Cúchullain's Dunloy 1-19 Loughgiel Shamrocks 3-12
With the game deadlocked deep into stoppage time, Seaan Elliott showed great composure to float over a late free, as Dunloy recovered from an early setback to add the Minor Hurling Title to the Football Championship they won last week in a thrilling Final Replay on Sunday afternoon in Ballycastle.
Selector Eddie McCurry praised the attitude of the team after falling behind in the early stages:
"This team hasn't been defeated all year, they have a never-say-die attitude and are a great bunch of lads."
In an action-packed 60 minutes, these two teams served up a fantastic, exciting game of hurling that left the large crowd audibly purring in appreciation as Ballycastle basked in autumnal sunshine.
Cúchullain's manager Tom McLean made two changes to his starting line up from the drawn game, Eoghan McGrath coming into the starting fifteen and Patrick Kinsella into the half back line, with Rory Mullan and Ryan McFarlane the men to drop out. McLean possibly looking to curb the influence of Shamrocks captain Odhran McMullan at centre-back.
It was McMullan who had a large part to play in the goal that saw the Páirc Mhic Uilín crowd sit up and take notice, as his long range free came back off the Dunloy upright and fell kindly for John Francis Connolly. The full forward collected the sliotar and rifled it past Adam Mooney from point-blank range to see the Shamrocks make a flying start to the match.
Rían McMullan then added a second on a looping run before a Seaan Elliott free got the reigning champions off the mark, only for Michael McGarry to provide an immediate response.
Loughgiel would have been delighted with their opening period but their good work was soon undone as midfielder Anton McGrath saw his long range shot drop short, only for goalkeeper Kevin McAuley to make a mess of his catch, the sliotar slipping through his fingers and into the Shamrocks net. Riding the momentum, McGrath caught the puck out and drew a foul, allowing Seaan Elliott to fire Dunloy level from the resultant free.
The goal lifted the champions and after a lethargic start they began to go through the gears, Elliott launching over another free after Ciaran McKay was judged to have over carried, and the impressive McGrath feeding Anthony Smith to see Cúchullain's open up a two-point gap.
An Odhran McMullan free saw Loughgiel hit back, but the tide was firmly with Dunloy, as they hit 0-05 without reply in a healthy purple patch, a free from Elliott kicking things off before Patrick Kinsella, Rory Mullan, Eoghan McGrath and Oisín McErlean all etched their names onto the scoresheet to see the champions leading by six points.
The strong, low-lying sun was causing problems in the Dunloy defence and they conceded a second goal to see the deficit halved, Connolly this time turning provider, hand passing the ball out to the marauding Cathal Hargan, who finished neatly below the dive of Mooney.
Dunloy's response was immediate, another Elliott free making the gap four points before the Shamrocks raised their third green flag of the game, another long ball into the six yard box falling short, and John Francis Connolly once again reacting quickest to pull the ball home and leave the gap at the minimum.
Callum Sculliion ended a fine passing move with a point, sandwiched between two further Elliott scores as Dunloy restored the four-point lead, but Cathal Hargan slotted a neat score right on the half time whistle to ensure the half-time lead was only three.
An early free from Rían McMullan got the second half underway as Loughgiel sensed the opportunity to attack Dunloy, before Anton McGrath took control of the sliotar as it bounced around a ruck, breaking clear and firing low over the crossbar to make the lead four once again.
Seaan Elliott then swapped scores with Loughgiel's two substitutes, Cormac McFadden and Christy McGarry as the teams stood toe-to-toe with each other, before the balance appeared to be tipping the Shamrocks' direction, with red jerseys hassling and harrying their Dunloy counterparts all over the pitch.
The pressure began to tell on the scoreboard, as a Rían McMullan free and a a brace from Odhran McMullan, the first a long-range piledriver, saw Loughgiel draw level with the game entering the last ten minutes.
Man of the Match in last week's football final, Callum Scullion fired over his second of the afternoon to regain the lead, only for Shane O'Boyle to add two of his own to wrestle back the initiative and see his side lead for the first time since the opening minutes.
As was the case so often in the game, Seaan Elliott provided the immediate response and with both sets of supporters roaring their teams on, the game entered the final minute poised on a knife-edge.
Full back Aaron Crawford rampaged through the middle of the Shamrocks defence, the senior star only denied a winner by a perfectly timed hook, but the Cúchullain's were to have one last chance as a foul wide on the left hand side provided Elliott with the chance to seal the victory.
Ballycastle fell silent as Elliott stood over the ball, before carefully guiding it between the uprights, much to the relief of selector Eddie McCurry:
"I couldn't even watch to tell you the truth, my heart was going ninety!" the Dungannon man told us after the match.
McCurry revealed that the demands of facing finals in two codes had actually helped spur the Cúchullain's to victory:
"After the drawn game, we didn't get much done in preparation because we had to let the footballers get at it that week but then the next week we got them over to Kilrea under the floodlights and you could see that after they'd won the football they had a real extra spring to their step, that they really wanted it."
Dunloy will be able to reflect on a historic achievement as they take home their second Minor Hurling and Football double in only three years, with many of the squad involved in both successes.
After the celebrations die down, they will no doubt cast their minds to Ulster success in both codes, something that evaded them two years ago as they lost out to eventual winners Burren in the Ulster Minor Football Tournament at St Paul's.
Cúchullain's Dunloy: Adam Mooney, Ciaran McQuillan, Aaron Crawford, Eoin McMullan, Callum Scullion (0-02), Ryan McGarry, Patrick Kinsella (0-01), Barry Scott, Anton McGrath (1-01), Anthony Smith (0-01) (Ryan McFarlane 42), Oisín McErlean (0-01) (Conal Kelly), Pádraig McGilligan (Sean O'Neill 38), Rory Mullan (0-01), Eoghan McGrath (0-01), Seaan Elliott (0-03, 0-08f).
Loughgiel Shamrocks: Kevin McAuley, Conor Henry, Declan McCloskey, Enda Óg McGarry, Ciaran McKay, Odhran McMullan (0-01, 0-02f), Tiarnan McAlonan, Shane O'Boyle (0-02), Paul Boyle, Conor Deery (Cormac McFadden, 0-01), Cathal Hargan (1-00), Michael McGarry (0-01f), Rían McMullan (0-02, 0-02f), John Francis Connolly (2-00), Odhran McGrath (Christy McGarry, 0-01).
Referee: Kevin Parke (Naomh Éanna)