Cushendall Win The #Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship
30th October 2018
Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship Final
Ruairi Og’s, Cushendall 2-12 Loughgiel, Shamrocks 0-15
Report by The Saffron Gael
It was every inch the titanic battle predicted since the Ruairi’s booked their place in the decider with Loughgiel. Not an inch spared. No quarter asked for nor given. These two rarely disappoint and on Sunday they pushed each other to their limits.
In the end, the Ruairi’s had the edge to take the Volunteer Cup back to Cushendall for the 14th time in the clubs history with three points to spare over their great rivals. Goals in each half from Paddy Burke and Conor Carson proved to be decisive with Neil McManus edging the returning Eoghan Campbell to man of the match.
It wasn’t McManus’ best day from placed ball but the yards the Ruairi Og man covered on Páirc MacUílín was incredible and with the match in the balance at the death, McManus rose highest to claim two ball under huge pressure in his own six yard box. Inspirational, game defining and championship winning.
Eoghan Campbell. The machine. Playing with a broken bone in his wrist yet he was flawless. The perfect sweeper. In the first half Campbell was on a one-man crusade to thwart the Shamrocks. Mr dependable for the Ruairi’s and a customary point in the second half to boot.
The Shamrocks couldn’t get their own game going on the day. As team manager Johnny Campbell conceded after the match, the final was played on Cushendall’s terms for too long from their perspective. James McNaughton once again gave an immaculate performance from placed ball but he didn’t hit the heights he has done this year. Arron Graffin his permanent shadow throughout. Three points of his personal tally of 0-9 coming from play but his influence was fleeting. Tiernan Coyle and Dan McCloskey landing 0-5 between them from play with TC’s brace of points coming from distance but the Loughgiel defence struggled to contain the Ruairi’s overall.
The opening quarter was a game of cat and mouse. Both sides sizing each other up and sorting their matchups. Loughgiel fired the opening score of the game, McNaughton collecting the sliotar from a ruck before drilling over. The Loughgiel forward could have been forgiven for going for goal at that time but the point got the Shamrocks off and running.
The Ruairi’s weren’t quite at the blistering best they showed in the semi-final replay against St Johns but in Natty McNaughton they had a man hell bent on leading the fight to Loughgiel. He landed two points either side of Coyle’s first score of the match to leave the sides tied on two apiece after eight minutes.
A brace of points from Joey Scullion and James McNaughton (free) gave Loughgiel and early two point advantage and while they had settled faster into the final, Cushendall should have scored the first goal of the final midway through the first half. Conor Carson collecting a long ball before setting off for goal. He spotted the run of Fergus McCambridge to his right and delivered the hand pass but McCambridge mis-timed his pull in mid air with the goal at his mercy.
McManus landed his first point of the match from a 21 yard free, drilling low but his shot was deflected over the bar before Carson landed the score of the game. A move that was slick, crisp, incisive and settled Cushendall into the final by the 17th minute.
TC and McManus (free) traded scores before a brace of points from James McNaughton (one free) gave Loughgiel a two-point lead once again by the 21st minute but Cushendall fired the first major blow of the final with the next attack.
All match, Conor Carson’s duel with Neil McGarry was enticing. Carson looked to be on the same form he showed in the semi-final and claimed his fair share of high ball but if McGarry didn’t get it, his partner in crime Paul Gillan was more often than not in the right place at the right time. But when Carson caught a long ball from McManus, the Loughgiel defence were caught. He passed to his left, spying a maroon shirt on the charge. Paddy Burke, leaving his full back berth to collect the sliotar and managed to squeeze the sliotar beyond the charging DD Quinn to give Cushendall the lead for the first time in the match in the 21st minute.
Loughgiel responded with a Dan McCloskey point but Cushendall finished the half on top. Ryan McCambridge and Paddy McGill landed points either side of Dan McCloskey’s second white flag of the final before Natty McNaughton scored his third of the half to give Cushendall a 1-8 to 0-9 lead at the short whistle.
