Cushendall beat Ballycran 1-15 to 0-10 to earn record 11th Ulster Club SHC title

Watch highlights of Cushendall's Ulster SHC final win over Ballycran

Cushendall clinched a record 11th Ulster Club Hurling title as they earned a 1-15 to 0-10 win over a misfiring Ballycran at Armagh.

Aided by a strong first-half breeze, Dall led 1-11 to 0-6 at the break with Sean McAfee scoring their goal.

Ballycran cut Cushendall's lead to five but a series of missed frees ended the Down club's chances of a fightback.

Arron Graffin's serious knee injury meant 12 minutes of added time when Cushendall hit the final three points.

Conor Woods, among the Ballycran free-takers to fluff their lines in the second half, was sent off late on as he picked up a second yellow card for a challenge on Neil McManus.

McManus top-scored with seven points for Cushendall as he dominated the centrefield exchanges during the crucial first-half period after being given far too much space.

However, Donal McNaughton's display in Dall's half-forward line was arguably even more significant with goalscorer McAfee and Graffin, before the injury to his left knee, also impressive for the winners.

Sean McAfee scored Cushendall's first-half goal at the Athletic Grounds
Sean McAfee scored Cushendall's first-half goal after Stephen Keith saved Donal Naughton's shot

Dall edge ahead of Dunloy in Ulster stats

Cushendall's victory edges them one ahead of their Antrim rivals Dunloy, who have won 10 provincial hurling titles.

After their comprehensive semi-final win over three-in-a-row seeking Slaughtneil, Ballycran looked capable of testing a Cushendall side that played in an All-Ireland Club decider as recently as March 2016.

But Ballycran were unable to reproduce that form - highlighted by their four missed frees in the second half as Scott Nicholson [twice], Woods and Colm McManus failed with very scoreable chances just when Cushendall were starting to look vulnerable.

Cushendall only managed a solitary point from McNaughton during the opening 22 minutes of playing action in a second half delayed by almost 10 minutes by Graffin's injury.

Despite that Ballycran couldn't get closer than five in arrears before McManus' point in the second minute of injury-time got Cushendall scoring again.

Ballycran stayed in touch in the opening 20 minutes as they restricted Dall to a 0-5 to 0-3 and 0-7 to 0-5 leads.

But a McManus point was then followed by McAfee's goal, after Stephen Keith had brilliantly blocked a McNaughton shot, as Cushendall finally carved out the healthy half-time lead which their wind-advantage warranted.

Captain Paddy Burke says injured Arron Graffin inspired Cushendall triumph

Ballycran can't profit from Dall wobble

Ballycran needed to respond quickly in the second half and they duly did as Scott Nicholson and Colm McManus fired over points.

But while Cushendall were suddenly struggling to win ball, Ballycran were unable translate increasing possession into points as the missed frees increasingly drained their morale.

Woods' missed placed ball from straight in front of the posts, 35 metres out, when they trailed 1-12 to 0-9 summed up Cran's free-taking woes.

Five minutes before the end of normal time, Cushendall did have an escape as their keeper Eoin Gillan struggled to deal with a high ball before David Kearney cleared to safety.

After another missed free from Nicholson, McManus did notch Ballycran's 10th point in the 59th minute but they failed to register another score during the remaining 13 minutes of action as the hitherto quiet Eoghan Campbell's late impact included the game's final score.

Antrim defender Graffin, previously out for a lengthy period because of an injury to his right knee, appeared to suffer injury to his other knee which led to the long delay midway through the second half before he was stretchered off.

Cushendall will face the winners of the next Sunday's Galway final between St Thomas' and Liam Mellows in the All-Ireland semi-finals in February.

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