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Laverty so proud of his boys as St Brigid's seal title glory

St Brigid's 1-11 Eoghan Rua 2-6

By Declan Bogue

Published 21/11/2016

Party time: Joint captains Conor Laverty and Liam Cassley lift the glittering prize
Party time: Joint captains Conor Laverty and Liam Cassley lift the glittering prize
John McGuckian is rewarded with a kiss from his daughter Ellenhis

What's rare is wonderful, and that was the case for the tiny St Brigid's club of Cloughmills as they clawed their way to victory in the Ulster Intermediate hurling final against Eoghan Rua of Coleraine by two points.

The game was switched from Cushendall to Ballymena late in the week, but the familiar fog that descends over the Braid Valley had some doubting whether the game would proceed. Thankfully, it lifted just long enough but it hardly contributed to what was a dour, attritional game with conditions desperate for hurling.

But the better team won in the end. While Eoghan Rua were gutsy and never lost touch, St Brigid's manufactured 23 scoring chances across the hour, while the former's first spurned chance only arrived in the 33rd minute with a Sean Leo McGoldrick free that hooked wide.

While Eoghan Rua took an early two-point lead, St Brigid's assumed control of the game and the puckout contests. Their attacking fulcrum Michael Devlin twice sent the ball into Liam Cassley and that brought two points early on.

With four minutes of the half to go, a Devlin clearance caused consternation in the Derry defence and Cassley, who played his football with Ballymena All Saints on this very pitch, swiped the loose ball to the net.

At the back, Aaron Smiley was dominant for St Brigid's, but Niall Holly was fulfilling the same role for Eoghan Rua.

Eoghan Rua's comeback was kick-started when St Brigid's netminder Chris McKiernan was unsure under a high ball and Colm McGoldrick poked home, while points from Sean Leo McGoldrick and Ruairi Mooney left the sides level at half-time, 1-5 apiece.

From that point on, the more polished stickwork of St Brigid's began to tell with Owen Kinney, who had been well marshalled by Liam McGoldrick, snapping up two points and Cassley adding to his own personal tally.

The poor visibility possibly had a role to play in Eoghan Rua's goal in the 53rd minute which brought the margin back to the minimum, a Liam McGoldrick free flighted in with Thomas Magee adding the final touch.

The Coleraine men had another gilt-edged chance within a minute, the sliotar falling invitingly for Colm McGoldrick, but with nothing but grass between him and the St Brigid's goals, he could not rise the ball and McKiernan was out sharply to usher the ball to safety.

Kinney's second point made life a little more comfortable for the men in orange, and Eoghan Rua's frustrations broke out when Declan Mullan was red-carded for punching the excellent Devlin, risking his knuckles to strike a man wearing a helmet.

Victorious manager Geoff Laverty said afterwards: "The goal went in but there was no panic.

"The guys did the business. It was a very tough game. We knew Coleraine, we knew all about the McGoldricks but it never bothered us one bit that they let them back into the competition."

Referring back to their final loss in 2012 to Lisbellaw St Patrick's of Fermanagh, he added: "The team is very experienced now. We have a strong management team with Alex Campbell, Paddy Martin, Kevin O'Boyle and Damian Walsh and the whole thing was freshened up.

"We worked harder this year than we have ever worked in our lives.

"Ideally we are an all-out hurling team and summer hurling would suit us, but the players are now older, the average age is 27, 28. They are a more physical team and they are physical hurlers. There was never going to be any excuses."

Eoghan Rua co-manager Joe Passmore felt his club have redeemed their reputation, having been initially excluded from competing at this level by the Ulster Council in an eligibility row.

"I think some of the shenanigans that went on, some people need to take a look at themselves and ask why this situation was allowed to develop," he stated.

"But we have done the competition proud. We played hard and played fair. We have proved a few people wrong, we will continue to hurl in Eoghan Rua and I tell you one thing, we will be back."

ST BRIGID'S: C McKiernan; S Martin J McGuckian, S McKendry; M Dobbin, A Smiley, R Laverty; C Laverty, J Doherty 0-1; M Morrison, M Devplin 0-2, 1f, L Kearns 0-2, 1f, G Óg Laverty 0-1, O Kinney 0-2, L Cassley 1-3

Subs: S Smyth for Doherty (47)

EOGHAN RUA: P Mullan; C Lagan, L McGoldrick, P Dallas; C Boyle, N Holly, A Raffety; D Mullan, R Leonard; R Mooney 0-2, M McQuillan, T Magee 1-0; SL McGoldrick, 0-4, 3f, Colm McGoldrick 1-0, Ciaran McGoldrick

Subs: C Gaile for McQuillan (half-time)

Red card: D Mullan (59)

Referee: Colin Murray (Down)

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