Cushendall won the Reserve Cup Hurling final at Coláiste Feirste on Monday evening when they held off a second half fightback by Ballycran to win with five points to spare. When the Ruairis led by 1-12 to 0-2 twenty-nine minutes into the first half it looked like a stroll in the park for the north Antrim men, but a goal on the stroke of half time for the men from the Ards gave them a glimmer of hope. When Ballycran grabbed another goal three minutes into the second half the whole picture changed and by the 41st minute the gap was down to just three. Suddenly the Down men seemed the most likely to proceed and it took a backs to the wall performance, including the introduction of 49 year old substitute Jackie Carson, to stem the tide.
It was all plains sailing in the opening half, and with the wind behind them on the short Coláiste Feirste pitch it appeared just like target practice for the Ruairis. Man of the match Cormac McClafferty started the scoring in 30 seconds with a point from a free and Emmet ‘Mucker’ Laverty added another two minutes later. Ballycran’s top scorer Mark Egan got his team on the scoreboard with a pointed free on six minutes but three quick points from Karl McKeegan, Mucker Laverty and McClafferty, all of them from inside their own half, put Cushendall 0-5 to 0-1 up. Egan pulled another point back for the Ards men on 11 minutes but a brilliant goal from the veteran Karl McKeegan put the Ruairis firmly in charge and when they hit the next seven points without reply to lead by 13 in the 25th minute it all seemed too easy. However Ballycran had other ideas and after Egan grabbed his third point from a free a long ball in around the Cushendall square was broken down by Ballycran’s giant full forward Paul Miskimmon and as it bobbled around on the 4G surface Hugh Torney delivered the killer blow to send it flying to the net.
The money was still firmly on Cushendall as the second half got underway but when Ballycran goalkeeper Declan Ennis came out to land a monster free in the opening minute of the new half things began to change, and when Paul Miskimmon doubled overhead on a high ball two minutes later the comeback was on. Points from Philip Miskimmon, Hugh Torney and Mark Egan, in reply to one from Cormac McClafferty for Cushendall, had the gap back to four but the 41st minute and suddenly Ballycran looked the most likely to push on and win the game. When the oppositions 42 year old full forward is wreaking havoc in around the square what do you do to reverse the trend…..you bring on your 49 year old sub to full-back to stem the tide. Big Jackie Carson was sprung from the bench and though Miskimmon remained dangerous for the remainder of the game he just didn’t have the same influence from then on.
In truth the man that really pulled the Ruairis out of a hole was Cormac McClafferty, and his four points against the wind in the last twenty minutes were the scores that really saved the game. Egan was still sending them over for Ballycran but each time he hit the target McClaff had a reply and with Karl McKeegan chipping in with one from play, and big Dom playing a real captains part, the Ruairis held on for the win.
Subs – Jackie Carson, Jack McAlister, Adam McKenna.
BALLYCRAN: Declan Ennis, Brad Watson, Thomas McManus, Andy McVea, Aaron Dorrian, Daniel Hughes, Stephen Gilliland, Andrew Gilmore, Philip Miskimmon, David Gilliland, Ben Arthurs, Hugh Torney, Mark Egan, Paul Miskimmon, Jake Miskimmon