By Michael McMullan
WEDNESDAY was another chapter in a magical week for Dunloy and Antrim goalkeeper Ryan Elliott.
After winning his fifth senior medal in the club’s four-in-a-row success, he was one of seven Antrim players named in the Joe McDonagh Team of the year.
It was the club’s 16th title since their first in 1990 when his father Shane wore the number one jersey.
With the Volunteer Cup on its way up the M2, Sunday was another iconic homecoming on back of a lorry, led by Pappy’s Band amidst a sea of green and gold flares.
“It’s unbelievable,” Elliott said of the feeling of coming into the village once again as champions. “I just don’t how to put it into words.”
He can remember the 2009 homecoming, the last before an eight-year drought until the new blood delivered the first title in the club’s second coming.
“I was 10 or 11, it was something similar,” Elliott remembers of 2009. “Daddy (joint manager with Gary O’Kane) was involved with that team, so I got to go home on the bus, it was unreal.”
Sunday night kicked off a few days of celebration. The elation and satisfaction make all the sacrifices worth it.
“It’s unreal, that’s why you play to enjoy days like this,” Elliott said. “Yesterday (Tuesday), it was just us, the players, so you got to sit back and enjoy it more.”
Now the dust has settled on their success, the Dunloy ‘keeper admits there was no talk of four-in-a-row in the build up to the game. Records are for looking back on when the boots and hurl have been hung up.
“We just wanted to be 2022 champions and weren’t looked at records or anything like that,” said Elliott, who was faced with picking the ball out of the net in the first minute.
“We didn’t expect anything else from Cushendall, they are a super team and we set out to put them on the back foot first clip, but I thought we responded very well.”
Next up is the challenge of taking home Ulster silverware for the first time since 2009, with the Sleacht Néill coming out as winners in the last three meetings on the provincial stage.
The Emmet’s play Portaferry with Dunloy set to face the winners in six weeks’ time.
“We will get back to training shortly, it’s like a pre-season,” said Elliott, pointing out the club’s footballers date with Dungloe after their recent championship success.
He isn’t one of the dual players, parking the big ball game in recent years to balance the load of playing county hurling.
Antrim won another Joe McDonagh Cup title earlier this year, with Elliott between the posts.
He was joined by Dunloy duo Keelan Molloy and Conal ‘Coby’ Cunning when the Team of the Year was announced on Wednesday morning.
Other Antrim players Gerard Walsh, Eoghan Campbell, Joe Maskey and Ciarán Clarke joined Down’s Daithí Sands on the team.
“It’s all team oriented, but when you win something individually, it us always nice too,” Elliott said of the news. “I am over the moon for all the lads.”