By Michael McMullan
AFTER six years of living in the shadows in Ulster, Loughgiel camogs are back on the All-Ireland stage this weekend.
Goals from Róisín McCormick and Caitrin Dobbin were the key scores in their 2-13 to 1-11 victory over six-in-a-row champions Sleacht Néill to land a first Ulster title since 2015.
“The relief was amazing, there were tears and it was just brilliant,” said Amy Boyle of the moment they changed their fortunes.
With “about half” of the squad set to experience the national stage for the first time this weekend, Boyle is full of praise for the Loughgiel community rowing behind them.
In both camogie and hurling, there is a loyal ban base and they’ll be on the road this weekend.
“We have had brilliant crowds so far and I am sure it will be the same this weekend in Ashbourne,” said Boyle, who was too young to feature in the club’s last All-Ireland adventure.
She is enjoying the buzz over the last few weeks as they push the reset button ahead of this weekend’s clash with Tipperary champions Drom & Inch.
“We got down to a couple of the (underage) trainings and they brought the cups down to the schools,” Boyle said.
“I think everybody will be very excited for the weekend; hopefully they are and hopefully we can get them a good result.”
The midfielder, who won an All-Ireland with Antrim last season, finds it hard to put her finger on the one aspect that has tipped the scales for Loughgiel in 2021.
There has been “good energy” in the camp, a new management team and a “we’re not getting beat again” mantra at the heart of their focus.
“Whether they were starting or not, every single girl was pushing everybody on and it is probably been the tightest it’s ever been for places,” Boyle added.
“I don’t know what the one factor was, there was new management in and it set everybody off with a lot of confidence at the start of the year.
“We focused on getting through Antrim and when we did, we had the confidence that we could eventually get over the line on Ulster.”
While winning the Antrim championship was their bread and butter, there was always the lingering thought of what would be needed to eventually go one better in Ulster if the case arose.
“A lot of people wrote us off,” Boyle stated of their chance in Antrim earlier in the campaign, referring to Loughgiel having several key players missing through the season.
If anything, it tested the depth from their intermediate and junior teams in a club where the appetite for camogie is huge.
“These girls have been coming through and this year they got a chance,” Boyle said of the newcomers.
“They all took it well. Sure, it you look at Mary McKillen, that was her first Ulster final and she didn’t feel any pressure.
“That shows the depth of the panel and we were without Roisin (McCormick) for the whole of the Antrim championship, so other girls stepped up.”