Cushendall are taken to Antrim Senior hurling final by goals brace
Cushendall 2-10 - Dunloy 0-11
Goals at the beginning of each half proved crucial as Cushendall qualified for this year's Antrim Senior Hurling Championship final due to a five-point win over Dunloy at Loughgiel last night.
Before a large crowd, Christy McNaughton found the net after three minutes to give his side the perfect start, while it was Donal McNaughton who goaled six minutes after the break to put real daylight between the teams.
This eagerly anticipated contest never really caught fire however, with both sides guilty of a high wides tally. But it was Cushendall who always appeared to have that little bit of extra quality in attack and this was to be the main difference.
Dunloy opened brightly with a an excellent score from the always impressive Paul Shiels.
But from their first attack, Cushendall stormed into the lead when Donal McNaughton picked out the unmarked Christy McNaughton yards from goal who applied the finish.
The sides were to trade scores with both trying to assert their dominance, but it was Cushendall who were faring better with the breaks as they were quick to sweep up possession.
Dunloy had their spells too, with Shane Dooey and Nigel Elliott clipping over some fine scores, while Cushendall kept their noses in front thanks to the free-taking of Neil McManus and some fine points from Conor Carson and Donal McNaughton.
Dunloy tried to find more success in attack by moving Paul Shiels into full-forward, but their problems lay further out as they needed to make use of possession.
The sides turned around with Cushendall 1-6 to 0-6 to the good, but the point-for-point pattern continued after the break with McManus and Shiels trading frees until Donal McNaughton hit an exquisite second goal on 36 minutes. He took a pass from Alec Delargy and found the top right corner of the net from 20 metres, opening up a six-point gap.
Dunloy kept trying to find a way back, but were forced to rely on Shiels frees, while Cushendall went scoreless for 13 minutes – mainly due to a succession of poor wides. Karl McKeegan finally ended their barren spell with a fine score from range after 49 minutes to make it 2-9 to 0-10.
Dunloy needed goals, but the Cushendall defence never looked like coughing one up as they held firm with Martin Burke, Aaron Graffin and Paddy McNaughton outstanding.
Cushendall moved into the final where they will meet St Gall's.
The Falls Road club won their semi-final on Saturday at Corrigan Park, beating West Belfast rivals Sarsfield's by 0-14 to 0-12.
It could have been even more comfortable for the Milltown Row club had they put away six good goal chances including a penalty from Karl Stewart that was saved, but they had just enough in the tank to pull clear at the end with a late CJ McGourty point sealing their first ever Antrim Senior Hurling Championship berth.
CUSHENDALL: E Gillan; R McCambridge, M Burke, A Graffin; P McNaughton, P Burke, S Delargy; N McManus (0-5, all frees), E Campbell; S McAfee, C Carson (0-2), K McKeegan (0-1); A Delargy, D McNaughton (1-2), C McNaughton (1-0). Subs: P McGill for A Delargy (43 mins), E Laverty for C McNaughton (48 mins), S McNaughton for S McAfee (53 mins), C McAllister for R McCambridge (58 mins)
DUNLOY: G McTaggart; M McClements, K McKeague, O Quinn; K Molloy (0-1), C McKinley, C Kearns; P Shivers, S Dooey (0-2); L Richmond, P Shiels (0-6, 5 frees), K McQuillan; N McKeague, N Elliott (0-2), P Doherty. Subs: A Dooey for N McKeague (48 mins), M Murphy for P Doherty (53 mins)
Referee: Garrett Duffy