By Michael McMullan
BRIAN Delargy and his management deserve the credit for Cushendall’s progression over the last three seasons, insists Ryan McCambridge.
Victory in Sunday’s Ulster final saw the ‘Dall take home the Four Seasons Cup for the first time since 2018.
The intervening years have been dominated by Dunloy and there were “bad years” when Cushendall didn’t even make it as far as a county final.
In a season they lost their supporter and friend John McKillop, every building block laid took them closer. One game at a time was the mantra.
“That was probably our best one yet,” McCambridge said of Sunday’s victory in Newry and they hope there is another one in the tank for O’Loughlin Gaels.
Ed McQuillan, Joseph McLaughlin and Ronan McAteer annexed nine of their 0-20 tally and, for McCambridge, that sums up the different strokes the youngsters have brought to the table. It has given Cushendall a more varied hand of cards.
“Usually, we were a one route team and (it was) about getting the ball down on top of somebody,” he said.
“Now they can work the ball or leave it in.
“Brian Delargy has to take a lot of credit for that and his management team. He has been phenomenal over the last three years, he has been great for us and performances like that are for him, what he has done for us has been unbelievable.
“He has brought a different structure of play so we can play different styles against different teams.
“We can’t just be a one-trick pony and we have shown today what we can do.”
Five weeks after conquering Antrim, the Cushendall boat was letting in water against Portaferry. Neil McManus is playing the hurling of his life and kept them within reach.
It also took goalkeeper Conor McAllister’s foot to deny Portaferry from a late goal chance that would’ve sealed the deal and seconds later McManus drilled the ball to the net to force extra-time.
Their five weeks of graft was apparent as Cushendall cruised to victory. They had the legs when it mattered. It was the same against the running and physical power of Sleacht Néill who were playing a first competitive game in 77 days.
“We always kept calm and collected,” said McCambridge, who helped set the tempo.
“Even after shipping 1-4 without reply, Cushendall found a gear. It was the same late on.
“When they got it back to three and the referee said there was eight minutes left, I was nearly ready to keel over at that stage but we had to find it in the legs and thankfully we did,” he added.
McCambridge accepts Sunday as a good performance, adding that it came after a “shaky enough” individual showing against Portaferry. His focus was simple.
Hold the sliotar tight against the Emmet’s tackling and drive on.
“You get days when you get on plenty of ball and do good things and there are days you get on nothing and thankfully I got to do a bit with the ball,” he said.