By Michael McMullan
THE desire to keep winning silverware drove Loughgiel minors to a second Ulster minor title on Saturday, insists Darragh Patterson.
The Shamrocks were 3-11 to 0-8 winners over a Carrickmore, Éire Óg team they held scoreless in the second half.
Patterson, a recent Mageean Cup winner with St Louis, Ballymena, was one of the players – including his twin brother Pearse – to have picked up three Antrim and two Ulster titles during the club’s four-year unbeaten run in minor championship hurling.
“Everyone has the will to come back each year and keep working,” Patterson pointing out the secret to their success.
“The management drives you on, everybody wants to win every year and it’s not as if the hunger dips.
“It’s about putting the work in now and getting a crop up to senior. You can see Dunloy have done it, they had their (minor) four in a row and are in an All-Ireland (senior) final next week. Everybody is hungry to push on to senior.”
The Dunloy production in that four-year spell churned out players like attacking trio Keelan Molloy, Seaan Elliott and Conal Cunning who have also made it through to the county senior stage.
Patterson is one of four of the Shamrocks’ team who also have tasted Mageean Cup success before Christmas, one of three titles picked up through his school career.
At underage with Loughgiel, Féile, u-16 and minor success followed up the ranks, culminating in hitting two points in Saturday’s win over Carrickmore.
It made up for missing out on the chance to compete at Ulster level for the last two seasons with Ballinascreen’s Ulster tournament not taking place due to Covid restrictions.
Manager Martin McNaughton is convinced his charges were on course for four Ulster titles that would’ve shot them ahead of Sleacht Néill (four titles), St John’s and Kevin Lynch’s (three each) to lead the roll of honour.
Loughgiel were 18-point winners over Lavey in the semi-final -thanks to 3-5 from Jack McCloskey – and were red-hot favourites going into Saturday’s decider.
It was the Carrickmore side who started sharper and led 0-6 to 0-2 before goals from McCloskey and the impressive Roan McGarry had them back on level terms at the break.
“We had tough challenges in the Antrim Championship,” Patterson said of their season. “In the final against Cushendall we were seven point down at half time.”
It was the same in the Darragh Cup final (North Antrim Minor Championship) when the Shamrock’s had a man sent off against a highly-rated Glenariffe team. Up stepped McCloskey with 3-14 of their 3-18 tally to win the game.
“We were in bigger holes than this and it was about settling at half time,” Patterson said of Saturday’s win that saw Loughgiel bag 1-9 without reply in the second half and also pass up other scoring chances.
“We know the hurling is there and that our hurling ability would always take over if we could get it into the boys inside.”
Now it’s about getting the players into the senior ranks, something Patterson and his manager both agree on.
“The four in a row in Antrim and the last Ulster, we are only seeing the benefits now,” Patterson concluded.
“Rian McMullan, Rory McCloskey, ‘Bickie’ (Christy McGarry), boys like that, are breaking on now into senior and some are in with the senior county.
“It is about developing us all into that and developing us into senior players.”