By Niall Gartland
MANY, if not most, expected Dunloy to feature in a Senior Championship final this year, but few would have anticipated it would be on the footballing front.
Their hurlers have filled plenty of column inches in recent years, and they gave Ballyhale Shamrocks their fill of it in the last All-Ireland SFC club final, but they fell to a surprise defeat to a fired up Loughgiel side in Sunday’s Antrim Senior Hurling Championship semi-final.
But lads like Conal Cunning, Nigel Elliott and Seaan Elliott won’t be sitting at home sulking this weekend, for they’re set to line out in the showpiece football occasion in Antrim this Sunday against Cargin.
And it’s fair to say these days don’t come around too often. Dunloy last reached the Antrim SFC final all the way back in 1941, and last got their hands on the cup five years previous in 1936.
It’s been some story – they won the Intermediate Football Championship in Antrim just last year, they were relegated from Division Two a few months ago, but they’ve played with spirit and endeavour en route to what seems to be an unlikely appearance in the county’s senior football final.
Around a dozen dual players make up the starting line-up, and while they may be predominately recognised as hurlers outside the county, manager Anthony McQuillan says they have pedigree when it comes to the football.
“The bulk of our dual players have as many football medals coming out of their pockets as hurling medals.
“You’ve a group of boys who won two Minor Championships, achieved success at u-14 and u-16 level and lost an u-21 final with St Brigid’s, a team we had a big rivalry with over a five or six year periods.”
McQuillan says the lads were “gutted” by their surprise defeat to Loughgiel on the hurling front last weekend as they relinquished their county and provincial crown, but they’ve picked themselves up and are ready to go again this weekend.
“The hurlers were gutted after Sunday and so were the rest of us. Everyone was gutted for them as they put in so much effort and are such great ambassadors for the club,” said McQuillan.
“We were all a bit downhearted after Sunday but we were back in training last night (Tuesday) and said we were getting back on the horse and going at it again.
“It’s a chance to make history for ourselves, it’s 87 years since we last won the football final. It really is once in a life-time, no-one in the club can remember anything about the great Dunloy team of that era.”
But they certainly will have to defy the odds if they’re to get their hands on the title. Holders Cargin have won six of the last eight titles so they’re favourites for good reason.
“Cargin are the juggernauts, they’ve been the dominant force in Antrim in the last decade and have won nearly every title. They’re the team to beat, they’re the standard bearers, but we don’t feel any pressure going into Sunday at all and we’ll give it our best shot.”