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O'Kane is delighted as rampant Dunloy fire a title warning

Dunloy 2-23 Ballycran 0-11

Pressure on: Dunloy’s Keelan Molloy gets away from Ballycran’s Brett Nicholson
Pressure on: Dunloy’s Keelan Molloy gets away from Ballycran’s Brett Nicholson
Ballycran’s Phelim Savage wrestles with Keelan Molloy
John Campbell

By John Campbell

It was never meant to be this easy at the penultimate stage of the Ulster Club Senior Hurling Championship yet Dunloy strolled into a provincial final meeting with Slaughtneil without any real degree of inconvenience at the Athletic Grounds yesterday.

Manager Gregory O'Kane was gracious and polite at the finish but in essence his team had done all his talking for him by the manner in which they blitzed a listless Ballycran in the second half.

"We were delighted to set the pace from the start and get a few early scores. We were able to push on from there because what we were looking for was an accomplished performance that would take us into the Ulster final and that's what we got," said O'Kane.

"But we have a big task ahead of us in the final. All we have done is win a semi-final, nothing more than that."

Certainly the efficient manner in which Dunloy went about their business yesterday augurs well for their prospects of claiming the Ulster crown.

They had too much pace and power for a Ballycran side that struggled to stay in touch in the first half and subsequently disintegrated after the dismissal of defender Gerard Hughes early in the second period.

Even at that point, Dunloy had one foot in the final. They had led by 1-11 to 0-7 at the break by which stage Conor Cunning had stamped his imprint on the contest by landing 1-4, his 11th-minute goal inflicting a mortal wound on Ballycran's psyche.

Conor Woods (0-6) and Liam Savage (0-5) combined to score Ballycran's overall total with the former landing 0-5 before the halfway stage.

But when Cavan referee James Clarke flashed a red card in the direction of Hughes after he had appeared to make contact with the face of a Dunloy player, it was over and out for the Down champions.

They were restricted to just four points in the second half, their defence fell apart at the seams and their spirit was clearly broken as Dunloy piled on the agony with Cunning and Nigel Elliott in particular pilfering scores almost at will.

By the end of the third quarter, O'Kane's side had built up an unassailable lead and were able to empty their bench.

And any notion that the Antrim champions might draw in their horns in the closing stages was quickly dispelled when the ever-accurate Cunning and predatory Nicky McKeague each added a brace of points before substitute Anton McGrath put a further coating on a majestic team display by whipping in a spectacular goal two minutes from the end.

It's onwards and upwards for Dunloy but their feet will certainly remain firmly on the ground according to manager O'Kane.

"We have played Slaughtneil in the recent past and obviously we know all about them but our task will be to concentrate on our own game and see where that takes us in the final. It would be great if we could provide a bit of a shot in the arm for Antrim hurling but we will take things one step at a time," stated O'Kane

"We have a 35-man squad and every player is as honest as the day is long. They are all eyeing starting places and that's as it should be. We had players who came off the bench on this occasion and showed what they are capable of. Competition for places is keen, that's for sure and it's certainly a good thing as far as we are concerned."

Dunloy: R Elliott; P Duffin, C McKinley, C Kinsella; E Smyth 0-1, R McGarry 0-1, K McKeague; P Shiels,0-2. K Molloy; N Elliott 0-4, N McKeague 0-3, C Brogan 0-1; E O'Neill 0-1, C Cunning 1-7 (2 '65s', 4f), K Molloy 0-3. Subs: G McTaggart for Brogan (37), S Elliott for O'Neill (42), R Molloy for K Mollloy (52), A McGrath 1-0 for Cunning (54).

Ballycran: S Keith; M Hughes, P Hughes, G Hughes; B Nicholson, P Flynn, S Ennis; S Nicholson, P Savage; M Ennis, C Woods 0-6 (4f), L Savage 0-5; S Martin, C McManus, C Egan. Subs: J Coyle for McManus (34), B Ennis for Martin (44), C McAllister for S Nicholson (46), N Breen for Egan (49).

Referee: James Clarke (Cavan).

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