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Senior Feis Hurling Final 2023
20th June 2023

Feis na nGleann 2023 in Dunloy – Sunday 18 June

Senior Hurling Final

Cushendall 1-26 Loughgiel 1-19

Brendan McTaggart reports from Pearse Park, Dunloy

When Shan McGrath pointed for Loughgiel in the 43rdminute, he gave the Shamrocks a two point lead after a purple patch that saw his side score 1-5 in the space of eight minutes and 1-7 from the start of the second half. Cushendall’s six point half time lead looked precarious during the interval and after Loughgiel’s form at the start of the second half, it looked for all the world the Shamrock’s would take the honours.

Cushendall had other ideas. The introduction of Andrew McNaughton and Neil McManus with Niall McCormick earlier at half time breathed fresh impetus into the Ruairi’s challenge and a strong finish to the game that saw them outscore the Shamrock’s ten points to one to retain the Feis Cup.

The changes made by Brian Delargy and his backroom team had a massive impact on the game with McNaughton dropping into defence and helping to quell a Loughgiel attack that looked to be cutting loose. Up front, Ronan McAteer impressed with five points beside his name at the end of the hour but it was the performance of Joseph McLaughlin that caught the eye. 1-10 for his sixty minutes work in a performance that belittled his lack of senior experience, McLaughlin is having a superb start to his senior career. 17 years old and the hurling world at his feet.

The Shamrocks will look at the last quarter and wonder how they let this one slip away. After a quite brilliant goal from Ruairi McCormick during their early second half blitz, Hugh McCann’s side were well placed and exactly where they wanted to be with the wind at their back. James McNaughton and Shan McGrath with the lions share of their scoring while Cathal Hargan was always lively but they couldn’t respond to the Ruairi’s shift in momentum in the championship quarter.

With a good crowd in attendance for Feis Sunday, there was hopes of these two giants of Antrim hurling producing a classic. Cushendall had the wind at their backs from the first whistle but it was a fairly sedate start to the final. Both sides were guilty of missing chances, more so Loughgiel while the Ruairi’s thought they had scored the opening goal of the game in the 17th minute. Paddy Burke’s long delivery wasn’t dealt with in the Loughgiel defence and Ed McQuillan’s first time pulled effort hit the side of the net.

The Ruairi’s had begun to take a semblance of control and a three point lead with Ronan McAteer and Andrew Delargy raising white flags along with McLaughlin (free) and Dominic Delargy, the Loughgiel response coming from a brace from James McNaughton (frees) and Jack McCloskey before Cushendall scored the opening goal of the game.

The long puck outs from Conor McAllister was a massive weapon for the Ruairi’s and with Dominic Delargy on the edge of the square, they had the ideal target man. Delargy caught the sliotar among a crowd of Loughgiel defenders and had goal on his mind. He was brought down and with a deluge of claims for a penalty the sliotar was recycled to McLaughlin who had a cool head among the mayhem to fire the sliotar to the back of the net.

The sides exchanged two scores apiece before the short whistle with Cushendall taking a six point lead, 1-12 to 0-9. Over the balance of the first half, the score line was a fair enough reflection. After an uneasy start to the game, the Cushendall defence looked to have dampened the Shamrocks attack. Loughgiel couldn’t get enough ball into their attacking unit but would have been confident of overhauling the half time deficit.

Hargan and McGrath (free) opened the scoring before McLaughlin got the Ruairi’s scoreboard ticking once more. Cushendall scores and chances were fleeting in that opening quarter however as Loughgiel took control. They could have had their first goal of the game but for the crossbar coming to the aid of Cushendall, McNaughton collecting a deft flick from Dan McCloskey before his effort hit the woodwork.

A trio of scores from McGrath (two) and Rian McMullan were answered by a point from half time substitute Niall McCormick to leave three between the sides after just eight minutes of the second half.

The sides were leveled with the next attack and it was worth the entrance fee along to Pearse Park. Rian McMullan with the dancing feet and eluding the Cushendall challenges. He flicked the sliotar over one head and had the presence of mind to spot the run of McCormick from midfield. The pass was inch perfect and matched by the Loughgiel midfielders finish. A quite brilliant goal that would grace any pitch in the land and Loughgiel were on the rampage. Scores followed with four from the hurl of McGrath (two frees) in response to a brace from McLaughlin as Loughgiel took a two point lead with 13 minutes of the final remaining.

Incredibly however, the Shamrocks would only add a further two points to their tally as Cushendall took over. The introduction of Aidan McNaughton and Neil McManus a masterstroke from the Ruairi’s management and allowed their forward line to flourish.

Two frees from McLaughlin were answered to by James McNaughton’s sixth white flag of the match to give Loughgiel a one point lead but Cushendall’s finish was exemplary with McManus at the centre of their renaissance. He fired over a brace before McQuillan and McLaughlin put three between the sides as the clock ticked into injury time.

McAteer’s fourth point of the game typified the Ruairi’s style of play as they worked the sliotar from their own full back line and cut through the Loughgiel defence using short, incise passing to find the ‘shooter’, McAteer duly obliged having made a lung busting run to create the space and find the yard needed.

As if to underline their superiority, a further three Cushendall scores followed from McAteer, McManus and the last score of the final fittingly going to Joseph McLaughlin as Cushendall ran out seven point winners at the end of a pulsating second half.

Cushendall: Conor McAllister; Paddy Burke, Liam Gillan, Martin Burke; Scott Walsh, Ryan McCambridge, Stephen Walsh; Fred McCurry, Cormac McClafferty; Ronan McAteer, Dominic Delargy, Andrew Delargy; Ed McQuillan, Paddy McGill, Joseph McLaughlin

Scorers: J McLaughlin 1-10 (6fs); R McAteer 0-5; E McQuillan 0-3; Neil McManus 0-3; F McCurry 0-2; D Delargy 0-1; A Delargy 0-1; Niall McCormick 0-1

Loughgiel: Chrissy O’Connell; Tiernan Coyle, Daniel McPeake, Caolan Blair; Damon McMullan, Declan McCloskey, Ben McGarry; James McNaughton, Ruairi McCormick; Cathal Hargan, Paul Boyle, Rian McMullan; Jack McCloskey, Shan McGrath, Dan McCloskey

Scorers: S McGrath 0-7 (5fs); J McNaughton 0-6 (3fs 1’65); C Hargan 0-3; R McCormick 1-00; R McMullan 0-2; J McCloskey 0-1

Referee: Colum Cunning (Dunloy)





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