Brendan McTaggart reports from Pearse Park, Dunloy
Just like 12 months ago at the same stage, these two rivals served up another nail bitter in the opening round of the championship and just like 12 months ago, one point separated the sides. Dunloy edged past the reigning county champions in a tense battle in Pearse Park.
Neither side were at their fluent best during this one with the elements playing havoc on both sides from placed ball. The Cuchullains reached double figures in wides with almost half coming from dead ball while the Ruairi’s will rue the three missed from placed ball in the second half. That being said, both free takers were the respective top scorers. Conal Cunning with seven points from placed ball in his tally of 0-8 while Paddy McGill fired over four frees in his 0-6.
Both goals came in the first half, Fergus McCambridge accentuating the bright start made by the Ruairi’s with his seventh minute goal while Keelan Molloy was in the right place at the right time for the Cuchullains to fire in the rebound after ‘keeper Conor McAllister saved superbly from Seán Elliott.
Dunloy held a three point lead at the interval but with the wind at their back in the second half, Cushendall would have been more than happy with their efforts in the first period. They reeled in the Cuchullains after the restart and kept them scoreless for 12 minutes while taking the lead in the same time.
Dunloy dug deep in the closing stages with Paul Shiels instrumental and Nigel Elliott a constant threat in attack. ‘Shorty’ firing over a 59th minute penalty to take the Cuchullains lead to two points and while they were reduced to 14 men after the dismissal of substitute Gabriel McTaggart, they held on in the time that remained.
Cushendall, who started short a good few regulars, got their match-ups right to match the Dunloy attack. David Kearney kept tabs on Seán Elliott, Stephen Walsh on Ronan Molloy and Fred McCurry looked to pick up Conal Cunning. With Eoghan Campbell sitting deeper, they starved the Cuchullains of space and scoring chances weren’t give freely. Up front, Fergus McCambridge started in top gear with 1-2 in the opening 15 minutes while Paddy McGill gave an exhibition on how to play on the edge of the square. They were more clinical and efficient in the first half but when they got back on terms in the second, their radar left them.
In fairness it felt like neither side wanted to win this one with a series of wides before the Cuchullains dug deep to get the scores that made the difference in the end.
The home side hit the opening point of the match, Keelan Molloy from distance in the third minute before Cushendall went through the gears. Fergus McCambridge with their first score before scoring the opening goal of the game. Alex Delargy breaking the challenge of two Dunloy defenders before finding Fergus McCambridge in space and he duly obliged, hammering the sliotar beyond Ryan Elliott into the Dunloy goal in the seventh minute.
Dunloy began to find their game however with Coby Cunning firing over three points in as many minutes before the mid-way mark in the half to tie the scores. McGill (free) and Fergus McCambridge opened a two point lead for the Ruairi’s before Dunloy hit back. Kevin Molloy and Cunning (free) restored parity for the third time in the match before Keelan Molloy scored the Cuchullains first goal of the 2019 championship. Seán Elliott breaking down the right and showing his marker a clean pair of heels, cutting inside and creating a perfect opportunity. His effort was well saved by Conor McAllister in the Cushendall goals but Keelan Molloy was first to the rebound and he pulled first time into an empty net.
With McGill firing over a brace of frees either side of Niall McCormick’s white flag in response to two points from Cunning (one free) and Keelan Molloy, Dunloy led 1-9 to 1-6 at the interval.
There’s no doubting Cushendall would have been pleased with their efforts in the first half and by the 13th minute of the second half, they had tied the scores once again. Alex Delargy and a trio of white flags from McGill (one free) came after Cunning took his tally to six points for the match and when Ryan McCambridge fired over from distance in the 44th minute, there looked only one winner.
The Ruairi’s and ‘keeper Conor McAllister were launching a tirade of long high ball into the heart of the Dunloy defence and had the Cuchullains under pressure. Dunloy went without adding to Cunning’s 33rd minute free until he split the posts to tie the sides for the fifth time in the match but Cushendall still looked more likely to take the points.
Stephen Walsh gave them the lead once again in the 50th minute but they wouldn’t score another until injury time. Their radar left them with a number of glaring misses in front of the posts and they were punished when Seán Elliott and Cunning (free) restored the Dunloy lead before the Cuchullains were rewarded a penalty after a foul on Keelan Molloy. Shiels elected for a point to leave two between the sides going into injury time but the drama hadn’t ended. The home side were reduced to 14 men when Gabriel McTaggart was sent off by Mark O’Neill after consultation with his umpires but Cushendall could only manage another point from an Eoin Laverty free in the time that remained.
The Cuchullains travel to the Shaw’s Road on Saturday with the knowledge that a victory will see them into the semi-finals while Cushendall and Rossa will have a winner takes all match in the Glens on August 31.
Dunloy: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin, Conor McKinley, Conor Kinsella; Kevin McKeague, Ryan McGarry, Kevin Molloy; Paul Shiels, Eamon Smyth; Nigel Elliott, Chrissy Brogan, Keelan Molloy; Seán Elliott, Conal Cunning, Ronan Molloy.
Subs: Gabriel McTaggart for K McKeague (44); Shane Dooey for E Smyth (56)
Cushendall: Conor McAllister; Martin Burke, Paddy Burke, David Kearney; Fred McCurry, Eoghan Campbell, Stephen Walsh; Aiden McNaughton, Scott Walsh; Fergus McCambridge, Eunan McKillop, Ryan McCambridge; Alex Delargy, Paddy McGill, Niall McCormick.
Subs: Eoin Laverty for E McKillop (52); Ruari McCollan for F McCambridge (60)
Scorers: Paddy McGill 0-6 (4 f’s); Fergus McCambridge 1-2; Niall McCormick 0-1; Alex Delargy 0-1; Ryan McCambridge 0-1; Stephen Walsh 0-1; Eoin Laverty 0-1 (1f)