Ulster Club Hurling semi-final: Loughgiel 1-25 Middletown 0-12
The All-Ireland champions Loughgiel safely navigated past Middletown at Casement Park to take their place in another Ulster senior club hurling championship final.
Middletown battled throughout but found the Antrim side a step up in class in their first outing at the senior grade.
The Armagh champions held their own in the opening minutes however, and led by 0-2 to 0-1 with two frees from Ryan Gaffney either side of a Shay Casey point.
A Liam Watson free levelled matters and began a run of five unanswered scores with Benny McCarry in great form for the reigning champions.
A brace from the corner forward helped Loughgiel to a 0-6 to 0-2 lead by the 16th minute before Martin Maguire pegged one back for Middletown to make it a double scores game.
Middletown looked far from overawed and still trailed by three, 0-8 to 0-5, on 22 minutes when Gaffney converted his fourth free of the day but four unanswered scores from Loughgiel ensured a seven-point cushion, 0-12 to 0-5, for the Antrim side going into the break.
Middletown cut the gap just after the restart through Kiernan McKernan but within seconds Eddie McCloskey had the sliotar in the Middletown net after latching on to a ball in from sub Joey Scullion. McCloskey, who finished the game on 1-6, kicked past Padraig Moan for a 1-12 to 0-7 lead.
Loughgiel cantered over the line with Declan Laverty and Mark McFadden also getting their names on the scoresheet but will face a tougher examination from Portaferry in the decider in two weeks’ time.
“We picked off a lot of nice scores but we wouldn’t be naive enough to think that that’s good enough to win Ulster,” commented Loughgiel manager PJ O’Mullan afterwards.
“It will be a different pace the next day and we’ll have to step it up. If we get by that we’re back to where we want to be and that’s in the All-Ireland series.”
Loughgiel: DD Quinn; P Gillan, N McGarry, R McCloskey; J Campbell, M Scullion, J Campbell; M McFadden (0-2), T McCloskey; L Watson (0-8, 4f), D Laverty (0-2), E McCloskey (1-6); B McCarry (0-6), D McCloskey, S Casey (0-1). Subs: J Scullion for D McCloskey, S Dobbin for R McCloskey, B McAuley for J Campbell, O McFadden for N McGarry, D McCloskey for L Watson.
Middletown: P Moan; B Mallon, P Hughes, E Carvill (0-2); P Gaffney, N Curry, B McCann; P Lappin, K McKernan (0-3, 0-1 ‘65’); M Maguire (0-1), C McCann (0-1), C Carvill; S Gaffney, R Gaffney (0-5f), M Moan. Subs: E O’Hanlon for P Lappin, P Curry for E Carvill, F Woods for M Moan, K Hughes for C McCann.
Referee: E Hassan (Derry).