Loughgiel give punters fright of their lives
Ulster Senior Club Hurling Final
Loughgiel 3-14 Slaughtneil 1-15: It was almost the most seismic of shocks.
Loughgiel, the unbackable favourites to win a fourth Ulster title in a row at 1/50 with the bookies, did achieve it but only after they had to claw their way back from eight behind against a Slaughtneil side that surprised few with their hunger but many with the quality of their hurling.
The Derry champions, aided by a massive breeze in Celtic Park, raced into a 1-6 to 0-1 lead in the first quarter.
Led by the sublime performance of Gerald Bradley at midfield, Slaughtneil hit early scores from Gareth O'Kane (twice) and Chrissy McKagiue.
The brilliant start was copper-fastened when centre-back Cormac McKenna came up the field and blasted a bullet into the roof of the net from a 21-metre free.
And they kept coming in waves, roared on by their stunned support, as Bradley and McKaigue added further points that saw them eight ahead.
But Eddie McCloskey then stepped up for the Antrim champions.
His first goal was a piece of individual brilliance as he cut in along the endline and fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner from the tightest of angles.
His second finished off a brilliant move that saw Shea Casey slip him in with a handpass and, as McCloskey ran free, there was never going to be any outcome other than his second goal.
Brendan Rogers then had a goal controversially disallowed for Slaughtneil, but they refused to let it get to them and finished the half strongly, registering three of the last four scores to go in 1-11 to 2-4 ahead.
The last of those scores came again from the hurl of Cormac McKenna, from all of 100 yards, as he roused his side once more.
But playing into the breeze was always going to be a more difficult task for the underdogs and so it proved.
Barney McAuley, after a quiet first half, stepped up after the break but his side first had to survive another scare when championship debutant Chris O'Connell brilliantly turned away Cormac McKenna's penalty when Slaughtneil led by 1-11 to 2-6.
Almost instantly, Loughgiel netted for the third time through Benny McCarry. But again Slaughtneil dug in defensively, and of the five points that followed in a row for the winners, three came from Watson frees.
"You have to give credit to Slaughtneil for the way they came out and went at us," said Loughgiel manager PJ O'Mullan.
"They went 15 against 15 which very few teams do and big credit my own team."
It was the fourth provincial crown on the trot for the Antrim champions.
Loughgiel: C O'Connell; P Gillan, N McGarry, R McCloskey; T Coyle, M Scullion, O McFadden; M McFadden, T McCloskey (0-1); B McAuley (0-2), D Laverty (0-1), E McCloskey (2-2); B McCarry (0-1), S Casey (1-0), L Watson (0-7, 0-6f). Subs: D McCloskey for Coyle (46)
Slaughtneil: E McGuigan; K McKaigue, P Kearney, C Kearney; S Cassidy, C McKenna (1-3, 1-2f), J Mulholland; G Bradley, C McKaigue (0-4, 0-1f); G O'Kane (0-6f), C O'Doherty; O O'Doherty, B Rogers, S McGuigan, D Kearney. Subs: B Óg Corbett for C Kearney (28), E Cassidy for D Kearney (36), F Kelly for Rogers (53)
Referee: B Sweeney (Cavan).