Dunloy, Ballymena

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Familiar Foes in Ulster Minor Hurling Final

With their fourth consecutive Antrim Minor Hurling championship safely in the Pearse Park trophy cabinet next to the corresponding Football title and indeed the Darragh Cup, it's been a hugely successful year for the young Cúchullain's side.

After a win on Sunday over Ulster Minor Shield winners Eoghan Ruadh Dungannon, the Antrim champions set up a third meeting in three seasons with current Ulster Minor champions Kevin Lynch Hurling Club in Ballinascreen this Sunday.

Cúchullain's celebrate their Antrim title.

Competing in the Antrim hurling leagues, the Derry men are no strangers to Dunloy, having dumped them out of last year's tournament en route to the title. In 2016, it was the Cúchullain's who had the upper hand at this stage, defeating Kevin Lynch's in the final.

Having seen off Bredagh in the Semi-Final, the North Derry side are hungry for more success and are well-equipped to satisfy that hunger.

In Richie Mullan they have a player who is already making waves at Senior level.

Action from the Derry SHC Semi-Final, in which Richie Mullan, Tiarnan McHugh and Sean Kelly featured.

The young Lynch's star came within a whisker of dethroning Senior champions Slaughtneil at the same venue back in September. Mullan finished that Semi-Final with a personal haul of 1-08, but his last-gasp free to level the match tailed just wide. Mullan lines out at centre-back in this talented Kevin Lynch's side.

Full-forward Tiarnan McHugh also started that Senior Semi-Final in his familiar role, and gave the experienced Seán Ó Cáiside plenty to think about, while Sean Kelly also featured in the same match.

If Mullan is the talisman for Kevin Lynch's, then Seaan Elliott certainly mirrors that role for Dunloy.

In his fourth year with the minor side, the corner forward has had to overcome a cruciate ligament injury and crowned that recovery by hitting the winning free deep into injury time in the county final replay against rivals Loughgiel.

Elliott sat out the Semi-Final against Dungannon, but is set to return to the starting line-up on Sunday.

Captain Ryan McGarry is a confident leader from centre-back and with parent club All Saints' Ballymena has added a Junior B title to the MHC to which he led his team three weeks ago.

In Anton and Eoghan McGrath the Dunloy side have two strong and skilful players, the former clinching Man of the Match in the county final, and senior star Aaron Crawford holds the fort at full back.

Man of the Match from the county final Anton McGrath.

With both teams boasting precocious talents, this may come down to getting the match-ups correct. Dunloy will have to be wary of who they push up onto Richie Mullan at centre-forward. Whoever plays there is likely to take up a more defensive role to stem the influence of the Kevin Lynch's man.

The prospect of Tiarnan McHugh going head to head with Aaron Crawford is an intriguing one, as both players featured on their respective senior teams this season, while the North Derry side will need to give careful thought as to who will pick up the dangerous Seaan Elliott.

In midfield, Eoghan Cassidy will have a fascinating battle with Anton McGrath, with both players are capable of putting in match-winning performances at centre-field.

The sight of green and gold tangling with black and white is one that stirs the blood in followers of Ulster hurling, conjuring up memories of past Senior clashes between Cúchullain's and Kevin Lynch's, and Sunday's game should be a further chapter in an illustrious rivalry.

Two talented sides, brimming with determination and accustomed to success should serve up a thriller in Ballinascreen on Sunday afternoon.

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