Antrim Feile hurling final
O’Donovan Rossa 0-11
Loughgiel Shamrocks 0-8
WITH five minutes to go on Saturday afternoon, Loughgiel scored their eighth point of the match to open a two point lead and their hopes of winning back to back All County Feile titles was growing stronger.
Rossa showed their class in the closing stages though and finished the match superbly. Five unanswered points in as many minutes from the Shaws Road side ensured it was they who were celebrating at the final whistle as they claimed their first All-County crown since 2013.
A trip to Tipperary awaits the Premier Club now for the All-Ireland Feile, but they were made to fight every step of the way on Saturday in a match of high quality hurling.
The sides were tied on five occasions with the lead changing hands four times, Loughgiel were throwing everything they could at the city champions but in the end, Rossa had a little more about them than Loughgiel with more players carrying a scoring threat throughout their team.
The Shaws Road side had six different scorers to Loughgiel’s three while their defence was outstanding but it was Rossa’s inner belief that took them over the line in the end.
When Loughgiel went two points up in the closing stages, it looked like there was only going to be one winner but Rossa found another gear and finished the match in style with a run of five unanswered points.
The West Belfast men started with positional changes galore to what was selected on their team sheet, only Liam Grooves in goals playing in the position that matched the number on his back.
It meant little to the Shamrocks though as like their last outing against Dunloy, they settled quickly into the game and opened the scoring with a Rian McMullan free.
Charlie Cooley returned the favour soon after to restore parity to the score line but back to back points from Conor O’Mullan and McMullan (free) eased any nerves that may have been lingering in the Shamrocks’ camp.
Rossa replied with a brace of points from Liam Carr and Ruairi Murray, the latter with a fine effort after escaping the clutches of two Loughgiel defenders before a classy score from Cooley gave Rossa the lead for the first time in the match after nine minutes.
Little separated the sides throughout the first half as one team scored at one end the other instantly replied. A hurling tug of war was being played before our eyes between two extremely talented teams and at the short whistle there was nothing to split them with the scores tied at 0-5 apiece.
It was more of the same high class hurling in the second half with neither side really gaining an upper hand.
McMullan’s fourth and fifth points of the match were replied to by Cooley for Rossa and when McMullan scored his fifth free, sixth point in total after nine minutes of the second half, a two point lead was opened and Loughgiel were in the ascendancy.
Rossa had other ideas though. Owen May started to weave his magic in the full forward line while Daire Murphy and Charlie Cooley were keeping the pressure on the Shamrocks’ defence.
Two scores in as many minutes from Cooley and substitute Michael McDade restored parity to the score line one more time before May gave them the lead.
Two injury time frees from Cooley, taking his tally to six for the match added more gloss to the score line for the Shaw’s Road side as they ran out deserving winners at the full time whistle.
“We are absolutely delighted with how all of the lads played,” said manager Paddy Trainor who was assisted by mentors, Adrian and Brendan Murray.
“There will be up to 10 of them available again next year so this was a great win for them.
“We didn’t think we were favourites going into it, but the lads really performed well and finished strong to win it so we are all delighted.
Next for Rossa is the All-Ireland Feile that will be held in Tipperary from June 17-19 and the Antrim champions will be hosted by the Kildangan club in Puckane.
“It is very important for the lads because going to Tipperary they will build friendships and connections for life,” added Trainor ahead of the Premier Club’s trip to the Premier County.
“In 20 years time, the host families will still be sending each other Christmas cards and what you find it people stay in contact, so it is great in that way and we are all really looking forward to it.
“It was also brilliant to get a trophy in our club’s centenary year and to have something to show for it already.”