Loughgiel success gives hope to Antrim hurling

Much of the talk in the media during the past week and particularly over the airwaves on Saturday was about how much Coolderry (Offaly) would defeat Loughgiel Shamrocks (Antrim) by in the All-Ireland club senior hurling final.

Much of the talk in the media during the past week and particularly over the airwaves on Saturday was about how much Coolderry (Offaly) would defeat Loughgiel Shamrocks (Antrim) by in the All-Ireland club senior hurling final.

The odds appeared to be heavily stacked against the Antrim men and I was really puzzled as to how the Offaly side was such hot favourites.

Such favouritism was probably based on Coolderry having a longer and more intense series of games leading up to the All-Ireland Final.

But many pundits appeared to have forgotten that physiologically the Antrim men would have approached last Saturday’s final in confident mood simply because they were facing a team from Offaly and that is not being disrespectful to any Offaly team or player.

Be in no doubt that had the opposition been, for example, from Kilkenny, Cork or Tipperary, the Antrim men would have approached the game more in hope than confidence.

If Coolderry was impressive in defeating Gort from Galway in their semi-final, so too were Loughgiel Shamrocks in their victory, after extra time, against Na Piarsaigh from Limerick.

Intriguing final

The presence of teams from Offaly and Antrim made for an intriguing final and it turned out to be an entertaining game.

Goals win games and so it turned out last Saturday. Liam Watson is an enigma in Antrim hurling. One day he can look like the best hurler in the country and on another he can look no better than an average junior hurler.

He opted to be the former last Saturday and gave the performance of his life scoring a remarkable 3-7. His display will go down as one of the best ever in a Senior Club Hurling Final.

The Antrim champions laid the foundation for their second All-Ireland success in the opening half and led 4-6 to 0-9 at the interval.

During the opening thirty minutes the Coolderry defence was prised open on numerous occasions as the players looked bewildered by the play of their opponents.

For ten minutes of the second half Coolderry looked as if they were going to make a real contest of the final. Unlike the first half they started well and looked assured and confident in every facet of their play.

Loughgiel needed a score to settle the side and once it arrived the Coolderry fight-back was contained. The new champions had the title secured long before the finish.

Will make step up

The big question now is what impact the Loughgiel success will have on Antrim’s inter-county hurling fortunes. It is reasonable to assume that at least six Loughgiel players are capable of making the step up to inter-county level.

Antrim’s inter-county woes have often been down to a lack of unity and commitment among its players. The intense rivalry among Antrim club sides has not helped the county over the years.

Now with an All-Ireland title secured by a club side, it is time that all the players, irrespective of which club they come from, give their full allegiance to new manager Jerry Wallis.

Antrim has given many poor performances over the past few years and their journeys down south to participate in the Leinster Championship have hugely disappointing for the most part.

One hopes that the Loughgiel success will instil new confidence in Antrim hurling.

The result was a big disappointment for Coolderry and Offaly hurling in general. I am sure Ollie Baker has plans for a number of the Coolderry players in his Offaly side, but after last Saturday he may have to revise those plans.