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Cushendall overcome St Gall's threat to claim 12th Antrim Senior Hurling title

By John Martin

Cushendall manager Sambo McNaughton admitted the game won't go down as a classic but he wasn't complaining after watching his side lift their 12th Antrim senior hurling championship title with a 10-point win over St Galls.

The Ruairi Ogs led by five points at the break, 1-6 to 1-1, with Neil McManus bagging the first goal for the winners on 14 minutes. Conor Burke raised a green flag for the city men but they could only manage four second half points as Cushendall pulled away to run out deserved winners at Ballycastle.

"It wasn't a great spectacle but at the end of the day they don't write an inscription on the cup as to how the game was. These boys are going to get a county medal and they deserve it," said McNaughton.

"They worked hard. They showed flashes of what they are capable of and maybe this will get them over the line because their confidence has been down this last couple of years."

It was a game Cushendall were expected to win having come through the tougher side of the draw, beating reigning champions Loughgiel and Dunloy en route to the final while St Galls were making their first ever appearance in the senior decider.

"We knew it wasn't going to be easy and I told the boys that they were going to be in your face from the start and that's what happened."

Underdogs St Galls needed a good start but it took them 23 minutes to get on the scoresheet. By that stage they had hit six wides and dropped a number of shots into the goalkeeper's hand, while Cushendall had 1-3 on the scoreboard. Donal McNaughton had spurned a goal opportunity for Cushendall on four minutes, but McManus made no mistake 10 minutes later when firing to the net after Piaras McCaffrey had brilliantly stopped his first effort.

St Galls got off the mark through Anto Healey and were back to within a point when Conor Burke scrambled home a goal on 26 minutes but points from Christy McNaughton, Paddy McGill and Donal McNaughton had Cushendall five to the good at the break.

CJ McGourty cut the gap to four just after the restart but five points without reply virtually sealed another title for Ruairi Óg. McGourty stopped the rot with an excellent effort from play but the impressive Conor Carson slotted over his third of the day to give Cushendall a 1-12 to 1-3 advantage on the 28 minute mark.

St Galls worked hard to create a goal opportunity and Karl Stewart's half chance was diverted round the post for a '65'.

Kieran McGourty converted but three of the last four points went the way of the Glensmen who now face Derry champions Slaughtneil in the Ulster senior club championship in two weeks' time.

Cushendall: E Gillan; R McCambridge, M Burke, A Graffin; P McNaughton (0-1), P Burke, S Delargy; N McManus (1-1), E Campbell; S McAfee, C Carson (0-3), K McKeegan (0-1); A Delargy, D McNaughton (0-2), C McNaughton (0-4, 3f)

Subs: P McGill (0-3) for A Delargy, Shane McNaughton for K McKeegan, A McNaughton for E Campbell, E Laverty for D McNaughton, Seamus McNaughton for S McAfee

St Galls: P McCaffrey; T Austin, D Sheehan, J McDaniels; N O'Neill, K McGourty (0-1 '65'), T Ó Ciaran; J McGreevy, A Healey (0-1); A Gallagher, C Burke (1-0), S McAreavey; CJ McGourty (0-2), S Morrison, K Stewart

Subs: A McCaffrey for J McGreevy, A Hannaway for D Sheehan, C O'Grady for T Ó Ciaran, J Flynn (0-1) for S McAreavey

Referee: A Kelly (St Johns)

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