Most people have just drawn their breath after a senior hurling championship game that had everyone enthralled from the first to last minute. And despite what was by far the best championship performance for quite some time, we were all left wondering just how we lost the game. Credit to Cushendall though, as their greater experience and ability to bag the majors saw them through by the minimum.
The game started at a frenetic pace, with the young (and not so young, Brian) holding their own. In a tough opening quarter the Naomh Eoin lads managed to hit the front thanks to a great goal from Barry McFall, operating in the full-forward role, and sublime points from Mick Bradley and Conor Johnston. A feature of our play at this stage was the intensity of the tackle, a factor which limited the chances available to the Cushendall attack.
Gerard Cunningham, Simon McCrory and McNulty were winning the battles that mattered on the Cushendall puck-outs and at this stage the full-back line of Moran, Morgan and Colm McFall held their own, well marshaled by Homer in goal. The intensity from the St John’s lads didn’t drop in the run in to the break and they went in 1-08 to 0-6 to the good.
A disastrous start to the second half saw the Ruairi Ogs fire in 2 quick goals, putting them in front. Some expected the Johnnies to wilt at this stage, but the fight we had seen in the first half returned and with Jimmy Peoples wrecking the net, Mick Bradley adding another few points and Conor Johnston unerring with a couple of frees, we got our 5 point lead back. The pressure applied by Brian McFall, Carson and Dudley meant that we got the turnover ball we needed to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Incredibly, just when thoughts were turning to a semi-final clash with Loughgiel, Cushendall hit us with another 2 sucker punches, first a goal from a 21 yard free and then another after a goal mouth scramble. Going into the final minute, the Glensmen were back in front by 2 and, despite a free from Conor and a couple of half chances that was to be the final margin between the teams. Final score: Naomh Eoin 2-15 Cushendall 4-10
On a day when we got championship performances all over the field, Ciaran Johnston, Mick Bradley, Simon McCrory and Gerard Cunningham were immense. But this was a team performance; one that we knew they had in them. And despite the nature and disappointment of the defeat this group will come back stronger next year.
Thanks to all the supporters who traveled to Dunloy on Sunday night. We know the players and management appreciated it!
Brian Holmes; Domhnall Moran, Colm McFall, Conall Morgan; Ryan McNulty, Simon McCrory, Gerard Cunningham (0-1); Jim Peoples (1-1), Ciaran Johnston; Michial Dudley, Conor Johnston (0-7, 6f), Mick Bradley (0-5); Donal Carson, Barry McFall (1-1), Brian McFall (0-1)