By Niall Gartland
FIVE years later, Hugh Dobbin is still in charge of Ulster Intermediate contenders Clooney Gaels.
The Loughgiel man initially intended on giving them a dig out for a month or so before shooting on, but he loved the Ahoghill-based club that much that he stuck around, and he’s still around five years later.
Dobbin, who is uncle of Antrim camogie star Caitrin Dobbin, led the side to a titanic victory over Cushendun in the Antrim Intermediate final a month ago. It ebbed and flowed but they finished strongly, propelled by an inspirational performance from former Antrim hurler James O’Connell, who finished with 13 points out of their overall tally of 1-19 in an exhibition of score-taking.
They reached a bye to the Saturday’s semi-final with Down representatives Liatroim this Saturday.
While they’ve done exceedingly well, they’re not quite at the same level of the Dunloys and Loughgiels and what have you, and their manager Dobbin admits it took some time to adjust – particularly as practically the entire team are dual players.
“I found it hard to adapt at the beginning as a Loughgiel man and I was also one of the founders of the St Brigid’s team at Cloughmills.
“I came from an entirely hurling background so it took a couple of years to find my way at Ahoghill but I got there.
“Hurling and football are strong in the club. The footballers play in Division One (St Mary’s, Ahoghill), some would say it’s the priority but I would disagree – our group of lads give as much to the hurling as they do to the football.”
Their semi-final opponents Liatroim already have a provincial game under their belts, playing some great stuff en route to a 3-22 to 3-15 victory over Castleblayney. But Clooney Gaels haven’t had an excessively long wait to this match so they won’t be coming in cold.
“It’ll be about a month’s wait for us which isn’t too bad in fairness. Liatroim have had a tough game in between times, so that might benefit them slightly more, but we’re really looking forward to it.
“It’s a big occasion for the club, it’s always massive for any team involved in Ulster, but especially so for a small club like Ahoghill.”
Dobbin also wished to highlight the contribution of his backroom team, including fellow Loughgiel man Shay O’Hagan, Ahoghill native Ryan Doherty and team physio Chantelle Loughran.