Scullion leads way as Loughgiel come through in fine style
Loughgiel Shamrocks 2-18 Ballycran St Joseph's 0-8
Loughgiel's favourites' tag was fully vindicated at Casement Park yesterday in a rain-lashed game, as they eventually ran out comfortable winners.
Once the Antrim champions clicked into gear after the restart there was only one team in it and the provincial title was heading to the Glens by the end of the third quarter.
It was a tribute to all concerned that the match was played and that the action was so entertaining in such atrocious conditions.
Hot favourites Loughgiel took the opening half to get into their stride.
Ballycran, playing with the wind at their backs, battled bravely and had a slight edge around midfield, despite the roving tactics of Man of the Match Joey Scullion.
At half-time it was just 0-8 to 0-5 for the Shamrocks.
It was a different Loughgiel team that emerged for the second half.
By the end of the third quarter the winners had stormed into a 1-13 to 0-6 lead, and they continued to dominate.
The barrage began with a rasping angled goal, two minutes after the restart, as Eddie McCloskey fired the ball from the right wing to the Down men's net.
The winners were now on song as their defence kept Ballycran to just three scores over the closing 30 minutes, with the third coming in the first minute of injury-time from a Simon Wilson free.
Manager PJ O'Mullan ran his bench in the closing quarter but the scores still flowed, with Brendan McCarry slamming the door shut with his side's second goal on 57 minutes.
Referee Eamon Hasson was quick with his yellow card as he booked five players, three from Ballycran, mostly for late pulls with the stick on an opponent, but he also allowed for the terrible conditions.
"Over the last half-dozen years it would have been unusual for us to be favourites but we handled the tag okay," said Scullion afterwards.
"We have a lot of belief in our own ability and we have a strong panel.
"A few of the lads who came in today stepped up to the plate."
"Whoever comes out of Munster will be a tough challenge for us but we will be ready for it, physically and stick-wise," he added.
SCORERS -- Loughgiel: E McCloskey 1-2 (0-1f), B McCarry 1-1, B McAuley, Declan Laverty, D McCloskey (0-3f) 0-3 each, James Campbell, J Scullion 0-2 each, M McFadden, Damian Laverty 0-1 each. Ballycran: S Nicholson 0-3 (0-2f), J Coyle, S Wilson (1 '65') 0-2 each, A Clarke 0-1.
LOUGHGIEL -- D Quinn; P Gillen, N McGarry, R McCloskey; James Campbell, M Scullion, Johnny Campbell; B McAuley, M McFadden; S Casey, Declan Laverty, E McCloskey; M McCarry, J Scullion, D McCloskey. Subs: B McFadden for J Scullion (53), Damian Laverty for D McCloskey (53), D McPeake for M McFadden (55), T McCloskey for Gillen (55), L Watson for McCarry (58).
BALLYCRAN -- S Keith; M Hughes, S Ennis, P Brennan; A Bell, M Ennis, P Hughes; C Flynn, C Woods; C Dorrian, P Flynn, S Nicholson; J Coyle, S Wilson, A Clarke. Subs: P Keith for Dorrian (h-t), C McManus for A Clarke (40), J Power for P Flynn (44), E Gilmore for J Coyle (49), N Torney for C Flynn (52).
REF -- E Hasson (Derry).