Antrim Senior Hurling Championship Semi Final 2017
Ruairi Og Cushendall V Shamrocks Loughgiel
Ground-hog day. In The more things change the more things stay the same. Cushendall and Loughgiel, the dominant forces in Antrim hurling over the past decade or so have, as expected, qualified for a semi-final meeting. Although we learned little about either team in the earlier rounds of the competition the records will show that The Dall have arrived at this point thanks to a 4-20 to 0-12 preliminary round win against Clooney Gaels and then a quarter final demolition of Cloughmills 6-26 to1-10. Loughgiel have also got to this point without ever having to get out of second gear. In their quarter final they proved much too strong for Creggan and ran out easy winners on a score of 5-20 to 0-12. It was all very predictable for pundits… up until this point.
If Loughgiel V Cushendall matches over the past ten years have taught us anything it is that all rational predictions and the form book can very often get torn to shreds. Not that much has separated the two teams this season. In league head to heads each team holds a victory over the other. In The Feis Cup it took two games to separate the sides, Loughgiel recording a solitary point victory after a replay.
There have been classics and epic battles between these two fierce rivals in the recent past. Loughgiel claimed their 20thChampionship crown last year with a battling 1-15 to 1-12 win in Páirc MacUílín. In 2015 Cushendall showed their metal coming through a two game saga by two points.
Both teams have blooded new players over the course of the season and many of these young guns are pushing hard for a starting place. The likes of Maol Connolly, James McNaughton and Declan Gillan are capable of coming in and doing a job for Loughgiel. Equally don’t be surprised if the likes of Cormac McClafferty, Fergus McCambridge or Stephen Walsh force themselves into Cushendall’s starting 15. The exuberance of youth is one thing but very few teams survive in the white hot atmosphere of Championship hurling without experienced heads and proven performers and both teams have exactly this type of player in abundance. For Cushendall Sean Delargy, Donal McNaughton, Paddy McGill, Neil McManus and Arron Graffin have been the mainstays of the team for many years. For Loughgiel Barney McAuley, Paul Gillan, Neilly McGarry and Eddie McCloskey have been there, done it and bought the t-shirt.
An impossible game to predict but what you can be sure off is that both teams will give it their all. Players will empty the tanks and give everything for their clubs and their communities. There will be blood, sweat and tears. As always both sets of supporters will back their teams to the hilt. There will be colour, atmosphere, tension and noise. If hurling is uniquely Irish then this game will provide something that is unique to The Glens Of Antrim. For the people of Loughgiel and Cushendall the world stops for a couple of hours this Sunday afternoon, all roads lead to Pearse Park in Dunloy. May the best team win.