John Martin Column – Grit earned final spot
It certainly wasn’t too far off it. They mightn’t agree with that statement in Dunloy where the performances from the mid-90s, and in particular the 1996 win against Glenmore, are rightly remembered as highlights of Antrim and Ulster hurling.
But certainly for me it was the best team performance from an Ulster side in the past decade. Liam Watson’s 0-16 haul quite rightly earned him the man of the match award, but all round the park, every Shamrock did his job.
From DD Quinn out, Loughgiel were not going to be beaten. Even during the warm-up, they looked more focussed, and from the throw-in, it was clear which side wanted it more.
I said before the game that if Eddie McCloskey scored three points, Loughgiel would win. While Watson deservedly made the headlines, he can’t do it on his own. It was always going to be the case that if the other Shamrock forwards could keep the score-board ticking over, they weren’t going to be too far away.
They had proved they can rack up scores in the Ulster championship campaign when scoring 2-18 in both the semi-final and final without major contributions from Winker – but that was against Kevin Lynch’s and Ballycran.
They also scored 1-14 against Dunloy in the Ulster League final, also without Watson, but that was against a Dunloy side that had exited the Antrim championship over two months previous, so the question remained going into Saturday’s game – could they raise enough flags against quality opposition?
The answer was an emphatic yes. At the end of the 60 minutes they had scored 18 points – incidentally that’s a total that would be enough to win all but one All-Ireland final in the last 10 years and all but four in the 41-year history of the competition.
It’s a great compliment to the Loughgiel coaching staff and all-round preparation that there wasn’t one really spectacular score in the entire 80 minutes. Watson fired over a free from about 70-odd yards but all the rest were from the scoring zone in front of the posts no mare that 50 yards out.
If you would like to read the full story, buy the current issue of Gaelic Life – published February 16 – online or in your local newsagent