Joe Kernan: Super Loughgiel make doubting pundits eat their words
While flicking through the programme at last Saturday’s All-Ireland club football and hurling finals at Croke Park I came across an item which gave an insight into just how little relevance Loughgiel’s victory over Na Piaraigh in the hurling semi-final was accorded.
A number of GAA journalists and pundits had been asked to give their verdict on how they thought the hurling final would turn out and to a man they plumped strongly for Offaly and Leinster champions Coolderry to beat the Antrim and Ulster title-holders.
But they had obviously reckoned without the burning desire that Loughgiel would carry into the game having previously lost six county finals and then being denied by O’Loughlin Gaels in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.
This time round Loughgiel and three-goal hero Liam Watson (pictured) made no mistake and those scribes who had rushed into print with their predictions were not the only people to be left with egg all over their faces following the Ulster side’s stunning performance in the decider.
Loughgiel may have suffered their share of disappointments spanning recent seasons but they more than made up for this on Saturday.
Not only did they win but they did so with considerable style and panache against a side from a strong hurling county but which on the day had no answer to the guile, pace and power of their opponents.
While the Loughgiel players excelled, their supporters brought a fresh vibrancy to Croke Park.
There may have only been 25,000 people in the ground but it was the Loughgiel contingent who shouted loudest and longest on what was the most memorable day in the club’s history since 1983 when they last won the All-Ireland club crown.
The fans did the club proud, showing their commitment and passion in such a manner that it even drew praise from the opposition.
It’s not all that often that Ulster teams succeed in high-pressure games at Croke Park but this was one occasion on which the hurling standard bearers did the province — and their county — proud.
Now the hope is that Crossmaglen Rangers can make it an Ulster double when they meet Garrycastle in the football final replay on Saturday week in Cavan.