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Elliott on high after inspiring Dunloy joy

Family fortunes: Seaan (left) and Nigel Elliott, who scored the Dunloy goals in their county final win over Cushendall
Family fortunes: Seaan (left) and Nigel Elliott, who scored the Dunloy goals in their county final win over Cushendall
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

'WIT' is the message on the Dunloy players' wristbands, the acronym standing for 'Whatever It Takes'.

That can mean many things, including maturity and selflessness, which was the test for young Seaan Elliott last Thursday night when his manager Gregory O'Kane sat him down and told him that Eoin O'Neill, who had spent most of his summer in San Francisco, would be starting in his place in the county final.

The thinking was that when the game would open up against a typically resilient Cushendall side, Elliott's pace would exploit the gaps. And so it proved with a minute left of normal time when he didn't quite control a Gabriel McTaggart pass, but it also evaded his marker Fred McCurry.

Elliott turned like a flash and, once he had the gap with nobody between him and the goals, he flashed the ball beyond Conor McAllister.

When asked what was going through his mind, he beamed: "Don't miss! The main thing was to get it into my hand and go from there. Thankfully it broke well for me, I got it up into the hand and away. If it was another day, I could have missed."

With the adrenaline coursing through him, two minutes later his brother Nigel - who scored the timely goal just prior to half-time that put a different perspective on their briefing at the break - fed him a pass and, while he missed his catch, he managed to hold off three Cushendall defenders and batted the ball to the net one-handed.

"I don't really know what I was thinking, I just threw it up and threw the stick at it one-handed. I got a bit of luck, I think," he said, before he revealed how O'Kane broke the news to him during the week.

"Yeah, it was a brave call, but the manager made the right call by the looks of it. They sat me down on Thursday night and told me that they wanted me to come in and make an impact.

"So thankfully I came on and did what I was asked. We got over the line, that's the main thing, and we will look at Ulster now."

Last year was Elliott's first as a senior hurler, and while Dunloy were defending the Antrim title won in 2017, they were caught in a Loughgiel ambush in the semi-final.

The comparison between that day and Sunday was huge, admitted Elliott.

"I feel one hundred times better. I'm just completely over the moon," he said. "Loughgiel snuffed us out last year and we got over the line against them in the semi-final this year.

"We showed heart and determination again. There were plenty of times the game could have gone away from us and we showed resolve."

On reflection, Dunloy's third goal was crucial given what was to unfold in their own goalmouth in the closing stages.

Christy McNaughton had an effort stopped by Ryan Elliott in the Dunloy goals. A '65' was lobbed in and Paddy McGill doubled on it, only for the ball to hit the post. And when McNaughton dropped another ball in and around the danger zone, it was finished to the net by Dom Delargy, only for it to be ruled out through a square ball.

Dunloy's Ulster semi-final is now fixed for October 27 against Down champions Ballycran, a double-header that also features Armagh's Middletown against Slaughtneil.

Meanwhile, Lamh Dhearg have made it past Portglenone 2-8 to 0-9 in Monday night's second replay, to set up Sunday's football decider against Erin's Own, Cargin.

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