New generation matches heroes of ‘83
In an era when the role of the GAA intercounty manager is under the spotlight, Loughgiel manager PJ O’Mullan junior embodies the traditional spirit of the association, serving his club because of family tradition, community spirit and love of the game.
PJ O’Mullan senior was part of the Loughgiel side of 1983 that broke new ground for Ulster hurling when they overcame St Rynaghs of Offaly to win the Tommy Moore Cup for the first time and, 29 years later, his son once again paid tribute to those pioneers.
“We’re a massively proud, traditional hurling club, we love our hurling and this adds a new piece of history to our club,” he added.
“We’ve a new generation of hurlers here who were fit to come here and emulate the heroes of 1983 and so move us on to a new chapter for Loughgiel.”
The young manager was a picture of serenity and composure amidst the madness of Croke Park and it surprised no-one to hear that a lot of what happened on the field of play was exactly as O’Mullan anticipated.
He said: “We had done our homework and looked at Coolderry, we felt that if we could get the ball into Liam, Benny and Shay in the front line that we could get goals and as it turned out that’s exactly what happened.
“In the first ten minutes the two teams were sussing each other out and they (Coolderry) got in a few times but any shot on goal they got, they were blocked, hooked or hassled. I don’t think they had one clear shot on goal the whole game. That defensive effort was crucial today.”
O’Mullan continued: “They had scored a goal in every match so far, they scored three the last day and they were throwing the kitchen sink at us there at the finish but they never looked like getting in. Our defence worked at least as hard as our forwards did.”
And so it came to the forwards and, of course, the role of Liam Watson in particular.
No manager likes to single out one individual after an incredible team success like that of Loughgiel on Saturday, but scoring 3-7 in an All-Ireland final left the assembled scribes little choice but to ask about the mercurial attacker.
“Everybody in Ireland knows about Liam now,” added O’Mullan. “The press gets plenty of him and you see what he’s like. He doesn’t mince his words but one thing I can tell you that might not be in the papers is that he’s the best trainer in Ireland.
“He’s up there with Shefflin, John Gardiner, Donal Óg and all the best in terms of his application. He’s possessed when he trains. He’s a hard worker, a good team man and the fact that he put everything he had into the campaign this year bore fruit today and the whole club got the benefit of it.”