The first half was a massive arm wrestle for momentum. Fast flowing, hard hitting with big hits but it was championship hurling at its finest. Loughgiel looked fluent from the off but Burke’s major swung the momentum in favour of the Ruairi’s enabling Eamon Gillan’s side to control proceedings. Cushendall should have been further ahead at the half way point, three frees from the normally imperious McManus failing to find their target but if anything half time came at the wrong time.
The fluency of the first half never materialised after the restart. The pace was still there, the crunching hits was still there and the tenacity of the two defences was there in spades but the articulacy of play from both sides was missing.
McManus opened a three point lead for the Ruairi’s from a 45 yard free before James McNaughton repeated the trick in the 41st minute. Eoghan Campbell landed a superb score from wide on the right under pressure but a huge free from James McNaughton and Dan McCloskey’s third point of the match reduced the Ruairi Og lead to the minimum with ten minutes remaining.
Loughgiel looked to have wrestled momentum once again but they were dealt another hammer blow with the next attack. Substitute Eunan McKillop collecting the sliotar down the right hand side before burrowing his way towards the Loughgiel goal. He passed inside to Carson in space and although the Cushendall man lost his footing, DD Quinn couldn’t keep his shot out. A rare error from the Loughgiel netminder but it was advantage Cushendall for the closing stages with a four point lead.
James McNaughton landed his seventh point of the match before McManus’ fourth and first from play cancelled it out.
Paddy McGill tok over the free taking duties and split the uprights in the 55th minute to open a five point lead but it would be Cushendall’s last score of the match as Loughgiel laid siege on the Cushendall goal looking for the scores that would revive their championship hopes.
A brace of points from James McNaughton (one free), his second a superb score highlighting his pure hurling ability among the mayhem around him in the last minute of normal time, but the Shamrocks came up short. The went for the aerial assault on the Cushendall full back line but the Ruairi’s and McManus stood tall. The two catches from McManus symbolic of the character and belief instilled within his team.
Substitute Sean McAfee almost added further gloss to the score line for the Ruairi’s deep in injury time but DD Quinn brilliantly denied him from point blank range. Loughgiel continued to press and probe but the Ruairi’s stood resolute in the time that remained to take Big Ears back to Cushendall for 2018.
Loughgiel: DD Quinn; Paul Gillan, Neil McGarry, Ronan McCloskey; Tony McCloskey, Damon McMullan, Odhran McFadden; Mark McFadden, Tiernan Coyle; Joey Scullion, James McNaughton, Donal McKinley; Daniel McCloskey, Eddie McCloskey, Shay Casey.
Subs: Liam Watson for S Casey (HT); Maol Connolly for O McFadden (49); Shan McGrath for P Gillan (51).
Scorers: James McNaughton 0-9 (6 f’s); Dan McCloskey 0-3; Tiernan Coyle 0-2; Joey Scullion 0-1.
Cushendall: Eoin Gillan; David Kearney, Martin Burke, Paddy Burke; Eoghan Campbell, Sean Delargy, Arron Graffin; Francis McCurry, Neil McManus; Alex Delargy, Ryan McCambridge, Fergus McCambridge, Donal McNaughton, Conor Carson, Paddy McGill.
Subs: Eunan McKillop for F McCambridge (48); Stephen Walsh for F McCurry (52); Niall McCormick for R McCambridge (59); Sean McAfee for C Carson (inj).
Scorers: Neil McManus 0-4 (3f’s); Conor Carson 1-1; Donal McNaughton 0-3; Paddy Burke 1-00; Paddy McGill 0-2 (1f); Ryan McCambridge 0-1; Eoghan Campbell 0-1.
Referee: Colum Cunning (Dunloy)
left – Neil McManus receives the Martin Hurls Man of the Match Award from Emmet Martin, while looking on is John DeNovi, President of DSM Sports USA who was in Ballycastle to see the game. Right – John McIlwaine presents the Saffron Gael Man of the Match Award to Neil McManus