Second half blitz sees Shamrocks retain ULSTER title
Loughgiel produced an amazing second half performance in dreadful conditions at Casement Park on Sunday to blow away the challenge of Ballycran in this Ulster Club Final, attended by a good crowd despite the rain and wind that prevailed throughout.
With the wind at their back the Ards men made a fist of it in the opening half but despite opening the scoring they still trailed by 0-5 to 0-8 at the break and with the wind and rain to face after the break it was always going to be an uphill struggle and so it proved to be.
An Eddie McCloskey goal, three minutes into the second half heralded a blitz of scoring by the North Antrim men that their Down counterparts just couldn’t live with, the Shamrocks recording an impressive 2-10 after the break and their opponents only able to add 0-3 to their first half total.
It was Ballycran who were first to register when Scott Nicholson pointed a 1st minute free before Dan McCloskey, a late replacement for Liam Watson, brought the sides level with four minutes gone. Aidan Clarke pointed the Down men ahead again but points from Barney McAuley and James Campbell saw Loughgiel edge ahead for the first time with eight minutes gone. Ballycran were giving as good as they got at this stage of the game with Simon Wilson converting a ‘65’ in the 18th minute to tie the contest. The Antrim champions were beginning to get to grips however and Declan Laverty and Eddie McCloskey edged them two in front before a Scott Nicholson response closed the gap to the minimum again by the 24th minute. It was P.J. O’Mullan’s men who were now beginning to take control with Barney McAuley, Mark McFadden and Dan McCloskey bringing their first half total to 0-8 with Ballycran’s only response coming from James Coyle who pointed two minutes from the break.
After the break the roof fell in on Ballycran’s hopes of causing an upset and when Eddie McCloskey hammered home a third minute goal it already looked as good as over. Ballycran did reply with a point from James Coyle but Loughgiel were now dominant in every sector of the field and points from Joey Scullion 0-2, Declan Laverty, Barney McAuley and Laverty again saw them move 1-13 to 0-6 ahead at the end of the third quarter. Benny McCarry added another before Simon Wilson replied with the Ards men’s first point for 18 minutes when he converted a 21st Minute free. Dan McCloskey replied immediately with a point for the Shamrocks as both sides emptied their benches but it had little effect on proceedings as the one way traffic towards the Ballycran goal continued. Damien Laverty added another point before Benny McCarry cut in from the right and sent the sliothar crashing to the net in the 28th minute to hammer home the Antrim side’s advantage. Johnny Campbell and James Campbell turned the screw with late points before Simon Wilson replied with a late consolation point for the Down men who now looked a dejected side and Eamon Hasson’s full-time whistle must have come as a relief to the Ards men.
This was a good performance by Loughgiel who produced a good standard of hurling in very difficult conditions and despite losing Liam Watson and Damien Laverty to injury before throw-in they never really looked in trouble. Solid at the back where D.D. Quinn marshalled a defence in which Neil McGarry, James Campbell and Martin Scullion dominated while Barney McAuley and Mark McFadden ruled the roost at mid-field. Their attack was superbly led by Joey Scullion who picked up the Man of the Match award while Eddie McCloskey, Brendan McCarry and Dan McCloskey were others to impress in a lively attack.
Loughgiel: D.D. Quinn: Paul Gillan, Neil McGarry, Ronan McCloskey: James Campbell, Martin Scullion, Johnny Campbell: Barney McAuley, Mark McFadden: Dan McCloskey, Declan Laverty, Eddie McCloskey: Brendan McCarry, Joey Scullion, Shay Casey. Subs: Odhran McFadden for Joey Scullion, Damien Laverty for Dan McCloskey, Tony McCloskey for Paul Gillan, Daniel McPeake for Mark McFadden, Liam Watson for Benny McCarry.