Cushendall booked their place in the semi-finals of the senior championship with six points to spare over Rossa on Saturday evening. There wasn’t much between the sides for the majority of the game with both sides reliant on their free takers for scores and it wasn’t until Alex Delargy scored the only goal of the game in the 50th minute that the home side put any clear daylight between themselves and Rossa.
Trailing by two points at the interval, the Shaw’s Road men had kept tabs with the Ruairi’s in a close first half. With Neil McManus and Deaglan Murphy leading the way from frees, the game rarely flowed and neither side could get much momentum going in their favour. Rossa had chances at the start of the second half to get back on terms but four wides in the first ten minutes hurt their challenge. The Ruairi’s always seemed to keep Rossa at arm length and made better use of the sliotar as the second half progressed.
It was another defensive masterclass from the Ruairi’s led by man of the match Eoghan Campbell. Playing at centre half and dropping deeper when required, Campbell gave an exhibition with his reading of the game second to none on the pitch. Joe McCurry kept tabs on the dangerous Thomas Morgan, keeping him to just one point over the hour with Paddy Burke keeping an eye on the returning James Connolly. Martin Burke was Stephen Beatty’s permanent shadow for the majority of the game and significantly reduced his influence on the game. In short, the Ruairi’s management got their match-ups right in defence once again and controlled the game. Rossa didn’t score from open play until the last poc of the first half and while they were still in touch at the short whistle, they were going to have to improve significantly after the restart to cause an upset. That improvement didn’t come. Five points in the second half was never going to be enough to get over the line against a team the calibre of Cushendall and the Ruairi’s never dropped their work rate or intensity over the hour. Delargy’s major opened a seven point gap that proved to be decisive as the Ruairi’s never looked behind them and continued to control the contest.
The Ruairi’s started brightly and fired over two points in the opening three minutes thanks to Campbell and Paddy McGill. Deaglan Murphy fired over his first of six frees during the match to open Rossa’s account but Cushendall continued to impress in the opening exchanges with McManus (free) and Ryan McCambridge opening a three point lead by the seventh minute.
Despite the fast pace in the opening exchanges, the game began to break up and the free takers took over. Deaglan Murphy scored two frees and a ’65 to add to his earlier free restoring parity to the scores by the 12thminute. The Jeremiah’s were notably pressing Cushendall all over the field and looked to put the Cushendall defence under pressure but the Ruairi’s were calm under pressure and always managed to find a man in space to relieve any pressure. Murphy and McManus continued to swap frees, both men finding the range twice before McManus scored the point of the game in the 26th minute. Wide on the right and under pressure from two Rossa defenders, he managed to find the required accuracy to leave two between the sides.
Eoghan Campbell scored his second point of the half with another huge score from distance before Mickey Armstrong split the posts with the last action of the half to leave Cushendall ahead 0-9 to 0-7 at the interval.
McManus’ fifth free and sixth point of the match opened the scoring in the second half four minutes after the restart but Rossa had already hit a brace of wides by that stage. By the time McManus found his range again in the 41st minute, Rossa’s challenge was dwindling as they twice failed to find the required accuracy when they needed it most.
They could have scored the first goal of the game in the 42nd minute when Thomas Morgan drew a top save from ‘Dall ‘keeper Conor McAllister. Connolly providing the assist before Morgan drove low before McAllister pushed the sliotar wide. Deaglan Murphy pointed the resulting ’65 to reduce the Cushendall lead to three points once again but the Ruairi’s continued to play the game on their terms and keep Rossa at bay.
A brace of McManus points were answered by Deaglan Murphy’s eighth of the match before Alex Delargy scored the only goal of the game in the 50th minute. Substitute Fergus McCambridge playing the ball across into the danger area where McGill deflected the sliotar into the path of Delargy. The crowd rose in anticipation and Delargy delivered the decisive blow to open a seven point lead and leave Cushendall with one foot in the last four with ten minutes left to play.
Rossa responded with Morgan splitting the posts in the 53rd minute but Cushendall were holding all the answers to any questions the Jeremiah’s may have posed. McManus scoring his tenth and eleventh points of the match to leave eight between the sides in the last minute of normal time. Rossa continued to push and managed another pair of points from Tiarnan Murphy and Aidan Orchin in injury time but it was a comfortable win in the end for the Ruairi’s as they now turn their attentions to a meeting with St John’s in the last four. Again.
Cushendall: Conor McAllister; Martin Burke, Paddy Burke, Joe McCurry; Fred McCurry, Eoghan Campbell, Stephen Walsh; Scott Walsh, Niall McCormick; Neil McManus, Eunan McKillop, Ryan McCambridge; Alex Delargy, Paddy McGill, Christy McNaughton.
Subs: Fergus McCambridge for E McKillop (44); Ed McQuillan for N McCormick (51).
Scorers: Neil McManus 0-11 (8 f’s, 1 ’65); Alex Delargy 1-00; Eoghan Campbell 0-2; Ryan McCambridge 0-1; Paddy McGill 0-1.
Rossa: Matt Devlin; Ciaran Orchin, Chris McGuinness, Aidan Orchin; Gerard Walsh, Stephen Shannon, Aodhan O’Brien; Mickey Armstrong, Deaglan Murphy; Seaghan Shannon, Callum McVeigh, Stephen Beatty; Thomas Morgan, James Connolly, Tiarnan Murphy.
Subs: Michael McGreevy for C McVeigh (38); Niall Crossan for J Connolly (49); Conal Shannon for D Murphy (58).
Scorers: Deaglan Murphy 0-8 (6 f’s, 2 ‘65’s); Aidan Orchin 0-1; Mickey Armstrong 0-1; Thomas Morgan 0-1; Tiarnan Murphy 0-1.