Cushendall take Ulster title back to Antrim
McManus inflicts serious damage on Ballycran in decider
Neil McManus found his range for Cushendall.
Cushendall 1-15 Ballycran 0-10
Experience, craft and the finishing skills of Antrim veteran Neil McManus ultimately proved the crucial ingredients as Cushendall collected another Ulster senior hurling club championship title at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh on Sunday.
The winners appeared to be on the way to a resounding victory when they led by 1-11 to 0-6 at the break but Ballycran produced a robust effort in the third quarter before Cushendall pulled clear again.
Even though they lost key defender Aaron Graffin with what looked like a serious leg injury, Cushendall kept their shape and deserved their provincial triumph.
Skipper Paddy Burke was quick to hail the team’s success. “We put a lot of effort into our preparations and it was great to come out on top,” said Burke.
McManus had already stamped his imprint on the game by half-time while a Sean McAfee goal cemented their authority. But it was a different story after the break. Slowly but surely Ballycran chipped away at Cushendall’s lead with Colum McManus posing a big threat at full-forward.
However, after losing the influential Graffin, Cushendall suddenly discovered renewed vigour and energy. McManus inflicted serious damage on the Down champions in the closing stages when he landed three quick-fire points that fired his side into the ascendency again.
Cushendall: E Gillan; D Kearney, M Burke, P Burke (0-1); S Delargy (0-1), A Graffin, S Walsh; E Campbell (0-1), N McManus (0-9, 0-8 frees) ; S McAfee (1-0), F McCambridge (0-1), R McCambridge; A Delargy, D McNaughton (0-2), P McGill. Subs: E McKillop for F McCambridge (41 mins), F McCurry for Graffin (51), C McClafferty for McGill (53), N McCormick for McNaughton (68).
Ballycran: S Keith; M Hughes, P Hughes, S Ennis; M Taylor, P Flynn, B Nicholson; S Nicholson (0-2), P Savage; C McAllister, C Woods (0-3, 0-2 frees), L Savage; N Breen (0-1), C McManus (0-3, 0-2 frees), J Coyle (0-1). Subs: A Bell for Ennis (26 mins), C Egan for Breen, G Hughes for McAllister (both h/t), P Miskimmons for Coyle (65).
Referee: James Connors (Donegal).