Ulster Club Junior Hurling Championship final preview
It has been a whirlwind few weeks for Cushendun manager Chris Dornan. First of all he guided the Emmet’s to their first Junior Championship title in 55 years and followed it up by steering them through a quarter-final and semi-final of the Ulster Club championship. If that wasn’t enough excitement for any man he went and got married last weekend and on Sunday he will try and make history by leading the Emmet’s to their first ever Ulster title.
Dorny, as he is better known, was just back from his brief honeymoon on Thursday evening when I caught up with him after training in Cushendun and was still on cloud nine.
“It’s been some week. Saturday was a great day, when I got married, and hopefully Sunday will be….(I stepped in at this stage in case he fell into the trap of saying and even better day)…another great day.” I have been ringing every night since I went away to check how the training was going and the boys have told me they never saw the team so focused. I have seen it myself tonight. In the run through Antrim and in the Ulster rounds the focus has been there, but this is a new level altogether. There is a real buzz about the place”
The Cushenun players go through their paces during their final training session before Sunday’s final
Dorny has been involved in a coaching capacity with the Emmets for three years now but this season he took over the managerial role and as he admits himself his targets were not too high.
“To be honest when I sat down with the other selectors at the start of the season our aim was to stay in Division 3 and we achieved that. When we made the cut at the half way stage of the league and were in the top division we knew we were safe so our minds started to turn towards the Junior Championship. When I looked at the teams who were in the Junior Championship I knew we were in with a chance. When you think of the likes of Gort na Móna and Lamh Dhearg who were no longer there I knew we must be in with a good chances of getting a run in it. With all due respect to the teams in it we looked at them and knew we had a good chance as we had beaten most of them in the league. So we said to the boys look we have a great chance of winning this if we put the work in and by the grace of God so far we have gone well. The work certainly has been put in and we did well to win Antrim.”
“When it came to Ulster it was a bit of a minefield for we didn’t really know the teams we were facing to be honest. We were lucky in a way that our first round game was against Na Magha of Derry who we had played in the league last year. We knew they would be hard to beat because we had a tought game with them and just beat them by a point or two. We knew they had been in a couple of Ulster finals in the last four or five years. We knew it would be tough but I felt that Cushendun has now got a few really good hurlers and when we played them it showed, as we won handy enough in the end. We have good leaders in this team and we have strength in the panel now. We have boys like Rory (McQuillan) who has been coming on as a sub at 42 years of age. He has a wealth of experience and we have five or six other subs that can come on and fit into the team at any time. Most of all we have youth in the team. We have as many as five or six eighteen year olds starting every game. They bring and energy to the team. A good few of them have been on county panels and they have confidence to compete at this level. At the start of the year I’ll be honest I didn’t intend to play so many of them but they have claimed their places.
As for the Sean Tracey’s we didn’t really know anything about them. I knew there was a team called Sean Tracey’s because I had a couple of nephews who played for them a good few years ago, but I didn’t know anything about the current side. However we played well against them and now were are in the final.”
When ask about his knowledge of Sunday’s opponents, Castleblayney, Dorny was forthright and honest. “I really only know what I have read to be honest, and that’s not a lot for there isn’t much info out there. I know they breezed through their own championship and they beat Inniskeen well in the county final. They beat the Donegal champions Burt in the quarter final and I know Burt are a very good team and then they beat Clonduff of Down. Everybody was saying that Clonduff would beat them but they came out on top in that game too. I know a few of their players and who their scoring threats are. I know they will be a hard challenge. Where they line-out and were they play is another matter. There numbers may not correspond with their positions on the field so we may have to make a few switches as the game gets going.
To be honest I think they will be our sternest test so far but having said that I think well will be their sternest test. Any team that gets to an Ulster final has to be a good side and we will have to beat our best to beat them. To me it is a 50/50 game and it could come down to a small thing in the game. I think will be tight and to be honest I wouldn’t rule out extra time. I have heard the stories about the sand on the pitch. Why they want to turn it into a beach is hard to figure out but in fairness it is going to be the same for both teams.”
To finish off I put it to Dorny that he must be delighted to get the chance of playing before the Cushendall v Ballycran game and getting the chance of seeing his home club in action.
“Oh it is great. This is the first year I haven’t seen all the Cushendall championship games since I was eleven, and I’m 35 now. My best man at my wedding last weekend is Martin Burke who plays corner back and his bother Paddy, who is team captain, was there too. All the talk at the wedding last weekend, you know what men are like at weddings, we talk about everything but the wedding, was about how the teams would be supporting each other and it great to be honest. Its great that these two parishes four miles apart are getting the chance to see both games and fair play to the Ulster council for having the good sense to put them together.”
When I put it to him that it will only be good if they both win Dorny was in total agreement. “Exactly. I couldn’t agree more. If Cushendun loose I probably won’t be in the mood for watching Cushendall to be honest but hopefully both teams will be coming up the road with cups.”