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Brave Cushendall go down battling to Na Piarsaigh in All-Ireland Club Hurling final

Cushendall 2-14 Na Piarsaigh 2-25

By Declan Bogue

Ruairi Óg, Cushendall have lost a battling game to Na Piarsaigh in the All-Ireland Club hurling final at Croke Park.

The Antim hurlers lost 2-14 to 2-25 in the final.

When the Ruairi Óg, Cushendall team made their journey to Croke Park today, it was one of those luxury team buses, complete with toilet and on-board Wi-Fi, as appropriate for All-Ireland finalists.

It's a million miles away from Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton's hurling origins, when he recounted in his autobiography 'All or Nothing' how his first hurls were two broken ends routinely discarded to the sideline, secured by beating an old can over the fracture.

As he sits in a Cushendall dressing room, the 1991 All-Star is determined that he as team trainer, and his sons Shane and Christy, do not suffer the same fate he and his county team-mates did in 1989 when Tipperary routed Antrim in an All-Ireland final.

"In my experience of All-Ireland finals, before you got on the pitch, people were saying to you, 'it's great to be there, it's going to be great'," he explained.

"Sub-consciously, it was preparing you for defeat because you were thinking it was great to be there. And it is great to get there.

"(But) from a team point of view, we have to go and perform, we have to be focused to win."

In the run up to today's final against Limerick's Na Piarsaigh, Cushendall kept up their habit of choosing top-quality opposition for challenges matches, playing Dublin and Wexford in recent weeks.

"In my day you would have played games against Antrim, Derry and Down. The way it was, you were playing against boys you were playing against all year long. That was as good as you could go," admitted Terence.

"But you were only playing teams at your level because you were playing them in the leagues and Ulster club. I wanted to see what we could do against Wexford and the like, full county teams and see if we could match them."

His son Shane bridges the generations of McNaughtons. Having played alongside his father, he now has younger brother and star of the future Christy alongside him in the forward line.

Shane said: "The experience of playing with your dad, it's nice to have in your life, just to say you have done it and share those memories."

For Christy, all of this has come suddenly and without warning.

He said of his brother and father: "They are both talking from experience, talking about All-Ireland semi-finals and losing them. But I have played one and won one. But I know what it took for them to get that one win.

"It's my second year on the panel. It is a great team to come into. Playing with your brother is obviously a good thing. It's a real benefit to me because I am playing with boys that I grew up watching and admiring; Karl McKeegan and lads like that, now I am playing alongside them.

"One of the big things is to be on the bus, heading to a Championship final and sitting beside Karl and then coming back, having won it, still sitting with him."

Shane added: "It would have been grand for Antrim teams to get to an All-Ireland final and enjoy the day out. But we can't think like that and we don't think like that. If you get there that's fair enough, but you haven't won anything."

In the next room, a players' open night is in full swing and the village is getting swept up in the good vibes.

Terence laughed: "The reality is that there is nobody going around this village worrying about politics or anything like that.

"When you go down for the paper in the morning and you sit down, you can only have one conversation. No matter what you do, there is only one conversation anyone who is involved with the club can have.

"I sound like a broken record, but I don't care. My experience was that we were prepared for defeat before we left Croke Park in 1989. People said, 'It's great just to get there'. The one thing I want this group of players to say is that it's great not just to get there."

Somehow, we doubt they will.

Belfast Telegraph

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