Castle recover from early scare to beat St John’s

Antrim Senior Hurling Championship

Ballycastle 3-12 St John’s 1-9

Ballycastle qualified for a semi-final meeting with county champions Shamrocks when they beat St John’s by 3-12 to 1-9 in Saturday evening’s quarter-final of the Senior Hurling Championship at Fr Healey Park, Loughgiel.

Looking back on games you quite often find a turning point when the momentum of the game swings, and this match certainly had one. Nineteen minutes in, with St John’s leading by four points, they were awarded a penalty and with sharpshooter Brian McFall (who had scored his team goal three minutes earlier) stepping up to take it, Ballycastle looked likely to fall seven points behind. However McFall’s shot was well stopped by McQuillan’s goalkeeper Smyth and the danger was cleared and instead of seven the gap remained at four.

Ballycastle took advantage of the let-off and between there and half-time turned the game decidedly in the their favour with three points from Malachy ‘Cozzy’ Dallas, one from their brilliant centre-back Neill McAuley, followed by a goal from the veteran Kieran ‘Pinky’ Kelly to lead by 1-7 to 1-5 at the interval.

St John’s started the second-half well and the evergreen Brian McFall had them level inside three minutes with a point from play followed by one from a free. ‘Cozzy’ Dallas edged Ballycastle back in front before substitute ‘Stoogie’ McAfee broke clear to fire in a goal with his first touch of the ball.

Dallas added another point and after St John’s had left-half back Gerard Cunningham sent off he added another from the resultant free to open a six point gap. McFall pulled one back from play for the Belfast side but Ballycastle hit back with a point from a ‘65’ from Cormac Donnelly and one from play by Chrissy Boyle to go seven clear. When Boyle’s sideline cut went all the way to the Johnnies net soon afterwards it was clear it was not going to be the their night and the win was well and truly sealed for Division 2 champions Ballycastle.

BALLYCASTLE – Ciaran Smyth, Fergus Donnelly, Cormac Donnelly, Dermot Donnelly, Paul McLernon, Neal McAuley, Mathew Donnelly, Kevin Barry McShane, Mickey Dallat, Christopher Boyle, Kieran Kelly, James McLister, Mallachy Dallas, Stephen McGarry, Shane Staunton.

SUBS – Stephen McAfee for McLister; James McShane for McGarry (inj), Fergal McConnon for Kelly (inj).

ST JOHN’S – Ciaran Cunningham, Liam Knocker, Adrian Downey, Conor Gannon, Gerard Cunningham, Simon McCrory, Gerard Carbery, Barry McFall, Andy McGowan, Conal Morgan, Colm McFall, Ciaran Johnston, Ferghal Morgan, Paddy Nugent, Brian McFall.

REFEREE – Ray Matthews (Glenavy).