Ballycran have it all to do in final

Ballycran have it all to do in final

7 November 2018

BALLYCRAN’S hurlers are hoping that history repeats itself at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh on Sunday when they take on Cushendall in the Ulster Club Hurling Championship final.

It’s 25 years since the McKenna Park side last lifted the Four Seasons Cup. That was in Cushendall are the aristocrats of the competition and while Ballycran have lost all three final appearances since their historic win in 1993, the Ruairi Ogs have been crowned undisputed Ulster champions on no less than five occasions.

Ballycran booked their place in this year’s showdown after a sizzling display of open hurling, blasted holders and hot favourites Slaughtneil out of the competition.

Gary Savage’s boys were rated as 9/1 outsiders against the defending champions, but they left Slaughtneil in tatters with an impressive display. 

Savage was part of the team that lifted the trophy in 1993 and in addition to now managing the side, his two sons, Liam and Phelim, help control matters on the field of play.

Both boys are certainly chips off the old block and Phelim, despite still being a minor player this season, is showing his true pedigree by dominating games from the centre half back berth and midfield.

He is surrounded by a host of top class hurlers with Michael Hughes Stephen Keith, Scott and Brett Nicholson, Conor Woods, James Coyle and Colm McManus to feed off. 

Ballycran lost both their Antrim League games against Cushendall by significant margins, but championship finals are a different animal and Gary Savage will have his side in a voracious frame of mind for Sunday.   

Cushendall are expected to lift the Ulster crown for a record-breaking 11th time. They have an abundance of experienced players in Carl Carson, Sean Delargy, Neil McManus, Eoghan Campbell, Ryan McCambridge, Donal Naughton and Paddy McGill, but they know they are in for one heck of a scrap on Sunday. 

If Ballycran can come up with a plan for depriving Carson, McManus, Campbell, Naughton and McGill of the sliothar, then they are in with a shout, but that is easier said than done, given the experience in the Cushendall set-up.

One thing that is certain is that Ballycran will give it their all, but some times that is just not enough.

Meanwhile, Burren’s bid to recapture their glory days in Ulster is over for another year following their 0-13 to 0-10 defeat to Scotstown in their provincial SFC quarter-final in Newry on Sunday.

Burren trailed 0-6 to 0-3 at the break, but a stirring second half display saw them give the Monaghan kingpins a run for their money. However, it was Scotstown who had a sting in their tail and they held on for victory.

It was a similar story for Bredagh in their Ulster Club IFC quarter-final in Cootehill on Saturday where they were beaten 3-12 to 2-11 by Cavan champions Mullahoran. Jody Gormley’s charges were desperately unlucky not to progress and were pipped at the post by a goal in the last minute of added time.

Elsewhere, Downpatrick beat An Riocht 1-7 to 0-9 in the ACFL Division 1 relegation play-off at St Patrick’s Park, Newcastle.

The Hoops just about held on in difficult playing conditions as An Riocht refused to go go down without a fight.

St John’s got the better of Ballymartin in their ACFL Division 2 relegation play-off and their 1-8 to 0-6 win was just reward for a determined display. 

The only negative thing for St John’s was the news that manager Benny Corrigan stood down after the game.