

In a do or die attempt at success the Shamrocks boss emptied his bench, including the heavily bandaged Eddie McCloskey, who was unable to start, but it was McManus who won the game with two pointed frees.

Not knowing when they are beaten Watson fired over his tenth score of the game and while each side had chances in injury time the dice fell in favour of the champions and a final shoot out against Ballycastle.

This was truly excellent stuff before one of the biggest crowds seen at the Dunloy ground and the winner here was the Chest, Heart and Stroke charity to whom all voluntary donations were made.

Martin Burke and Ryan McCambridge were in total control at the back for the winners with Aiden McNaughton turning in a man of the match performance at midfield. McManus with eleven points, nine coming from frees was the undoubted match winner up front.

The Shamrocks, with quite a number of changes from last week gave as good as they got but failed, on the occasions they were on top to press the matter home.

Their half-back line of James Campbell, Martin Scullion and Paul Gillan was superb but they struggled somewhat at midfield. Watson with 10 points, seven coming from the dead ball, along with Barney McAuley and Odhran McFadden were the pick of their forwards.

Scorers: Cushendall: N McManus (0-11), and C McAllister, S Delargy, C Carson and S McNaughton (0-1) each.

Loughgiel: L Watson (0-10), B McAuley (0-2), and J Scullion and D McCloskey (0-1) each

Cushendall: E Gillan: M Burke, A Graffin, R McCambridge: S Delargy, E McKillop, E Campbell: S McNaughton, A McNaughton; C McAllister, N McManus, C Carson: P McGill, S McAfee, C McNaughton.

Subs used: K McKeegan D McNaughton, E Laverty

Loughgiel: DD Quinn: N McGarry, T McCloskey, T Coyle: J Campbell, M Scullion, P Gillan: M McFadden, E McMullan: O McFadden, D Laverty, B McAuley: D McCloskey, J Scullion, L Watson.

Subs used: J Campbell, B McCarry, S McGrath, E McCloskey.

RESIGNATION

It is understood that Loughgiel Manager PJ O’Mullan resigned after Sunday’s defeat by Cushendall. The Shamrocks boss had previously expressed his interest in becoming Antrim’s next senior hurling manager following Kevin Ryan’s decision to step down.

When asked about the possibility of him leaving Shamrocks last month O’ Mullan commented: “Right now, my sole focus is Loughgiel but it’s certainly something I’d be interested in doing. “I’ve already been asked by a few people about it. There’s no point in me saying I’m not interested.”