Watson the playmaker as Shamrocks dethrone the champions Dunloy

Antrim Senior Hurling ChampionshipLoughgiel 0-14 Dunloy 0-6

LOUGHGIEL Shamrocks qualified for their seventh county final in eight years when they convincingly beat neighbours and reigning champions Dunloy in Sunday evening's semi-final at Pairc MacUilin, Ballycastle.

Backed by a solid defence Loughgiel were dominant for most of the game, and apart from a spell just after half time when Dunloy exerted a lot of pressure, they always looked the likely winners. Liam Watson was the tormentor in chief with eight points, most of them from frees, but his overall play was polished and disciplined as he once again proved a hero in red shirt.

Watson had Loughgiel in front as early as the first minute when he sent over a free and with a strong wind at their backs the

Shamrocks began to get on top as Liam McKillop added a real beauty from play shortly afterwards. Dunloy responded with a well taken point by Paddy Richmond, but Loughgiel put two between the sides again when Benny McCarry split the posts from play in the seventh minute.

Dunloy came back and Sean Dowds pointed from a narrow angle and shortly afterwards Paul Shiels brought the champions level with a neat point following a great catch and clearance by centre-back James McKeague.

However that score, in the thirteenth minute, was to be Dunloy's last of the opening half as Loughgiel began to put daylight between themselves and the champions with a some well taken scores. Watson converted two close range frees before hitting the score of the game, a massive effort from inside his own half to pull his team four clear.

He then added one from a '65' to stretch the lead to four, and it was soon five as Liam McKillop struck his second point of the game following a neat pass by 'Bobby-Joe' McKinley.

Dunloy had chances to close the gap but a series of long range frees drifted wide of the target and a late point by Watson gave Loughgiel a 0-9 to 0-3 lead at the break.

Considering the strength of the wind a six point deficit was by no means unbridgeable for Dunloy, but their task was made more difficult four minutes after the restart when Watson converted a free after Eddie McCloskey had been fouled.

The champions did begin to get back into the game and two points from frees by Sean Dowds closed the gap to five. However they were guilty of a series of bad misses from both from frees and play during the next ten minutes which could have brought them back into contention, and they were also denied by Loughgiel goalkeeper DD Quinn who made a brilliant reaction save from a 'Dick' O'Kane flick in the nineteenth minute.

When Watson was off target with two '65s' there must have been some among the Loughgiel fans who were getting a little anxious as their time without a score stretched to eighteen minutes, but the pressure was eased when James Campbell hit a fine point from play in the fifty-second minute.

Campbell, who had been well shackled up until then by Dunloy's best player James McKeague, struck another a minute later and suddenly the pressure was gone. Dunloy's task was made even harder when their left-half back Kevin Martin received a straight red card, but it was to make little difference and the Shamrocks strolled to yet another final with late points from Watson and Benny McCarry.

One worrying feature for Loughgiel was an injury to Watson late in the game which saw him fall awkwardly and twist his knee. He had to be carried from the field, but with four weeks to recover before the final he should be OK to face Cushendall on September 26th.

LOUGHGIEL – DD Quinn, Paul Gillan, Neilly McGarry, Barney McAuley, Ciaran McKinley, Johnny Campbell, Martin Scullion, Declan Laverty, Liam McKillop, Eddie McCloskey, James Campbell, Odhran McFadden, Benny McCarry, Joey Scullion, Liam Watson. SUBS – Kevin McGarry for McFadden; Damian Laverty for Watson (inj)

DUNLOY – Gareth McGhee, Michael McClements, Conor McKinley, Kevin Molloy, Kevin McKeague, James McKeague, Kevin Martin, Paudie Shivers, Liam Richmond, Sean Dowds, Conor Cunning, Gregory O'Kane, Paul Shiels, Alastair Elliott, Paddy Richmond. SUBS – Paddy Doherty for Elliott (inj), Cathair Cunning for Conor Cunning.

Referee – Garrett Duffy (St Gall's)

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