Shamrocks seize day of destiny
Loughgiel net second title as glorious chapter is written
Loughgiel 4-13 Coolderry 0-17
At the start of October, both Loughgiel Shamrocks and Coolderry were concerned mainly with retaining their domestic hurling titles.
However, after a remarkable month when clubs like Ballyhale Shamrocks, Thurles Sarsfields, Newtownshandrum and Portumna all failed to secure their domestic crowns, suddenly all across Ireland, clubs were realising that an All-Ireland title was there for the taking.
After all, there was only one previous winner still in the running — and that was Loughgiel Shamrocks of Antrim, who were still relative outsiders at 33/1 with most betting firms.
Whether it was the weight of history that pushed them over the line or simply an excellent performance from a very talented group of hurlers, this Loughgiel Shamrocks team can now hold their heads up just as high as their fellow clubmen from 1983, who also tasted glory at the expense of Offaly opposition.
Club, county and indeed the whole of Ulster will have felt the benefit of Loughgiel’s success, but boss PJ O’Mullan concluded by suggesting that good news stories in Ulster hurling could be a lot more common if a little more support came from Croke Park.
“I was looking out there and we got so much support from other areas, not just from Antrim but from all over Ulster,” said O’Mullan.
“It’s a great fillip for Antrim and for Ulster hurling but hurling in Antrim and Ulster is like anything else, it needs more money pumped into it and it needs more help from down here.
“Maybe if we got the help Dublin are getting, we could hurl the way Dublin are right now.
“Unfortunately that’s not the case — we just work away at it, we’ve small pockets, but there are hurlers in Antrim that can compete with anybody and we need to put every shoulder to the wheel and try and get up into that top five or six that everyone knows is out there.”
History will record that goals win games and in Liam Watson, Loughgiel had a man who could create goals out of nothing.
His first may have involved little more than being in the right place at the right time after the hard work was done by Shay Casey out on the left wing, but Watson’s second was an impeccably struck 21m free that any hurler past or present would be proud of.
His third showed a subtlety of touch and execution that showed his incredible talent and ran contrary to the wild man image so perpetuated by the media.
All through this game however, there were little moments that illustrated why Loughgiel as a team deserved their place at Croke Park on hurling’s greatest stage.
Watson’s goals certainly caught the eye, but some wonderful points from Brendan McCarry from very tight angles, an incredible hook from Neil McGarry on Eoin Ryan in the second half and Brendan McAuley’s immaculate score from out on the left came at vital times for the Ulster champs.
Loughgiel’s defensive effort throughout this game was incredible and while Damien Murray still ended the game with eight frees, that said more about the Offaly man’s accuracy from every opportunity than it did about Loughgiel’s discipline.
Transgressions from Loughgiel defenders usually involved mistiming or misdirecting tackles, rarely if ever did they cross the line in a game that was played in an incredible spirit throughout.
There were nervous moments too — Coolderry’s four point burst at the start of the second half sent Loughgiel hearts fluttering, while three wides for the men in red at the start of the second half scarcely did anything to settle the nerves.
However, as the game progressed, it became clear that the Shamrocks were not to be denied. Corner backs Paul Gillan and Ronan McCloskey grew into the game to the point that they were at least as effective as their more celebrated defensive allies, while up front the hard work rate of the forwards yielded crucial frees Watson converted with all the aplomb that one would expect.
It was his day. Loughgiel’s day. A glorious, wonderful day.
Coolderry: Stephen Corcoran; Brian Kelly, Trevor Corcoran, Alan Corcoran, Kevin Brady (0-1), Joe Brady, Brendan O’Meara; Kevin Teehan, David King; Brian Carroll (0-3), Barry Teehan, Martin Corcoran; Eoin Ryan (0-2), Cathal Parlon (0-2), Damien Murray (0-8, frees). Subs: Kevin Connolly (0-1) for Trevor Corcoran, Mark Bergin for 8, Barry Larkin for Brian Kelly
Loughgiel Shamrocks: Damien (DD) Quinn; Paul Gillan, Neil McGarry, Ronan McCloskey; James Campbell, Martin Scullion, Johnny Campbell; Barney McAuley (0-1), Mark McFadden; Liam Watson (3-7, 1-3 frees), Declan Laverty, Eddie McCloskey (0-1); Brendan McCarry (0-3), Joey Scullion (0-1), Shay Casey (1-0). Subs: Seamus Dobbin for Mark McFadden, Tony McCloskey for Seamus Dobbin, Dan McCloskey for Shay Casey.
Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway).