By Colum Thompson
EMPTY, that is how best to describe this feeling. The cocktail of emotions after that game combine to leave you devoid of any. Gutted, heartbroken at the result particularly when you know the absolutely savage effort that our squad and the management have put in over the last three months. But also a sense of pride at our reaction after half time. A pride in the way our players faced down a seven point deficit at the short whistle to unbelievably draw level and carve an opportunity to win the game in the closing stages.
All around you at half time the St. Thomas fans were already planning the trip to Croke Park and the neutrals, polite as ever, told you the game was over. Through sheer force of will Cushendall turned the tables and almost produced one of the great GAA comebacks just to be agonizingly pipped at the post. There was a pride as well in seeing the sea of maroon and white throng around Parnell Park before the game and afterwards on the pitch there were as many Cushendall people consoling our gallant warriors as St. Thomas people congratulating their players. My heart absolutely bleeds for men like Arron Graffin who typically, perhaps unsurprisingly to us who know him, hurled the shirt off his back today barely three months after the top half of his leg basically disconnected from the bottom in Armagh. Men like Sean Delargy who took his place and gave his all despite not one serious injury during the winter, but two. Men like Donal McNaughton, 18 years service as a senior hurler, who’s drive at goal in the dying embers was parried to safety. If you have ever read anything about Brian Cody, the greatest hurling manager of them all, he preaches that if you have even a half chance at goal you go for it. If you could have picked a Dall player to be in the position to launch a 20 yard shot at goal to win you a game you’d have picked Natty. Sport isn’t always a fairytale and you aren’t always rewarded for bravery. Men like Fergus McCambridge who took three time All Star David Burke for 1-1 and matched him all day and one of our own Burke’s, captain Paddy who kept the much vaunted Conor Cooney to a single point. But in truth we had heros all over the field in that second half. I’m not one for post mortems. Together we stand, united we fall but most importantly in Cushendall united we will rise again. Vanquished, defeated but unbroken. As I was writing this piece about 8.15am on Sunday morning my 9 year old daughter got out of bed, still in her Ruairi Og shirt and holding the match ball from last years Antrim final that Marty Burke gave to her after the game (it’s her prize possession). The first words she said to me were “Daddy when can Cushendall get to another All Ireland?” and I replied “I don’t know pet but we can start trying now.” The first stage of that process begins today with a few pints in good company.
UP THE RUAIRIS.