Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Scullion targets history following agonising defeat

Team game: Joey Scullion rued missed chances in the semi-final loss

Loughgiel Shamrocks might spend the next month or so replaying their All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mount Leinster Rangers of Carlow in their heads.

But given the group they have, they will accept it as a collective responsibility.

The finale of the game unfolded broadly similar to last years' first semi-final against St Thomas' of Galway, when a late Liam Watson free was buried to earn them an ultimately unsuccessful replay.

With normal time up, Watson addressed a free from 46 yards straight in front of the posts, but hooked it wide. He then tore off in search of possession and won another free in roughly the same position, but Mark McFadden's act of rashness led to a red card and the free taken off the Antrim men.

Wing-forward Joey Scullion was refusing to apportion blame, stating: "You could look at any instance down through the game, we all missed opportunities, we all could have got an extra hook or a block here and there. I think it would be unfair to narrow it down to one incident."

He continued: "We had our opportunities to win it throughout the game, the 60-plus minutes.

"We didn't take them. Mount Leinster were just that wee bit sharper under the break, particularly around the middle third and that proved the difference for them."

While the Carlow champions cleaned the Shamrocks out in the breakdown, the mind might have wondered what if Johnny Campbell might have been fit to start instead of being replaced late in the day. His ball-winning abilities could have addressed the pattern the game took in the first half.

"Johnny is a huge player for us and has been for the last 10-plus years," Scullion said.

"It was a huge disappointment for him personally and for us. As a team, we always pride ourselves on the squad we have and it gave somebody an opportunity. Today it was Barney McAuley and he was one of our stars in defence.

"It certainly didn't weaken us but it's disappointing."

All-Ireland Intermediate champions the same year Loughgiel won the senior title, Scullion was adamant they did not underestimate their opponents.

"Through the years we have been the same – we have been cast as underdogs and just because you are from one of the so-called lesser counties you are not given a shot.

"But we gave Mount Leinster huge, huge respect and I hope they go on to win it. They deserve it for the way they apply themselves to their game, their attitude, their hunger for the ball."

Loughgiel will take some time out before domestic competition resumes in a couple of months. Their clearly distraught manager, PJ O'Mullan, said afterwards that: "This team, the fellas on the management team have been on the go for the last four years, we have an All-Ireland, four Antrim Championships, four Ulsters.

"Can we go any further? We will have to see. The club will go from strength to strength whether it's under myself or somebody else."

What might tempt him as he makes his decision, is that no team in Antrim have achieved five consecutive Championships. Loughgiel can make history with their own drive for five.

"That will be our goal next year," added Scullion. "God willing we will be back here and have another shot at it."

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