Tough few days…

Saffron Gael corrospondent Brendan McTaggart is an avid Dunloy follower and it has been a bad few days for the scribe, now resident in deepest Derry. In such cases there is nothing more therapeutic than writing it all down…….. so he did!

By Brendan McTaggart

It’s been a tough oul week. Between work and matches, I’ve seen fierce little of my better half and our four ‘little angels’ we have at our feet but you won’t hear me complain. Normally.

When you do this journalism carry on, you take the rough with the smooth. You work with the four and five match weekends with the knowledge that you will at some stage come across a gem of a contest that will help you get through the wee hours of the morning in front of the laptop.

That being said, it’s been a long, long week.

It started with the usual. “Daddy can I go with you to the Dunloy match on Sunday?”

Caoimhe, my eldest daughter. She might play camogie for Lavey and avidly follow the Erin’s Own side everywhere she can but like me, if she was cut her blood runs green and gold. An odd combination you might say but like any Saffron-Oak marriage, you have to negotiate these things to make it work. The Bann can be a treacherous crossing at the best of times.

With a night writing previews and Caoimhe giving her helpful editorial advice, the craic started. “Daddy you remember the Team of ’17 song last year?”

How could I forget?

“I’ve a new one wrote for this year.”

Before I could say ‘settle yourself’ or ‘it’s only a semi-final’ she was gone and started to sing:

The flags fly high and there yellow and green

Come with me and you’ll see what I mean

There’s a Big Eared cup that we’re dreaming off

If you need me you’ll know where I’ll be.

I’ll be riding shot gun

Underneath for the hot sun

Singing up Cuchullains

She was onto a winner. It stuck in my head and we got to work on the rest of the lyrics. Plans were afoot for ‘Up Cuchullains’ to be typed out and sent to the primary school and we’d have a YouTube hit. We saw our names in lights. Dunloy’s answer to Simon and Garfunkel. All we needed was a Dunloy win and we could get the ball rolling. That’s all we needed. That was all. Since the events of last Sunday in Ballycastle I’ve cried a little anytime George Ezra comes on the radio.

Anyway, the previews. A yarn with the four semi-final managers and the craic was good. As always, I finished by wishing them all the best for their respective matches…..obviously Gregory O’Kane’s wishes were a little more heart felt than Johnny Campbell’s but the Loughgiel manager knew the craic.

So onto Saturday in Dunloy. I took Caoimhe and daughter number two Aoibheann over with me to watch St Johns and Cushendall do battle on the pitch and a bit of a barney off it. Great, epic and a dramatic ending. The game I was hoping for when it comes to doing the report. It’s easy to write a match report on hurling, there’s always something happening to make it readable and the Johnnies and the Ruairi’s served up a treat.

Sunday. D-Day. Caoimhe, my lone passenger this time. Aoibheann got a run of foundering in Dunloy and wasn’t prepared to do the same the next day. Another young Lavey wan but just hasn’t found her eternal love for Dunloy…..yet.

Anyway, I arrived at Páirc MacUílín in plenty of time – I was covering the Junior Final as well. Caoimhe empties my pockets half way through the first half to ‘get you a cup of tea to warm you up’. That was a dear cup of tea. I’m still waiting on my change.

Cushendun ended a 55 year drought and bridged the gap from their last Junior win in 1963 (though they did win 3 Intermediates in between times) with a terrific display that belittled their junior status. Another game that was going to be easy to write about.

Life was good.

Everything was going to plan until around 3.30pm when ‘Dugout-Gate’ began. A standoff. As one punter in the crowd reminded me ‘yous Dunloy wans are handy at these stand offs.’ A throw back to darker days in the village.

The match itself? I’d rather not talk about it. Out gunned and out manoeuvred. Some have called Loughgiel’s tactics as ‘anti-hurling’. Nonsense. They did what they had to do within the rules and laws of the game and got their just reward. Begrudgingly, well done and fair play to them.

That was not an easy thing to say as a loyal son of Cuchullain.

Interview number one. Gregory looked exactly how I felt. Pained, shocked and wanted to let a gowl out of him. A sense of a release of tension required. A shake of hands and a thank you for being a gent during the season. Not the interview either of us wanted to be doing on the day.

Interview number two. Johnny kept me waiting. As soon as he saw me there was a smile on his face. He would have the final say after our banter during the week. A brief analysis of the game and tactics followed before me and Caoimhe took ourselves off home.

The flags weren’t flying just so high anymore.

Tuesday and another championship match. The big ball this time and I was back on duty. Maybe, just maybe with the right tweak here and there I could get use of Caoimhe’s take on Mr Ezra’s tune.

Thanks to Gort na Mona for putting me completely out of my championship misery this year. They waited until the third minute of injury time and the sudden realisation of championship emptiness had hit me like the proverbial ten tonne truck under the floodlights at Ahoghill.

That’s the championship for you. We have our days in the sun, others will be cold nights under the floodlights where your world ends for a few brief moments.

It’s not always fun and games with the journo life. It’s difficult to report on your team at the best of times, when they get beat its bordering mission impossible. It’s something that doesn’t get any easier with each defeat I can tell you. For now, after the heroics of the Team of ’17 and the perennial Intermediate Championship contenders make their exit from the 2018 championships, I am assured with the knowledge there will be sunnier days in the future and I have no doubt the flags will fly high with yellow and green once again.

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