AIB Ulster Club Senior Hurling Championship final
Dunloy Cuchullains 2-12 Slaughtneil 0-16

THE long wait for an Ulster title is over for Dunloy as they finally got the measure of Slaughtneil on Sunday to deny the Derry side a provincial three-in-a-row in Armagh.

Two first-half goals from Nigel Elliott proved to be crucial for the Cuchullains as they built a lead, but had to withstand a huge fightback from Slaughtneil who got back level with 12 to play, but there was to be no denying the Antrim side this time as they responded to get the win.

 

The North Antrim men had heroes all over the field with Elliott grabbing plenty of the plaudits, but Conal Cunning put in a huge display and landed some eye-watering scores and in defence, there were some huge shifts put in to snuff out the Derry men and ensure the Four Seasons Cup was heading back to Dunloy.

Ruairi Ó Mianáin pointed the Derry side into an early lead, but this game soon settled into the anticipated pattern with little by the way of open play.

The exchanges were tough with little room afforded to either set of forwards as defences were on top.

Conal Cunning levelled from a free and while Slaughtneil hit back with Gerald Bradley landing from midway and Cormac O'Doherty from a free.

Yet the first goal would arrive on 10 minutes as Dunloy did well to move the ball to give Ronan Molloy a little space to deliver and Nigel Elliott read the flight superbly to get out and a produce deft flick past Oisin O'Doherty into the net.

This was a huge injection of confidence for the Cuchullians whose talis were up as Cunning landed free and Anton McGrath got onto Seaan Elliott's line ball to point.

Shane McGuigan ended a barren 11 minutes for the Derry men with a point on the run, but a sublime brace from Cunning was an indication that Dunloy were not here to play second fiddle.

The Antrim champions were well on top defensively and their touch, passing and movement was crisp as required.

O'Doherty hit back from a free for Slaughtneil whose shooting was a little off - six wides in the opening period told that tale - while Cunning again fired over from play after coming out around the middle.

Just before the break, the defending champions carved out a glorious opening with Brian Cassidy picked out, but Ryan Elliott made a stunning stop out for a 65 that was converted by O'Doherty - scant consolation as it really ought to have been much more.

They were made to pay with the last act of the opening half as Dunloy went long and again it was Nigel Elliott quickest to react as he gathered on the run and blasted past O'Doherty to put them into a 2-6 to 0-7 half-time lead.

A Cunning free extended the Dunloy advantage just after the break, but there was never any doubt that Slaughtneil would mount a huge challenge and they did so, driving at Dunloy in waves. 

Four points in as many minutes through Shéa Cassidy, Shane McGuigan, Cormac O'Doherty and Brian Cassidy completely flipped the momentum and while Aaron Crawford responded, points at the other end from Brendan Rogers and O'Doherty left just one in it.

Once again, 'Coby' stood up for the Antrim champions, making an excellent fetch under the stand and landing another beauty, but Slaughtneil were very much on the front foot with Jerome McGuigan gathering off a break and splitting the posts, while Gerald Bradley profited from a slip to drive between the posts and level with 12 to go.

Just as it seemed Slaughtneil had completely taken over and were in the driver's seat, Dunloy summoned a reply with substitute Deaglan Smyth cracking over from the right and this seemed to galvanise his team as Nigel Elliott then found himself free on the right to score and another substitute, Nicky McKeague squeezed a shot inside.

Slaughtneil once again began to lose their way with their shooting although Chrissy McKaigue clipped over a point to reduce the gap to two and leave it a nervy final few minutes, but Dunloy were not to be denied this time, fighting and scrapping for everything and didn't give the Derry outfit the sight of goal they needed.

The outgoing champions' would finish with 14 as Meehaul McGrath was sent off deep in stoppage time and Dunloy celebrated Ulster glory and will now look forward to an All-Ireland semi-final against Galway's St Thomas' on December 18.

DUNLOY: R Elliott; P Duffin, R McGarry, O Quinn; A Crawford (0-1), Kevin Molloy, E Smyth; C Kinsella, E McFerran; R Molloy, A McGrath (0-1), N Elliott (2-1); Keelan Molloy, C Cunning (0-7, 3f), S Elliott.
Subs: D Smyth (0-1) for S Elliott (41), N McKeague (0-1) for A McGrath (51), P Shiels for C Kinsella (54), G McTaggart for Ronan Molloy (54)

SLAUGHTNEIL: O O'Doherty; P McNeill, K McKaigue, C McAllister; J McGuigan (0-1), C McKaigue (0-1), M McGrath; Shane McGuigan (0-2), C O'Doherty (0-5, 4f, 1 65); P McCullagh, B Cassidy (0-1), R Ó Mianáin (0-1); B Rogers (0-1), G Bradley (0-3), S Cassidy (0-1)
Sub: Sé McGuigan for P McCullagh (41)

REFEREE: Peter Owens (Down)