By Niall Gartland
IN normal circumstances Loughgiel vice-captain Una McNaughton would’ve sat out last weekend’s Ulster Senior Championship triumph against Liatroim
The vastly experienced Loughgiel camog tore her ACL at the start of September but decided against the usual course of surgery and corresponding lengthy lay-off, for now at least.
It was a bold enough decision but it’s meant that she’s still able to take to the pitch and she came on for the last ten minutes of their resounding victory over Down champions Liatroim on a scoreline of 0-20 to 0-3.
There is precedent for opting against surgery – Dublin defender Davy Byrne revealed in the wake of their latest All-Ireland success that he played the entire campaign with a torn ACL – and McNaughton says she was keen to go down the non-surgical route, especially at this late stage of her career.
“This was going to be my last year as I’m living in Kinawley, on the Fermanagh border with Cavan, and I’m getting married in a couple of weeks’ time.
“My ACL is holding on by a couple of fibres and I spoke to my consultant and he said I could avoid the operation.
“There’s a lot of new research and examples of people opting against surgery, though I’m now starting to think about coming back next year so I still might end up getting it.”
She continued: “I read about Davy Byrne and took a bit of inspiration from that and so far it’s worked well.
“It’s not 100 per cent but I got a run out in the Ulster final and was delighted. I’m mindful of the injury, especially with the wedding coming up, I want to be able to walk down the aisle.
“You can’t let it overwhelm you though, I’ve been back training fully the last two-and-a-half weeks and it’s such a competitive environment that you have to get on with it to have any chance of playing.”
Loughgiel retained their Ulster crown in style against Down representatives Liatroim. Down were upgraded to senior level this season after Clonduff had won their second intermediate title in Croke Park last year, but McNaughton it was still a tough game despite the 17-point margin between the teams.
“We knew Liatroim are only up from intermediate but we did play them earlier on in the year in a challenge match and expected a physical, hard game and that’s what we got.
“The scoreline probably didn’t reflect that, but I think our experience did stand to us and we were able to get the scores.
“We’re delighted to win another Ulster title, we’d been knocking on the door for six years with Sleacht Néill ruling the roost. We definitely don’t take it for granted that we’ve won another Ulster title.”
Loughgiel made it all the way to last year’s All-Ireland final where they lost by three points to defending champions Sarsfields. It was a battling performance but McNaughton says they were disappointed that they didn’t play to their potential. Now they have an All-Ireland semi-final against Leinster champions Dicksboro coming down the tracks and they’ll be keen as mustard on getting back to another final.
“We fell short in last year’s final and feel we didn’t do ourselves justice as well. We didn’t start well and got back into the game but feel we didn’t perform to our best.
“It’s always the goal to go one step further than the year before but we didn’t take it for granted that we were going to get out of Antrim or Ulster and you could see that in some of the results.
“While you always want to get back to the All-Ireland series we knew it wouldn’t be easy so we’re delighted to get another crack at it again this year.”