Bathshack Antrim Senior Hurling Championship, quarter-final
Loughgiel Shamrocks 3-27 O'Donovan Rossa 0-20
A GLIMPSE at the final score of Sunday's second Antrim Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final at Dunsilly may suggest it was a one-sided evening for Loughgiel against Rossa, but it was only in the final quarter when the Shamrocks pulled well clear to march into the semi-finals.
Until that point, it had been a rip-roaring affair, played at a breakneck tempo and to a very high quality.
Aodhán O'Brien put in one of those displays that didn't warrant a place on the losing side - landing 11 points to top-score - but Loughgiel just had more big showings in a very impressive all-round performance.
Eddie McCloskey rolled back the years with half a dozen points, Paul Boyle had a stormer with 2-4, Shan McGrath excelled in attack and then around the middle with 1-4 to his name alongside the industrious Dan McCloskey, while James McNaughton - despite being hampered by an injury - put in a typically assured display with eight points, but his use of the ball was of the highest quality.
Rossa, who were shorn of key figures in Michael Armstrong and Stephen Beatty with Adrian Kenneally only fit to play the final 15, ran out of steam in the closing stages and when pushing forward to salvage the game, left gaps at the back that Loughgiel ruthlessly exposed.
"Rossa's heads went down and we tagged on a few scores and that scoreline flattered us a wee bit," said Loughgiel manager Hugh McCann after.
"I thought we dominated the game but didn't get the scores in the first half, but certainly got them in the second half when there was a wee bit of a breeze in our favour.
"We lost to St John's and Cushendall but the performances were good and we won the Reserve Championship in the middle of all that with some of these lads. That all built momentum so we are looking forward to Cushendall in two weeks."
It was a blistering start from both sides as Thomas Morgan had Rossa on the board within 17 seconds and James McNaughton responded with a trademark point on the run just seconds later.
The teams continued to slug it out, each converting their first three opportunities with Aidan Orchin and O'Brien (65) responding to Dan McCloskey and Boyle.
Eddie McCloskey then checked in with O'Brien replying before Rossa goalkeeper Philip Crean had to be alert to deny Shan McGrath who prodded towards goal from a loose ball.
Boyle converted a beauty of a sideline out on the left, and after a McGrath point, O'Brien and Gerard Walsh (free) tied the game again.
The teams continued to trade, a superb score from James Connolly in response to Enda McGarry as the sides were level for the seventh time in the opening period, tied at 0-8 on 15 minutes.
But despite the Shamrocks losing both Rory and Ronan McCloskey to early injuries, they would grab a key score to put them ahead on 17 minutes and they would maintain this lead until the finish as Dan McCloskey's shot was blocked and spun towards the Rossa goal with Crean unable to gather, the ball squirting free with Shan McGrath getting onto it on the right of goal and finding the empty net.
The brilliance of O'Brien would continue as Rossa responded and a lovely reverse pass from Dominic McEnhill put Seaghan Shannon in for a score, but Loughgiel were ticking along too with Eddie McCloskey and McNaughton to the fore, the latter landing a 65 on the stroke of half-time in response to a Thomas Morgan point to put Loughgiel 1-14 to 0-13 ahead as Rossa had now lost Connolly to injury.
Rossa made a fine start to the second period, out-scoring Loughgiel four to one through O'Brien (two), Eoin Trainor and Stephen Shannon to leave the minimum between the teams, but this was as close as they would get.
The McCloskeys - Eddie and Dan - plus Paul Boyle ensured a goal remained the gap, extended to five with a brace from McNaughton before Morgan trimmed one back for Rossa, leaving it 1-20 to 0-19 on 46 minutes.
Yet the home straight would see Loughgiel pull away, out-scoring Rossa 2-7 to 0-1 with the issue firmly resolved on 52 minutes when McNaughton fed a great ball to Paul Boyle who raced in and batted the net.
McNaughton would be the architect of Loughgiel's third goal five minutes later as quick thinking from a free saw him pick out the unmarked Maol Connolly who fed Boyle for his second goal.
Rossa were chasing goals in the closing stages, but by now they would have been consolation with Enda McGarry bursting from the back to thump over the final score to secure a semi-final meeting with Cushendall for Loughgiel, while Rossa's season comes to an end.
"We just ran out of steam in the final quarter," said Rossa manager Sean Shannon.
"Loughgiel is a very good hurling team and losing Stephen (Beatty), Micky (Armstrong) and Adrian (Kenneally) were all big losses for us coming into this game, so we were already struggling before the start.
"We went well in the first half, but just didn't get the goal we probably needed. Had we have got that then it may have changed things around for us, but our lads gave it everything.
"Fair play to Loughgiel as they did what they had to do and good luck to them."
LOUGHGIEL: C O'Connell; T Coyle, Rory McCloskey, Ronan McCloskey; E McGarry (0-2), Declan McCloskey, O McFadden; Dan McCloskey (0-2), J McNaughton (0-8, 4f, 1 65); P Boyle (2-4, 0-1 sideline), E McCloskey (0-6), D McKinley; R McMullan, S Casey, S McGrath (1-4).
Subs: R McCormack (0-1) for Ronan McCloskey (12), C Blair for Rory McCloskey (18), D Gillan for O McFadden (40), M Connolly for R McMullan (44), C McGarry for J McNaughton (60).
ROSSA: P Crean; C Boyle, C McGuinness, C Orchin; Stephen Shannon (0-1), G Walsh (0-1f), E Trainor (0-1); Seaghan Shannon (0-1), A Orchin (0-1); D Rocks, J Connolly (0-1), A O'Brien (0-11, 4f, 2 65s); T Morgan (0-3), C McGettigan, D McEnhill.
Subs: D Rogan for J Connolly (29), A Kenneally for D Rogan (44), O May for A Orchin (56)
REFEREE: Colum Cunning (Dunloy)