By Michael McMullan
SLEACHT Néill will bounce back and be back challenging for Ulster titles insisted manager Michael McShane after Sunday’s Ulster final defeat to Dunloy.
It was the Derry champions’ first defeat inside the province of Ulster since going to down to Cushendall in an extra-time showdown in 2015.
“The first thing I will say is I tip my hat to Dunloy, I congratulate them on their win,” McShane said in the wake of Sunday’s defeat.
“I wish them all the best in the All-Ireland semi-final. We’ve broke their hearts quite a few times and, to be fair to them, they shown a lot of resilience to keep coming back.”
There was deep devastation etched across McShane’s face as he addressed the press pack and insisted that the pain of defeat was very real.
After winning four successive Antrim titles, the Ballycastle native was fully aware of the challenge facing his side in Sunday’s showdown.
“They (Dunloy) were thundering into every tackle they were savagely hungry. They just looked like a team that had been hurt so many times and they were playing with that hurt.
“We were probably playing under par,” said the Emmet’s boss, who was unable to put his finger on the reasons. It was something to be studied in more detail this week.
“That happens sometimes that’s sport. Just some days lads don’t turn up and play to the levels they are at. And big games like this, provincial finals…if you don’t play at your top level, you get beat.”
McShane was full of praise for how his side attacked the game after the break, putting them in a great position to dig out a victory that was unlikely for large swathes of the first half.
“We didn’t kick on,” he lamented. “We missed a number of chances, fumbled balls in the forward line and the middle of the field when we got turned over, which allowed them to go up the field and get scores.
“I’ve just said to the players in the changing room there, not for one second will I be criticising any of them. They have done so much service to Sleacht Néill, to Derry hurling, to Ulster hurling over the last number of years, we have competed at the top level.
“And I’ll say now, and absolutely guarantee you, that this Sleacht Néill team will be back here in another Ulster final in the not-too-distant future. And it’ll be us coming with the hurt next time.”