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McGarry ready for 'new-look' game

By John Campbell

Neil McGarry spent six years in the Antrim senior hurling side the highlight of which was serving as captain when the Ulster championship title was collected in 2009.

And a string of county and provincial honours with his club Loughgiel testify to a success-laden career to date.

Yet the 29-year-old defender confesses in the build-up to Sunday's Ulster club championship final against Derry title-holders Slaughtneil that his team are now bracing themselves for the test of playing 'new-look' hurling.

He may have stockpiled a wealth of experience, but McGarry views Clare's emergence as the dominant force within the sport as a fresh challenge.

"It's not just a challenge for every county but for every club," said McGarry. "We felt that we left something on the field in our All-Ireland semi-final against St Thomas's earlier this year and we are now looking forward to getting the chance to rectify this.

"We have been taking each match as it comes. We were happy to get over Ballygalget in the Ulster semi-final and now we're facing a Slaughtneil side that has impressed lately.

"I was in the Antrim side for six years but have not played for the county for the past couple of years but in that period hurling has been transformed.

"I'm an old man now in hurling terms but Clare have thrown down the challenge to all of us to take a leaf from their book."

McGarry makes no secret of his admiration for Clare's fast, purposeful style that has won the county a host of admirers lately and he is anxious to see Loughgiel apply some of their principles to their game plan.

"Clare set the bar this year. What they done and what they achieved was absolutely brilliant. I suppose they have taken the model of a running style and brought it to a whole new level. The rest of the county teams and the club sides have to look to them now if they hope to progress, it's as simple as that," said McGarry.

He will again help to anchor the Loughgiel defence on Sunday against a Slaughtneil attack that includes some excellent finishers including Oisin O'Doherty and Brendan Rodgers.

Victory would project Loughgiel onto the All-Ireland stage once again and offer the side the opportunity to complete what defender McGarry refers to as "unfinished business".

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