By Michael McMullan
YOU can hear the traffic buzzing in the background as Brian Delargy answers the phone. It’s matched by the excitement and satisfaction in his voice as he danders along.
Monday morning after winning a championship, you just want the day to last forever.
Pop in for a fry. Scan the papers. Meet up with the lads you’ve trudged through the trenches with. It’s magic.
The Ulster Club preparations will still be there in a day or two.
A championship winner as a player, Delargy watched on as Dunloy took home the bacon in his first two seasons as manager.
It was an emotive day as John McKillop’s legacy was remembered with a jersey hung in the Cushendall dressing room before the game in his memory.
Sunday night was special. A walk down Cushendall street. Speakers hooked up for the homecoming. Fireworks. It’s all worth it.
“It was first class,” Delargy said. “The amount of kids that were still there and all the boys, to be fair to them, hung around the village.
“The kids were lifting the cup and there were big cheers so there was a good atmosphere.”
The Volunteer Cup was carried down the street by Brian’s daughter Molly and Conor and Ruairi Delargy, sons of Sean Delargy, a member of the management team. Neil McManus passed up the opportunity to carry the silver down the street.
“That’s the sort of man Neil is, it’s all about the club,” Delargy said of a man he won his first championship with as a teammate in their 2005 success.
It was the same year Joe McLaughlin, who after recently turning 18 hit 0-3 in Sunday’s win, was born.
“That’s the cycle of the club,” Delargy continued. “Hopefully now we have another generation coming along, those who were down the street last night and we have put the bug into them.”
Managing a winning team is “definitely” second best but the enjoyment is still there.
“It’s just pure pride,” Delargy said. “Whenever you are a player, you are just worried about yourself and getting yourself ready.
“As a manager, you are trying to look after everybody and boys did themselves justice. It is just pride.”
Captain McManus announced his inter-county retirement and was recently named as skipper for Ireland’s upcoming Shinty international by a management that includes Terence ‘Sambo’ McNaughton.
“He is our leader, even if he wasn’t captain,” Delargy said of their decision to make McManus captain of the club.
There was also a mention for Paddy Burke who had a stellar season for club and county with many making a case of his omission from the shortlist for selection at next month’s hurling All-Stars.
“We were giving ‘Pad’ (Burke) a bit of stick during the week that he was a scoring corner-back for the county and he hadn’t be scoring much for us,” Delargy said asked about his club form.
“He scored four points and how he didn’t get man of the match, I don’t know. He is a good operator and he has taken it up another level and thank God he is maroon and white.”
After coming up short in last year’s decider, what changed this year?
Delargy offers a few reasons. The year-on-year improvement is one.
Also, their panel has been bolstered by the return of goalkeeper Conor McAllister and young players like Joe McLaughlin coming in. Less players on the injured list is another help.
“There were probably a lot of boys that didn’t perform to their top,” Delargy said of Sunday’s 1-20 to 1-19 win over Loughgiel.
“For the first time in a while, we didn’t expect the big players to get us over the line. It was the boys that were part of the panel and the boys who came in that got us over the line.”
It was tighter than he wanted and Loughgiel’s late barrage left the game in the balance.
“We probably had to win it a couple of times to try and shake them off but thank God the whistle went.”
Cushendall await the winners of Sunday’s Down final between Ballycran and Portaferry (Páirc Esler, 4pm) in the Ulster semi-final next month with Sleacht Néill having received a bye to the final in the three-year cycle.