By Brendan McTaggart
Cushendun didn’t get the fairy-tale ending on Sunday that their efforts throughout 2018 deserved. A one point defeat, every bit as agonising as it sounds. They had an element of control of the decider for 80% of the match yet unfortunately for the Emmet’s, Castleblayney made the most of their purple patch at the death.
Mark Treanor’s 46th minute goal proved to be the turning point. Cushendun were sitting pretty with a five point lead but Treanor’s major gave the Monaghan men the impetus and momentum going into the final quarter to steal the win in the fourth minute of injury time. The first and only time they would hold the lead.
Cushendun manager Chris Dornan initial reaction was understandable when we caught up with him on the Athletic Grounds pitch: “Really, really gutted. I thought we put in a herculean game of hurling and we just came up short in the end.
“It’s hard to keep my emotions in check at the minute. The work the boys put in, I don’t want to say too much in case I get into trouble.”
The brand of hurling Cushendun have played throughout their championship journey has belittled their junior status. The Emmet’s continued to impress in the first half and while they came under huge pressure in the second, Dorny was delighted at how his charges went about their assault on the Ulster championship: “I am immensely proud. I said in an interview earlier in the week, two years ago we were getting six at training. Now we have 32, 33 or 34 players. I just hope the boys go on in the Intermediate grade next year and give that a rattle because that didn’t do us justice today.”
Having been the bridesmaid for so long in Antrim, the Emmet’s wanted to give Rory McQuillan the ending to his 25 year career he deserved and while Dorny was disappointed, he cast his eye towards the 2019 season: “We didn’t give Rory the send-off he wanted but he got his championship medal. The rest of the lads will have the winter off and come back refreshed but it’s heart-breaking. There’s some of them boys in tears and I suppose it would have been the same for Castleblayney but I still think we’re the better hurling team. We didn’t get the rub of the green with decisions at times and we missed a free at the end. It’s these small things that make the difference but it doesn’t matter now.
“I just hope the boys come back next year refreshed.”
Cushendun came close to realising a dream under the low winter sun in Armagh on Sunday afternoon but when they reflect on their achievements of 2018, it’s been one to remember for the north Antrim men: “November last year when we first met up, we weren’t expecting to be hurling in November. For a club as small as Cushendun numbers wise, they don’t expect to be hurling in November. After winning Antrim, everything else was a bonus.
“That’s (Castleblayney) an intermediate team. They fancied themselves at intermediate grade and we pushed them to the pin of their collar and on another day we could have won by three or four points but I wish them all the best.”