AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Junior Club Championship Final Replay:
Kickhams Creggan 1-11 Ballysaggart 1-7
Creggan Kickhams were crowned All Ireland junior hurling champions after an intensely fought replay with Ballysaggart at a blustery Cusack Park on Saturday afternoon.
Conor Small’s second half goal swayed the contest in their favour despite the gritty battling qualities displayed by Saggart. The young forward emerged as their star performer as he bagged 1-3 from play. Conor McCann also came to the fore in the closing stages.
Although the scoring rate was slower than last Saturday, this tie was played at a frantic pace throughout. A high level of work rate was evident all over the field. Both sides finished with fourteen players after Kieran Bennett and Martin Johnston received their marching orders from referee John Keenan.
Ballysaggart played with the aid of the strong breeze in the first half and clung to a two point lead (1-5 to 0-6). Shane Bennett and Oran McCann (free) exchanged the opening blows. After seven minutes, Stephen Bennett’s free from 45 metres out dribbled along the floor and past Brendan Prenter. Lively corner forward Conor Small maintained Creggan’s interest with three points from play. Ballysaggart kept their noses in front through two Bennett frees and one apiece from Darren Meagher and substitute Colin Kearney.
Saggart began the second half in solid fashion when Kieran Bennett extended their advantage with a rousing score on 36 minutes. Conor Small levelled two minutes later however when he turned swiftly to smash into the corner beyond Matty Meagher. Oran McCann followed with a free to send the Antrim side in front for the first time.
Ballysaggart received a body blow when star midfielder Kieran Bennett was dismissed on a second yellow after a foul on Ruairi McCann midway through the half. Conor McCann nailed the resultant free (1-8 to 1-6). Roared on by their vocal following, Saggart fought determinedly against the elements. Shane Bennett earned and converted a free to reduce the deficit to a single point on 48 minutes.
The physically robust Ulster champions finished with three on the trot to take away the silverware. Martin Johnston lashed over from inside his own half and Conor McCann added two, including a sensational wind assisted effort from midfield. They managed to absorb the loss of wing back Martin Johnston who also saw a second yellow for an off the ball altercation.
Ballysaggart desperately searched for the scores to drag them back into the frame. Creggan protected their goal however and the green and gold celebrated success at the sound of the full time whistle.
Scorers for Creggan Kickhams: C Small 1-3, C McCann 0-4 (2fs), O McCann 0-3 (3fs), M Johnston 0-1.
Scorers for Ballysaggart: Stephen Bennett 1-2 (1-2fs), Shane Bennett 0-2 (1f), C Kearney, D Meagher, K Bennett 0-1 each.
Creggan Kickhams: B Prenter; B Maguire, A Maguire, D Carey; F McAuley, T McCann, M Johnston; R McCann, A McKeown; K Rice, O McCann, J Carey; C Small, S Maguire, C McCann. Subs: M Nelson for S Maguire (47), D McCann for McAuley (53).
Ballysaggart: M Meagher; B Ryan, K Fennessy, D Devine; B Murphy, E O’Brien, C O’Gorman; C Murphy, K Bennett; K Cashell, D Meagher, Shane Bennett; Stephen Bennett, R Walsh, T Bennett. Subs: C Kearney for Walsh (16), S Hale for T Bennett (H-T).
Referee: J Keenan (Wicklow)