HARRY Loughran has been forced into early retirement as a result of a chronic back issue, but he still played a hugely pivotal part in some unforgettable moments for both club and county.
The 26-year-old fractured a vertebrae in his lower back when playing for the Moy in the All-Ireland Intermediate Intermediate Sevens back in 2012.
They won that tournament, but he spent most of the next four years on the sidelines. He played a full season for his club in 2016, and was called into the Tyrone panel as a result of his impressive performances, but it wasn’t long before he was blighted yet again by injury.
In those circumstances it’s remarkable that he made any sort of impact at all in the remainder of his playing days, let alone driving the Moy’s charge to All-Ireland Intermediate glory in 2018, striking a remarkable eight goals in their successful campaign.
Those who haven’t already seen the video should make their way to the Moy club’s official Facebook page, and watch the highlights reel uploaded last week to mark the news of his retirement – it leaves you in no doubt that Loughran was a player of rare quality. Sublime individual goals, awesome points – and that crucial three-pointer against An Gaeltacht in a nerve-racking comeback victory in the All-Ireland semi-final. All are included, and you wouldn’t know from watching it that he was battling with injury all the while.
While he never really got a clean run at it with Tyrone, his contribution to their run to the All-Ireland final in 2018 can’t be understated either.
He scored a crucial goal in extra-time in a Qualifier clash down in Navan against Meath, and he also showed his goal-scorer’s instinct when pouncing late on in a phenomenal victory over Donegal on the last day of the ‘Super Eights’.
Loughran made five championship appearances in total that year, but he was plagued by injury and didn’t feature again for Tyrone in the last two seasons.
He’s now decided to hang up the boots for good. Three players who featured for the Moy in their never-to-be-forgotten 2017/18 season have paid tribute.
“Having coached Harry as a child at St John’s Primary School, Moy, it was clear that he had all the qualities to succeed at the highest level. The fundamental skills, athleticism, game-sense. commitment and a severe drive to improve.
“I had heard many stories about his grandfather Harry being as hard as nails on the football field for Keady and Armagh – Harry developed a similar trait. I’m sure his grandfather would have been proud of this.
“I have had the privilege to win an All-Ireland Club Sevens and an All-Ireland Intermediate title with Harry.
“As his senior team coach I wish he could continue to play for Moy Tír na nÓg but it is not to be and I wish him ever health and happiness – it will be interesting now to see can he cut his own grass!”
“I was on the edge of retirement and to all intents and purposes finished following our first round loss to Derrylaughan in Dungannon in 2016.
“Harry had been struggling with injury, as was normal with him, but there were times in training were he was like something not from this planet. He was absolutely blistering, not only with physical pace and surprising power, but with speed of thought.
“There were a few reasons to postpone retirement but undoubtedly one of the main ones was the belief that having seen him up close, Harry had absolute star quality and was going to be the difference!”
“Harry will be a great loss for club and county. He could turn a game with a moment of brilliance and there nobody better at finding the net. He showed tremendous dedication and commitment and was a top-class team mate to play alongside.”