Loughgiel Shamrocks the deserved winners in title decider
Antrim SHC Final
Loughgiel Shamrocks were crowned Antrim senior hurling champions as they dethroned Cushendall in yesterday's final in Ballycastle.
Shamrocks were full value for their win as Cushendall misfired for most of the game although their hopes of a third straight title were alive right until the final whistle.
It was actually Cushendall who made the dream start when Sean Delargy launched a ball forward and Paddy McGill was quickest to react, shooting low across DD Quinn for a goal after just 12 seconds.
Loughgiel didn't let this affect them, however, and Maol Connolly opened their account with a score on four minutes.
In the 11th minute Benny McCarry pointed for Loughgiel after taking a pass from the impressive Eddie McCloskey. Liam Watson then fired over to level, but Cushendall hit back thanks to Neil McManus. Connolly tied the game from a free before Eoin Laverty nudged Cushendall back in front, and he repeated the trick seconds later to double Cushendall's lead.
However, the key score in the game was to follow soon after as Shay Casey burst through and coolly batted low into the net to give Loughgiel a 1-4 to 1-3 lead.
Alex Delargy did tie the game, but the momentum was now with Loughgiel as Shay Casey pointed before Connolly clipped over another two frees. Donal McKinley then hit a good score to establish a four-point lead although Eoin Laverty had the final say of the half with a point to reduce Loughgiel's lead to three .
Seven minutes after the interval Christy McNaughton pointed for Cushendall, but the defending champions gifted Loughgiel a couple of scores with stray passes going to Eddie McCloskey and Benny McCarry that were both punished with scores.
Casey then hit another to move Loughgiel five ahead on 47 minutes. But Cushendall were not going without a fight and points from Eoin Laverty, Christy McNaughton and Neil McManus gave them hope. They could never get any closer, however, as Loughgiel could always find a response when they needed one as McCloskey pointed before Benny McCarry raised a flag to give them breathing space.
McManus replied to leave a goal in it, but again Loughgiel replied with Liam Watson scoring a brilliant point. A Christy McNaughton free again gave Cushendall hope as they chased for a goal and were so close to getting it when DD Quinn was forced into a stop from Donal McNaughton's first time effort.
The ball fell to Ryan Delargy who sent the ball back towards goal and it squirmed under Quinn and was inches from creeping over the line before Neil McGarry gathered and cleared the danger out for a 65. McNaughton elected to point the resultant award to leave two in it with some time left.
Cushendall had a little time to save themselves, but again squandered possession with Watson the beneficiary for Loughgiel who regained the Volunteer Cup they last held in 2013.
LOUGHGIEL: DD Quinn; P Gillan, N McGarry, R McCloskey; J Campbell, T McCloskey, T Coyle; M McFadden, D McMullan; M Connolly (0-4, 3 frees), E McCloskey (0-2), D McKinley (0-2); B McCarry (0-2), L Watson (0-3), S Casey (1-2). Subs: O McFadden for T McCloskey (49 mins), D McCloskey for J Campbell (56 mins), J McNaughton for D McKinley (60 mins).
CUSHENDALL: E Gillan; R McCambridge, M Burke, S Delargy; D Kearney, P Burke, E McKillop; E Campbell, A McNaughton; C Carson, N McManus (0-3), E Laverty (0-4, 1 free); P McGill (1-0), A Delargy (0-1), S McAfee. Subs: C McNaughton (0-4, 2 frees, 1 65) for S McAfee (HT), D McNaughton for E Laverty (51 mins), K McKeegan for C Carson (56 mins), C McAllister for D Kearney (59 mins), R Delargy for A Delargy (60 mins).
Referee: Owen Elliott (Ballymena).