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McManus impressed by mettle shown by Cushendall


By Declan Bogue

Despite the drama of Ruairi Óg Cushendall's snatch-and-grab win over St John's on Sunday, Neil McManus believes the impetus is with Loughgiel Shamrocks ahead of their Antrim hurling championship semi-final showdown in a fortnight's time.

Cushendall had to summon absolutely everything they had in order to get past St John's, who were left devastated by the one-point loss, having taken the initiative with an early Barry McFall goal.

However, the second-half performance of the defending champions, which included a free buried to the net by McManus and a goal four minutes from time by Shane McNaughton, has set up a repeat of last year's quarter-final, likely to be held at Ballycastle.

"It would have been easy to have bowed out at the quarter-final stage, given the injuries suffered by Cushendall this season," explained McManus.

"At no stage have we had our full team out.

"At the minute we are missing Paddy Burke, who will not be togging out for around another two months or so as he is in a moon boot.

"I had been out, and then Aaron Graffin came in and played the last five minutes at the weekend - he had been out for four months. We both did the same thing, pulled our knee ligaments on the same day.

"Ryan McCambridge was out with concussion for two months, Conor Carson was out for a while and Shane McNaughton is only coming back."

Cushendall are now managed by John McKillop, who took over this season from Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton, who bridged a six-year gap back to their previous Volunteer Cup.

However, McNaughton had taken on the role as a joint responsibility with James McNaughton, who died suddenly last February, and was not keen on continuing the role by himself.

"He is a fanatic," said McManus of manager McKillop, who is assisted by another John McKillop and Leonard McKeegan, another veteran of the Antrim 1989 All-Ireland finalists.

"It's been a tough, tough season for John to be fair to him, but there has been a lot of character shown.

"It would have been easy to lie down and say that we have had too tough a year.

"He has had every job in the club over the last 30 years. The amount of work he has put in over the last three or four decades has been matched by very few, I would think."

Dunloy and Ballycastle are due to battle it out in the other semi-final.

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