Managers View – Naomh Éanna, Sambo McNaughton
By Brendan McTaggart
Naomh Éanna manager Terence ‘Sambo’ McNaughton’s first thoughts after the final whistle went to his opponents. After 80 minutes of a roller coaster ride, his side edged Dungannon on penalties and he told us: “I’ve never witnessed anything like it, I’ve never experienced anything like that,” stated McNaughton.
“I wasn’t even sure what was going to happen after extra-time – it wasn’t something we’d spoken about. We had to pick five boys to take penalties – it was car crash stuff. Everybody says it is no way to lose, I dunno. I don’t make the rules.
“It was a good game of hurling and a good advertisement for hurling.
“I feel for Dungannon, I do. I’d hate to lose a game like that.”
Having struggle in the first half for any fluency or momentum, Naomh Éanna faced a gargantuan task in the second half. Trailing by seven points and showing fierce little in the first half that may have hinted at a comeback but Sambo said his side were calm at the interval: “Honestly, the changing room was alright at half-time. We’d been behind before and, as you stand here now, there’s a fair breeze. That’s a four or five-point breeze.
“I was happy enough and I knew we’d come good. We missed a wild lot of scores, but that’s just inexperience.
“They showed great character and this team doesn’t know when they are beat. Even going back to the Creggan game.
“As a GAA man and as a hurler, I have to feel sorry for Dungannon.
“I know it is great for St Enda’s, but I’d hate to lose a game like that.
“The effort they put in – I know what the Dungannon club do. They drive up to the Glens of Antrim for games and they bring juvenile teams with them. They are trying to promote hurling in Tyrone which isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do.
Naomh Éanna had chances at the end of normal time to seal the victory. They weren’t taken and Sambo said that it’s part and parcel of the game when he added: “In games like that, you are going to get mistakes. They made mistakes and we were making mistakes. We had to keep the heads- we aren’t Ballyhale! It’s Intermediate hurling, the reason it is Intermediate hurling is because people make mistakes.
“These fellas train hard and the one thing I’m proud of is that they’ve changed – they know how to win dirty now.
“They are committed and it is great for St Enda’s and it is great for Antrim.
“I asked them before the match to ruin Christmas for me! I said I want to be training over Christmas. I said I want you to ruin all your family Christmases, go out and ruin Christmas and they did!”
Managers View – Colm McGuinness, Eoghan Ruadh
By Brendan McTaggart
Eoghan Ruadh manager Colm McGuinness was a frustrated figure at the end of the epic battle in Derry. His side looked like they had their hands on the trophy twice but came up against a Naomh Éanna side who refused to give up.
It took penalties to find a winner and the Sarsfields native spoke of his bewilderment at the contest ending in the fashion it did: “From a mental health point of view, if you had been the boy that missed that penalty, how are you going to feel?
“I think it’s a shame on the Ulster Council that they’re forcing boys to take penalties to get the match out of the way, to be honest.
“Fortunately it wasn’t just one penalty that made the difference, but if it had been just one, how would that fellow feel?
“They’re pumping on about mental health – they should have a look at this, to be honest.
“But the boys gave their all, I’m proud of them. They couldn’t have given much more.
“They gave everything today, they have given everything all year.
“St Enda’s are a Division One Antrim team now, and there was nothing in it all along.
“Somebody has to win, and it’s just unfortunate how it happened.”
The Dungannon side were a class above Naomh Éanna in the first half. They scored 2-2 in the space of four minutes to take control and but for a heroic piece of defending from Rian Gillen, it could have been three goals. McGuinness told us it was the start they were after: “We said at the start, if you’re playing with that wind, there’s about five or six points in it, and we weren’t far wrong.
“The wind was very strong and you could drop a ball nearly in to the edge of the square. They got a couple of good breaking balls, which made the difference, and we didn’t push on in the second half, just didn’t get enough scores to keep the distance.”
Coming into the final, many pundits and experts had Naomh Éanna as favourites. McGuinness continued by adding they felt they were the better team, despite the result: “All around Ulster, people think that counties are inferior in hurling, but we knew we weren’t inferior, if anything we thought we were the better team, and it showed out there.
“The boys were confident to take it on, but we just didn’t get enough done in the end.”
It’s hard even to think of next season, after something like that. Everybody will just have to take a seat and have a look at where they go from here.
It’s not a time to even be talking about next year, to be honest.