Antrim Under 21 Hurling Championship: Ballycastle McQuillans 2-13 Cushendall Ruairi Og 1-15
A fantastic final quarter saw Ballycastle snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against luckless Cushendall in Saturday evening’s pulsating Under 21 Hurling final at Fr Healy Park, Loughgiel, to claim their third title at this grade in six years.
Four minutes into the second-half Cushendall looked winners all the way when they stretched their three point half-time advantage to six, and they were five ahead again entering the final quarter after replying to a brief Ballycastle comeback. The Ballycastle defence had been struggling against a potent Dall forward line, with full forward Dominic Delargy tormentor in chief, but when it mattered most they raised their game and during final nineteen minutes of play (sixteen normal time and three of injury time) they conceded just one more point, and that came from Cushendall midfielder Paddy McNaughton.
At the other end the twin strike partnership of Ciaran Clarke and Conor McGarry got to work and boosted by a goal from McGarry in the fifty-third minute they edged one point ahead to set up a finish which will long be remembered.
Paddy McNaughton’s fine point on the run brought the Ruairi Og level in the fifty-fifth minute but in the five minutes of normal time which remained, plus the three minutes of extra time, they failed to raise another flag.
Ballycastle appeared to have thrown their chance away when Ciaran Clarke missed from a free and Eoin McAlonan squandered two great chances from play, and when the ball broke to Cushendall sharpshooter Eoin Laverty thirty meters from goal deep in injury time there seemed to be only one outcome.
When Laverty pulled his shot wide of the target extra-time seemed the likely outcome, but Ballycastle got one more opportunity and Conor McGarry wrote his name in the record books with a brilliant point which clinched a remarkable game and sent the Neill Patterson Cup back to ‘The Town’ for the third time.
BALLYCASTLE - Aiden McAlinden, Paul McLernon (capt), Dermot Donnelly, John McLister, James McShane, Matthew Donnelly, Fergus Donnelly, Stephen McAfee (0-1), Eoin McAlonan, Ciaran Clarke (1-8), James McLister (0-1), Conor McCurdy (0-1), Conor McGarry (1-3), Ciaran Laverty, Saul McCaughan.
CUSHENDALL - Conor McAlister, Conor Grant, Seamus McNaughton, Ciaran McAlister, Sean McKillop, Paddy Burke, Paddy Blaney, Ryan McCambridge (0-1), Paddy McNaughton (2), Mark Donaghy (0-2), Ronan McGrady, Eoin Laverty (0-6), Alex Delargy, Dominic Delargy (1-3), Andrew Delargy (0-1). SUBS – Cahir McNaughton for McGrady; David Kearney for Grant
Referee – David McGrath (St Gall’s)