November 8, 2018

Ballyvarley took their first tentative steps into Saturday’s Ulster Senior Hurling League and despite losing to Randlestown’s Tir Na NOg in their opening game they gave the thumbs up to the new experience. Saturday work commitments and County fixtures meant that Ballyvarley had almost half their squad unavailable but those that did line out in the Red jersey made this a most competitive game against talented opponents and only a late flurry of a goal and three points saw the Antrim side pull clear in the closing moments.
The Reds rearranged side were under the cosh in the opening quarter and although Randlestown notched up two early points the avalanche of scores never materialised and the Reds gradually earned a foothold in the game. The full back line of Eunan McConville, Stevie Daly and Jamie Murray were simply superb throughout and they made sure that the first half outfield monopoly enjoyed by the home side never materialised on the scoreboard. A Colm O’Neill point kept the Reds in touch as Randlestown painstakingly added four more points to their tally but as the half reached its closing stages it was the visitors who were warming to the task and a great point from the lively James McDermot and a turn and strike from Patrick Macken left Ballyvarley just four points in arrears at the interval.
    Half time:  Randlestown  0-7   Ballyvarley 0-3
Ballyvarley were a much more confident side in the second half and for twenty minutes it was they who dominated possession although their inability to slot the ball between the posts eventually cost them a surprise victory. The half back line of Leigh McConville, Colm O’Neill and David Lavery stepped up their performance and with Ciaran Connolly and Niall Savage working tirelessly in midfield, they kept a steady flow of the ball into the forward line. Two great points from play by Martin O’Neill and a great long range effort from Colm O’Neill narrowed the deficit to just two points and at this stage it was the Reds who looked the likely winners. The turning point came eight minutes from time when Colin O’Neill burst through for the deciding goal chance but his pile-driving shot slammed into the side netting and the home side responded to the let off with a major score of their own.  Straight from the puck out Randlestown broke through to notch up the only goal of the game and the spell of Ballyvarley dominance was finally broken. There was no coming back from that shock goal and three further points from the Antrim side gave the score-line a more flattering look in their favour.
    Final Score:  Randlestown  1-11   Ballyvarley  0-6
Team: Cathal O’Neill; Steven Daly, Eunan McConville, Jamie Murray; Leigh McConville, Colm O’Neill(0-2), David Lavery; Ciaran Connolly, Niall Savage; Patrick Mackin(0-1), James McDermott(0-1), Colin O’Neill; James McConville, Martin O’Neill(0-2), Stuart Cartmill.  Sub: Michael McAllister