By Kieran Lynch
DUNLOY Cúchulainn’s are heading into the Ulster Championship to face Dungloe, after they claimed the Antrim Intermediate title for the first time since 2007, in early October.
Anthony McQuillan’s men had suffered years of hurt, having come up short in the decider time and again, but they brushed Con Magee’s Glenravel aside with strong performances through the middle from Ryan McGarry and Eoin McFerran, with Keelan Molloy and Conal Cunning scoring the bulk of their tally in a 0-14 to 0-10 win.
“It was very important for us to get over the hump, because we had lost five of the last eight finals, before this year,” explained McQuillan.
“It’s a competition we felt as though we should have been winning five or six years ago, but we could never get over the line. We kept getting to finals and every time we go there, we came up against better sides – there wasn’t one final where we could say we should have won; we just were beaten by the better team on the day each time.
“(Prior to the final against Con Magee’s) we talked about the Moneyglass defeat in 2020, and I said to the lads ‘remember how it felt when you were beaten,’ and trying to make sure we didn’t have that same feeling again.”
McQuillan touched on the usual losing feeling experienced by Dunloy; so how good did it feel after a win?
“For me personally, it was just a feeling of absolute relief. Everybody felt the pressure coming off our shoulders, because we wanted to win the game that much.”
That final took place on October 8, so there has been a long five-week gap between then and now, but as Dunloy are a dual club – whose hurling team claimed the senior title a week later – McQuillan says that they were glad of a little extra rest, after a busy summer.
“The break worked out well for us, because we won the Intermediate Football Championship, and the following week the club won the Senior Hurling Championship,” said the Dunloy manager.
“So, the boys could go out and celebrate winning two trophies without it hanging over them that they had another game to play in a week or two weeks’ time.
“It’s incredibly hard to be a dual player really. I was looking at our squad and we have 16 dual players. For all of those players, during 10 weeks of championship, they only had one week with a break in the middle of it.”
Up next is the unknown of the Ulster Championship, as they take on Donegal champions Dungloe, and McQuillan feels the feeling out process in the early stages will be key.
“All we can do is focus on our game, and within five or 10 minutes, we’ll know what way they’re set-up and what we need to try and counteract,” he said.
As for what marks a good Ulster campaign for Dunloy, McQuillan had the perfect answer.
“A win on Saturday would be a good start.”