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Gregory O'Kane will not dismiss the title underdogs

By Declan Bogue

Dunloy manager Gregory O'Kane balks at the suggestion that tomorrow's meeting of Cushendall and his side is the de facto Antrim hurling final.

With St Gall's and Sarsfields in the other semi, there is a sense that either Dunloy or Cushendall will add to their respective 11 Antrim senior Championships. Sarsfields have one title from 1974 and St Gall's have never featured on the showpiece day for hurling in the county.

"We prepare for any given day and we can only play one game this weekend," O'Kane responded.

"That's what our focus will be on, Cushendall, because they are clear favourites. In a way we have nothing to lose, we can go and play and see where it takes us. In sport, that's a nice place to be."

A builder by trade, O'Kane has been instrumental in the work going on at underage to form solid foundations for the Cuchulainns club.

A well-equipped complex was opened a couple of years ago and O'Kane, with the experience he garnered in the backroom teams of successive Antrim senior county squads, has acquired plenty of expertise and know-how to lead Dunloy to their first Volunteer Cup in five years.

"We have a good structured club and there are lads walking around Dunloy who continuously have hurling sticks in their hand," said the manager.

"We have good structures, there are a lot of underage coaches who are working hard and they are all ex-players with a few Championships in their back pockets.

"In that regard it definitely is the way forward. All you can do is keep churning out and producing players and hopefully they will arrive at senior. That's the icing on the cake."

As one of those former players with plenty of jangle to his own pockets, O'Kane reveals he is relishing his first year in charge.

"I really enjoy working with the players, because they are a very honest bunch, they work as hard as any Dunloy team that I played on and that is the reality."

He was in Ballycastle to catch the quarter-final when Cushendall dethroned Loughgiel and feels appetite may have been a deciding factor.

"Cushendall probably shaded it because maybe they wanted it a bit more," he recounted.

Cushendall manager Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton has said that his son Christy, two-goal hero against Loughgiel, would not be fielding, but O'Kane says Dunloy are going to play the jersey, not the name inside it.

"Whatever Cushendall man lines out, we will deal with them on the day. You trust your players.

"Once you have prepared and you are good to go on Sunday, then you trust your players. Whatever happens, happens and you deal with it on the day."

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