Minor Hurling Championship Final

Minor Hurling Championship Final

Dunloy Cuchullains 1-16 Naomh Padraig 0-8

By Brendan McTaggart

Dunloy made it three minor championship crowns in succession in Ballycastle on Sunday afternoon with an 11 point victory over Naomh Padraig.  Despite losing influential half back Paddy Graffin to a straight red card in the 19th minute, the Cuchullains never looked like losing.  In fairness, going down to 14 men seemed to help the Dunloy men, up until that point Naomh Padraig were more than a match for the Cuchullains but a virtuoso display from Ronan Molloy and a Sean O’Neill goal in the second half ensured the Cuchullains would be celebrating an unprecedented treble.

The Cuchullains came into the game without the services of their star forward Seaan Elliott who has a suspected ACL injury.  Neither side hit the ground running in the opening quarter, it was the resilience of the Naomh Padraig defence and the threat of Daniel Martin and Conor McBride in attack who were prominent in the opening exchanges.

Despite scoring the opening point of the final in the sixth minute thanks to Ronan Molloy’s first point of 10 throughout the hour, the Cuchullains were trailing after the tenth minute when Conor McHugh and James Morgan gave Naomh Padraig a deserving lead.  Molloy added his second soon after before Conor McBride gave Naomh Padraig the lead once more in the 13th minute and while a brace of scores from Molloy and Smyth gave the Cuchullains the lead once again, the final was about to change.

Paddy Graffin and Liam O’Hara were having a tough battle throughout the first half with both getting the upper-hand on different occasions.  Graffin overstepped the mark though in the 19th minute when he pulled O’Hara’s helmet off by the faceguard.  Referee Paul O’Neill was alerted to the incident by his linesman and Graffin’s final was cut short.

It should have given the Naomh Padraig men a lift.  They came into the match as underdogs and had more than held their own in the opening exchanges but instead, going down to 14 men helped to focus the young Cuchullains and they never looked behind them.  Ryan McFarlane dropped into the half back line to cover the hole left with Graffin’s sending off and the transition was seemless.  Full back Aaron Crawford was coming to terms with the physical presence of Martin on the edge of the square while Deaglan Smyth was finding more room around the midfield.

Three points from the impressively accurate Ronan Molloy, two from frees, gave the Cuchullains a four point lead before Naomh Padraig registered their first score in 14 minutes when David Kilgore split the posts.

The Cuchullains ended the half superbly though and a brace of points from Molloy, taking his tally to eight for the half before Smyth scored his second of the match to give Dunloy a six point lead at the short whistle.

Naomh Padraig will have left the field at half time wondering how they let the Cuchullains get away from them in the opening 30 minutes but the Cuchullains proved their worth in the final ten minutes of the first half scoring six points to Naomh Padraig’s one after going down to 14 men.

Naomh Padriag needed a fast start when the game restarted but instead it was the Cuchullains who fired the opening score, Smyth with his third of the match.  Ciaran McCormick-McKenna was playing as a sweeper but the Dunloy half back line and midfield were turning every ball send their way with Ryan McGarry in particular outstanding.  A trio of wides from the Cuchullains with a couple of uncharacteristic errors from placed ball by Molloy kept the Naomh Padraig challenge alive but when Sean O’Neill scored the Cuchullains goal in the 42nd minute, the writing was on the wall.  A long ball played into the corner was gathered superbly by Anton McGrath.  The Dunloy forward had been playing well throughout the match without much reward but he cut through the Naomh Padraig defence before finding O’Neill in space.  O’Neill lashed the sliotar to the back of Timothy Burns net and with 18 minutes remaining the Cuchullains had a strong grip on the minor crown.

A Darren McGowan free from inside his own half gave Naomh Padraig their opening score of the second half but a brace of scores from the Cuchullains dynamic duo of Smyth and Molloy made sure the momentum stayed with the Dunloy men.

As the game wore into the closing stages, Naomh Padraig went in search for goals and there were times when the Cuchullains defence was tested to its fullest.  Martin brought the best out of Adam Mooney, the Dunloy ‘keeper showing superb reflexes to beat away his goal bound effort but the Cuchullains remained on top all over the field.

David Kilgore and Conor McBride raised white flags for their side but scores from Callum Scullion, Molloy and substitute Rory Mullan ensured the Cuchullains would be celebrating at the full-time whistle.

A comfortable victroy in the end for the Cuchullains but credit must be given to the Naomh Padraig men and their management who despite their club being in their infancy, were competing in their second minor final in three years.  Unfortunately, on both occasions they have come up short against the Cuchullains who continue with their dominance at the age group.

Dunloy: Adam Mooney; Paddy Kinsella; Aaron Crawford; Eoin McMullan; Paddy Graffin; Ryan McGarry; Eoin McGrath; Callum Scullion; Ronan Molloy; Ryan McFarlane; Liam McCann; Deaglan Smith; Nathan Richmond; Sean O’Neill; Anton McGrath

Naomh Padraig: Timothy Burns; Emmett O’Hara; Tiarnán McGlynn; Ciarán McCormick-McKenna; Jack McKay; Darren McGowan; Patrick; Conor McHugh; Tomás Scally; Liam O’Hara; James Morgan; Callum Campbell; Conor McBride; Daniel Martin; David Kilgore


Dunloy: Ronan Molloy 0-10 (4 frees, 2 ‘65’s); Deaglan Smyth 0-4; Sean O’Neill 1-00; Callum Scullion 0-1 (1 free); Rory Mullan 0-1

Naomh Padraig: Conor McBride 0-3; David Kilgore 0-2; James Morgan 0-1; Conor McHugh 0-1; Darren McGowan 0-1 (1 free)

Referee: Paul O’Neill (Creggan)