O’Neill’s All County Hurling League Division One – Fr Healy Park, LoughgielDunloy’s Gabriel McTaggart is tackled by Loughgiel’s Odhran McFadden during Sunday evening’s ACHL game at Fr Healy Park. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine
Loughgiel 1-15 Dunloy 0-19
By Brendan McTaggart
County champions Dunloy edged out their old rivals on Sunday evening to inflict a first defeat of the season on the Shamrocks. One point separated the sides at the end of an hour as these two rivals played out an early season classic. The lead changed hands on four occasions and the sides were tied six times as both teams made little of the weather conditions. Dunloy were more solid in the second half and did just enough to take the two points but Loughgiel could have stolen it late in the day. Dan McCloskey putting the sliotar to the wrong side of the post in injury time in what was a difficult chance but the Cuchullains held on in the end.
It was the visitors to Fr Healy Park who made the better start, Nigel Elliott, Chrissy Brogan and Paul Shiels raising the white flag in the opening seven minutes while the home side had a Barney McAuley free to show for their early efforts.
Loughgiel were boosted in the ninth minute referee Mark O’Neill awarded them a penalty for an off the ball incident, McAuley firing to the back of Ryan Elliott’s net to give the Shamrocks the lead and while the Cuchullains replied well with points from the midfield duo of Shiels and Nicky McKeague, Loughgiel dominated and kept their neighbours without a score for 14 minutes.
James McNaughton scored his first of four points during the hour in the 13th minute before Shay Casey, Eddie McCloskey and McNaughton again raised white flags in the space of five minutes. Shan McGrath split the posts in the 20th minute meaning it was five unanswered for the home side but the Cuchullains finished the half strongly. Conal Cunning scored his first of the match before Nigel Elliott’s second and Shiels’ fourth free of the match left the sides tied at 1-6 to 0-9 at the short whistle.
As the heavens opened both sides would have been fairly happy with their work in the first half. Loughgiel were looking more fluent after McAuley’s penalty while Dunloy edged their way back into the contest with four unanswered points before the half time break.
The Cuchullains started the second half well with Shiels and Eoin O’Neill finding the target either side of another point from James McNaughton and while McAuley (free) and Deaglan Smyth swapped scores, Dunloy were starting to win the 50-50’s around the midfield with the pace of Nigel Elliott and Deaglan Smyth hurting the Shamrock’s defence.
Eddie McCloskey scored his second of the match in the 37th minute but the Cuchullains turned the screw once again and fired over four unanswered points thanks to two Paul Shiels frees, Cunning and a monster score from the impressive half back Eamon Smyth to give the visitors a four point lead with 12 minutes remaining.
Loughgiel showed their resilience however and came back once again. A brace of points from livewire Maol Connolly and McAuley (free) kept their hopes alive once again and while Nigel Elliott scored his third of the match, substitute Donal McKinley and McNaughton’s fourth of the hour left the minimum between the sides in the last minute of normal time.
Paul Shiels’ eighth point of the match gave the Cuchullains that two point cushion once again before a McAuley pointed kept the Shamrocks in touch. Elliott’s fourth of the match seemed to have won the match for the visitors before the Shamrocks carved open a golden goal opportunity in the second minute of injury time. Maol Connolly dancing his way down the Loughgiel left passed inside to Dan McCloskey who’s first time effort went agonisingly to the wrong side of the post with the goal at his mercy. A difficult chance which McCloskey did well to turn into a goal scoring opportunity but at full stretch, he ended up face down in the Dunloy goal mouth as the Cuchullain’s breathed a sigh of relief.
McAuley fired his fifth point of the match in the fourth minute of additional time but it wasn’t enough as the Cuchullains held on for the victory.
The Cuchullains now face St John’s at Pearse Park on Sunday while the Shamrock’s will look to get back to winning ways with a trip to Portaferry on the same day.
DUNLOY: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin; James McKeague; Conor Kinsella; Eamon Smyth (0-1); Kevin Molloy; Kevin McKeague; Paul Shiels (0-8 7f); Nicky McKeague (0-1); Nigel Elliott (0-4); Gabriel McTaggart; Deaglan Smyth (0-1); Conal Cunning (0-2); Chrissy Brogan (0-1); Eoin O’Neill (0-1)
Subs: Ally Dooey for G McTaggart (HT); Keelan Molloy for Kevin McKeague
LOUGHGIEL: D Quinn; Mark McFadden; Neil McGarry; Tiernan Coyle; Declan Gillan; Tony McCloskey; Odhran McFadden; James McNaughton (0-4); Bernard McAuley (1-5 1-3f); Dan McCloskey; Declan Laverty; Eddie McCloskey (0-2); Shay Casey (0-1); Maol Connolly (0-1); Shan McGrath (0-1)
Subs: Donal McKinley (0-1) for S McGrath; Joey Scullion for D Laverty
Referee: Mark O’Neill (Armoy)
*** Many Thanks to The Saffron Gael for the use of their article and photos ***