Cushendall victory over Loughgiel has proved our quality, says Shane McNaughton
Cushendall hurler Shane McNaughton believes that Sunday's dramatic win over Loughgiel in the Antrim Championship semi-final has put to bed any arguments that their win over the 2012 All-Ireland champions last season was a one-off.
The attacker said: "At the start of the year, even all the newspapers in north Antrim would have said that. There was one newspaper in particular that said 'Shamrocks on course for the perfect season'."
Loughgiel had produced a perfect 15 wins from 15 league games. McNaughton added: "We are very much a Championship team. Throughout the league we never really built up any consistency. We knew when it came to the Championship it would be different.
"There were a lot of players who came back, the likes of Aaron Graffin, Neil McManus and myself were hardly playing throughout the year."
Man-marking specialist Graffin was out with a dislocated kneecap and had an operation, McManus was ruled out through a back injury and McNaughton himself is getting up to speed after major hip surgery. He quipped: "We are 27-year-olds in 47-year-old bodies!"
This Sunday, Cushendall meet Ballycastle McQuillan's in the showpiece day of Antrim hurling.
The last time such a pairing occurred was the 1996 decider.
This will be their fourth game on the trot at the Dunloy final venue, having got past a sticky St John's team in the quarter-final before the two games against Loughgiel - wrongly reported in Monday's edition as a Loughgiel win due to a production error.
"We are happy enough with the way things are currently going. It's close enough to home but Ballycastle are always playing there too. It will be no big deal about the pitch," insisted McNaughton.
"They might have been waiting about and we are battled-hardened and that might stand to us, we probably have a few wee knocks and things like that, but that only hardens you for Championship hurling."