Kearney save denies Glenariffe in thriller

SHC quarter-final

Cushendall 0-18 Glenariffe 2-9

A brilliant injury time save from Cushendall goalkeeper Ronan Kearney denied Glenariffe a replay in Sunday evening’s Antrim Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final at Fr Healey Park, Loughgiel.

With his side holding on to a three point lead at the end of an entertaining game Kearney proved the hero as he saved a real ‘rasper’ of a shot from Glenariffe’s Jonny McIntosh to book his team a semi-final place in two weeks time.

Underdogs Glenariffe made their neighbours work all the way for the victory and could well have caused an upset had they been able to capitalise on good starts to both halves. Goals from Kevin McDonnell at the start of each half had appeared to put them in a strong position, but Cushendall, who were short a number of regulars, showed grit and determination to grind out the win.

Glenariffe got away to a real flyer and with the wind at their backs they dominated the opening quarter. An early exchange of points between Johnny ‘Tosh’ and Cushendall’s Shane McNaughton had the sides level before Glenariffe started to get on top and a great goal from Kevin McDonnell, plus points from Tosh, Mickey Gettins, Randal McDonnell and Kevin McDonnell had them 1-5 to 0-2 ahead after fourteen minutes.

Cushendall responded well and well taken points from Paddy McGill (2), Brian Delargy and Shane McNaughton cut the arrears to just two and swung the momentum back in their favour. McIntosh, who was playing as an extra half-back (a baffling move considering the strength of the wind) sent over two frees but Shane McNaughton responded each time to keep the gap at just two by the time the half-time whistle sounded.

Considering the strength of the wind a two point lead did not look anywhere near enough for the Oisins, but when Kevin McDonnell grabbed his second goal within twelve seconds of the restart to increase the gap to five things began to look much different.

However Cushendall then took control of the match and hit eight points without reply between the second and eighteenth minutes to turn the game completely around. Shane McNaughton hit three of them from frees, Paddy McNaughton, Neil McManus, Aiden Delargy and Donal McNaughton hit one each, but the pick of them all was a glorious effort from left-half back Arron Graffin who split the uprights from inside his own half for a score that had the Ruairi Og fans in raptures.

Three points in arrears Glenariffe now appeared to be in deep trouble but Tosh, who had spent the first twenty minutes of the second-half isolated at full-forward, moved back out the middle of the park and suddenly they began to get a grip on things again. A Seamus McDonnell point ended their scoring drought, and though Cushendall hit back with points from Neill McManus and Brian Delargy to pull four clear, Conor McAllister pulled one back for the Oisins to leave just a goal between the sides with five minutes still to play.

Tosh missed a good chance to cut the gap to two in the final minute, but when the ball broke to him on the twenty metre line in injury time the fans on both sides held their breath. His shot was well struck, and coming through a packed area in front of goal everyone waited for the net to bulge, but Cushendall keeper Ronan Kearney was equal to it and saved brilliantly to deny the Oisins a replay and book a semi-final spot against either Dunloy or St Gall’s who drew their quarter-final at Casement Park.

CUSHENDALL – Ronan Kearney, Sean Delargy, Conor Carson, Terence McAllister, Arron Graffin, Donal McNaughton, Martin Burke, Eunan McKillop, Paddy McNaughton, Brian Delargy, Paddy McGill, Francis McAuley, Neil McManus, Shane McNaughton. SUBS – John McManus for Aiden Delargy

GLENARIFFE – Seanan McToal, Norris Murray, Mark Nulty, Chris Shepherd, Carl Healy, Mickey Gettins, Daniel O’Boyle, Conor McAlister, Conor Kerr, Randal McDonnell, Johnny McIntosh, Kevin McDonnell, Seamus McDonnell, Alex McDonnell, Alex McKillop. SUBS – Paul McDonnell for Chris Shepherd; Niall Leech for Paul McDonnell.

REFEREE – Eamon Hasson (Swatragh)