By Shaun Casey
AGONY became ecstasy for Carrickmacross after they learned they had defeated Na Magha by the minimum of margins, despite being one behind on the scoreboard, in their Ulster Junior Hurling semi-final.
Consultation with the referee confirmed the score on display was wrong, and the Monaghan champions had booked their place in the Ulster Junior Hurling final. (At the time of print, Na Magha were appealing to Croke Park having failed in an initial request with Ulster GAA).
“No one really knew what to do,” said full-forward Luke McKenna who is now preparing for Saturday’s final with Croabh Rua. “Mum was shouting at me first; I couldn’t really hear her. I was out in the middle of the pitch with my head in my hands thinking that was it over.
“Next thing I hear Dad shouting, and you know when you hear Dad shouting that there’s something not right. He called us over and all our supporters were saying ‘yous won the game’.
“We saw the referee and the linesmen in the middle of the field, and they were counting up the scores and I just remember turning round and seeing Brian Whelan running towards us, hands in the air. We couldn’t believe it.”
During a hectic final quarter, McKenna and his teammates fought hard to remain in the game, believing they were trailing. “We were playing off the scoreboard and even up until the last free, there was two points in it.
“The idea was to drop the ball into the square and try to get a goal, the ball went over the bar, and we thought that was it. We thought we’d lost by a point and the referee was after saying it’s the last play.”
As the celebrations switched hands, the Carrickmacross men felt for their opponents. “No one knew how to react and then we felt bad for the Na Magha men, and we had to go over and console them. It was a weird feeling after them celebrating and it wasn’t right, it’s not the right way to lose a game.”
The Ulster Championship has been a rollercoaster ride for the Oriel side. They needed extra time to see off Ballela in the first round, when McKenna racked up a personal tally of 0-18. The attacking ace is the leading scorer in the Junior Championship and also rattled the net in Saturday’s semi-final victory. McKenna describes the confidence the campaign has given the team.
“We just had to build up the courage to keep going and not let anyone stand in our way. They were two hard games, we played two class teams, a few unbelievable players on both teams and everyone stepped up to the mark when they were asked to.
“You could depend on your man, you can trust your own man to win a ball whereas a couple of months ago, you mightn’t have done so. The confidence has changed now. There’s just always support there.”
Saturday’s decider against Craobh Rua is new ground for the Carrickmacross club and a challenge they are certainly up for.
“It’s something we never done before. We don’t even know how to prepare for it, but we just know to keep the mindset the same and keep everything right.”