Dunloy, Ballymena

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Cúchullain's Keep Double Dreams Alive

Eoghan McGrath ponders his next move in the Dunloy midfield.

Naomh Gall 1-08 Cúchullain's Dunloy 1-17

An early Callum Scullion goal sparked an irresistible first half performance as Cúchullain's Dunloy took home their second Antrim MFC title in three years with a commanding performance in Ahoghill on Sunday afternoon.

The young Cúchullain's made light of the blustery conditions as they produced some sparkling football to finish with 1-17, making a mockery of the 0-09 scored in total in the senior match that followed.

An early Niall Burns point for the Milltown Row men saw them make a good start to the game, with Burns and Paul McLaughlin looking dangerous in their link-up play, but Dunloy rocked Naomh Gall back on their heels with the game's opening goal.

A poor kick out from St Gall's goalkeeper Louis McCormick swirled in the wind and landed in the grateful arms of midfielder Callum Scullion, who burst into the space in front of him and hammered the ball into the roof of the net.

The Cúchullain's Dunloy team pictured before the game.

Anthony Smith followed up with their first white flag of the game, floating over a score from the left hand side, before Marc McKenna claimed a high ball at the other end of the field and slotted a score to leave the Belfast men trailing by two.

In front of a sizeable crowd at Fr McGuigan Park, the Dunloy side then took the initiative, pouring forward in numbers and points followed from Eoghan McGrath, Scullion and Daithí McGuigan, before Elliott saw a goal opportunity thwarted by the outstretched arm of St Gall's full back Ronan Gilligan who deflected it over the bar for a point.

The St Gall's side pictured before the match.

Now leading by six, there was no let up for a windswept and beleaguered Naomh Gall, as Elliott added his second of the match from a 35-yard free kick, before Eoghan McMullan saw his effort turned over the crossbar by Louis McCormick as the Cúchullain's extended their lead to eight points.

Substitute Conor Maxwell then slotted a free from an acute angle on the right to lift the siege, but only temporarily as Callum Scullion struck from distance to immediately cancel out Maxwell's effort, before a Seaan Elliott free moved the Cúchullain's nine points clear.

Both teams then tapped over simple frees right in front of the posts, Anthony Smith following a foul on himself for Dunloy and Niall Burns after a St Gall's free was moved forward for dissent. Smith then drew a further foul from Ronan Gilligan and Seaan Elliott ended the half with another neat finish to see his side ten points to the good at half time.

Conor Maxwell hit an early free in the second half for St Gall's as they looked to close the significant gap opened up by the 2016 champions, before Paul McLaughlin reduced the gap to eight points after collecting a pass from Niall Burns.

A little rattled by the strong St Gall's start, Dunloy reasserted their ascendancy minutes later, Anton McGrath wriggling away from two tackles and feeding Anthony Smith to leave the full forward with an easy finish over the bar, before corner back Oisín McErlane raced forward to split the posts and restore the ten-point lead.

Scullion then strode forward and took his tally for the day to 1-03 from play, before the midfielder was fouled in front of the posts, allowing Smith to tap over another free for Cúchullain's as they increased the gap to twelve points.

Man of the Match Callum Scullion, who finished with 1-03 from midfield.

St Gall's hit back with a point from substitute Lorcan Ó Ciaráin and a further free from the boot of Conor Maxwell before Dunloy substitute Daire Crawley fired low over the Milltown Row crossbar to leave St Gall's trailing by eleven.

Crawley then saw his afternoon ended prematurely after the linesman spotted a kick out at a St Gall's defender and referee Cathal McDermott flashed a red card in his direction.

Seaan Elliott then landed a beauty of a score wide on the right hand side to take his personal tally to 0-04 before Lorcan McIlroy netted a late consolation goal for St Gall's, latching onto a missed ball in the Dunloy defence to beat Pádraig McGilligan.

McDermott's whistle sparked the celebrations that the Dunloy men had to put on ice last weekend in Ballycastle, and the young Cúchullain's will be hoping for more of the same next weekend as they hope to claim a MFC and MHC double for the second time in three years when they face bitter rivals Loughgiel, who will be doing their level best to spoil the party.

Naomh Gall: Louis McCormick, Connla Maguire (Conor Maxwell, 0-03f) , Ronan Gilligan, Oisín Crawford, Conor Ryan, Conall Murray, Matthew McCaffrey, Lewis McGarvey, Kian Cruikshank (Lorcan Ó Ciaráin, 0-01), Oran McIlhatton, Lorcan McIlroy (1-00), Paul McLaughlin (0-01) (Conall McCabe), Odhran McDonald (Dara Delaney), Marc McKenna (0-01), Niall Burns (0-01, 0-01f).

Cúchullain’s Dunloy: Pádraig McGilligan, Oisín McErlane (0-01), Paddy Kinsella, Cathair McCloskey, Anton McGrath, Aaron Crawford, Ciaran McQuillan, Callum Scullion (1-03), Ryan McFarland, Daithí McGuigan (0-01) (Daire Crawley, 0-01), Rory Mullan (John Dixon), Eoghan McMullan (0-01) (Conal Kelly), Eoghan McGrath (0-01) (DJ McKendry), Anthony Smith (0-03, 0-02f), Seaan Elliott (0-02, 0-02f).

Referee: Cathal McDermott (Tír na nÓg Randalstown)

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