Dunloy Cúchullains 2-12 Slaughtneil 0-16
Dunloy Cúchullains claimed their 11th Ulster hurling title with a pulsating victory over old foes Slaughtneill in Armagh.
Having lost all three previous meetings between the sides, the Antrim champions finally got the edge over the Derry men.
Dunloy brought the physicality on the day and backed up by two first-half goals they held their nerve down the stretch to hold off Slaughtneil's momentum.
Slaughtneil goalkeeper Oisín O’Doherty turned into his own net for the first while Nigel Elliott smashed home the crucial major before half time.
The victory now sees Cúchullains join fellow Glensmen Ruairí Óg Cushendall at the top of the provincial roll of honours list.
It had been seven weeks since Dunloy played their last game, in a nail-biting Antrim decider, so it was no surprise they started that bit slower out of the blocks.
Slaughtneil's mainstays Brendan Rogers, Gerald Bradley and O’Doherty all opened their account inside the opening few minutes of action.
With that bright start, it looked to be business as usual for Slaughtneil. Then came the final’s defining moment.
In searching for a foothold in the game, Dunloy wing-back Aaron Crawford pumped a high searching ball inside.
With two Dunloy men charging in, Slaughtneil’s goalkeeper Oisín O’Doherty was quick off his line and though he looked to have dealt with the situation, in his haste, he slipped and flicked the ball into his own net.
That provided Dunloy with the impetus to charge into proceedings. Full-forward Conal Cunning took note and turned in a stunning opening half with five points
With Cormac O’Doherty uncharacteristically out of sorts with his place-taking, Slaughtneil’s steady stream of scores wasn’t there.
Brian Cassidy did force Ryan Elliott into action with a stunning drive but Slaughtneil relied on Gearld Bradley for more scores.
Again, the direct approach paid off for Gregory O’Kane’s side. Eoin McFerran’s long ball was mishandled by O’Doherty and quick as a flash, Nigel Elliott made no mistake to drive through to make it 2-06 to 0-07 at half time.
That second goal would provide the cushion for Dunloy to weather Slaughtneil’s impending storm.
True to their form and resilience, the reigning Ulster champions threw everything at Dunloy. Dual star Shane McGuigan really brought the fight.
McGuigan landed one score in a four unanswered point run that cut the gap to two points. The winning of the Four Seasons cup however was in Dunloy’s ability to break those momentum shifts.
Aaron Crawford and Conal Cunning twice popped up to land sublime scores but such was Mickey McShane’s side’s will that Gerald Bradley would level in the 48th minute.
Dunloy did not blink: substitutes Decky Smith and Nicky McKeague pointed either side of Elliott to finally see off Slaughtneil. Meehaul McGrath saw red in the finish.
Cúchullains will face Galway champions St Thomas' in the All-Ireland semi-final in a fortnight’s time.
Dunloy Cúchullains: Ryan Elliott; Phelim Duffin, Ryan McGarry, Orán Quinn; Eamon Smyth, Kevin Molloy, Aaron Crawford (0-01); Conor Kinsella, Eoin McFerran; Nigel Elliott (1-01), Keelan Molloy, Ronan Molloy; Seaan Elliott, Conal Cunning (0-07, 0-03f ), Anton McGrath (0-01).
Subs: Decky Smith (0-01) for S Elliott (41), Nicky McKeague (0-01) for McGrath (50), Paul Shiels for Kinsella (54), Gabriel McTaggart for (64)
Slaughtneil: Oisín O'Doherty; Paul McNeill, Karl McKaigue, Conor McAllister; Ruairí Ó’Mianáin, Chrissy McKaigue (0-01),Meehaul McGrath; Shane McGuigan (0-02), Cormac O’Doherty (0-05, 0-04f, 0-01 '65); Peter McCullagh, Brendan Rogers (0-02), Gerald Bradley (0-03); Brian Cassidy (0-01), Jerome McGuigan (0-01), Shéa Cassidy (0-01).Subs: Sé McGuigan for McCullagh (41),
Referee: Peter Owens (Liatroim)