Contract Services Senior Hurling Chamionship

Loughgiel 1-17 Ballycastle 0-7

County champions Loughgiel cruised through to their eighth final in nine years when they easily defeated Ballycastle in Saturday afternoon’s semi-final at Armoy.

Leading by 0-11 to 0-5 at half-time the Shamrocks went on to totally dominate the second-half, a task made easier for the champions as Ballycastle had two men sent off.

The opening twenty minutes was highly entertaining as both teams played some fine hurling, despite the fact that a strong crossfield wind made hurling difficult. Ballycastle took an early lead with a fine Chrissy Boyle point, and after Eddie McCloskey had levelled, they edged in front again with a wonder point from an impossible angle from near the endline by Malachy Dallas.

However Loughgiel were starting to make their superiority tell and they hit three unanswered points through Shay Casey, Barney McAuley and Damian Laverty to lead 4-2 by the eighth minute. Chrissy Boyle and ‘Stoogie’ McAfee sent over points to bring Ballycastle back on terms and the match had all the appearance of a close contest.

Loughgiel retook the lead with a Damian Laverty free and ‘Skinner’ Laverty tagged on a fine effort from play, and even though Malachy Dallas pulled one back for the McQuillan’s from a free it was clear their challenge was beginning to fade. Total midfield dominance was giving the Shamrocks a real edge and in the closing minutes of the half they pressed home their advantage with five unanswered points from ‘Skinner’ Laverty (2), Shay Casey, Benny McCarry and Eddie McCloskey to lead 0-11 to 0-5 at the break.

After Loughgiel missed a series of chances just after the restart there appeared to be some hope for Ballycastle fans when Chrissy Boyle and Cormac Donnelly sent over points in the fourth and sixth minutes to cut the arrears to four. However that was to be their high point as they failed to raise another flag for the remainder of the game. Loughgiel were now in complete control, though they were also struggling to finds scores despite creating a series of chances.

The sending off of Ballycastle’s full-back Cormac Donnelly, followed twelve minutes later by left-half back Matthew Donnelly completed a disastrous day for Ballycastle and with the freedom of the park Loughgiel hammered home their advantage with a goal and four points in the final minutes to safely secure another final spot.

LOUGHGIEL – DD Quinn, Paul Gillan, Neilly McGarry, Ronan McCloskey, Tony McCloskey, Martin Scullion, Johnny Cambell, Barney McAuley, Mark McFadden, Eddie McCloskey, Declan Laverty, Joe Scullion, Shay Casey, Benny McCarry, Damian Laverty.

SUBS – James Campbell for Paul Gillan (inj)

BALLYCASTLE – Ciaran Smyth, Fergus Donnelly, Cormac Donnelly, Dermot Donnelly, Paul McLernon, Neal McAuley, Matthew Donnelly, Kevin Barry McShane, Mickey Dallat, Christopher Boyle, Kieran Kelly, Fergal McConnon, Shane Staunton, Malachy Dallas, Stephen McAfee.

SUBS – James McShane for McConnon; Gerard Laverty for KB McShane; Shane McCarry

A word of praise must go to the Armoy club for their excellent hosting of the game. When the fixtures was made for Armoy there were a few doubts expressed by fans about the venue’s ability to cope with the crowd, and especially the traffic. However the Glen Rovers club did themselves proud and everything worked like clockwork. They even organised a piper to lead the teams in a pre-match parade. Well done to all concerned.

One real down side about the weekend’s games was the fact that there were no programmes at any of the matches. I attended the two minor finals in Casement on Friday night, the senior games in Casement (Wed) Armoy (Sat) and Loughgiel (Sun) and the Junior and Intermediate deciders at Casement (Sun) and not a programme, or even a list of the players at one of them. Poor showing by the county board.