By Brendan McTaggart
After leading the fightback in the second half of normal time and in extra time, Naomh Éanna captain Cormac Ross hit the winning penalty in the shoot out. A crazy ending to what was a rollercoaster 80 minutes of hurling where the Hightown Road men were pushed to the pin of their collar. Twice.
Ross briefly halted his celebrations to have a chat with us and his immediate thoughts were on Naomh Éanna’s opponents: “It’s a bizarre way to end it. At underage, we’ve never had a penalty shoot out in hurling in our lives. That was completely new for both teams there.
“Maybe it wasn’t a completely fair way to settle it after 80 minutes of tough hurling. It’s very tough on Dungannon.
“Fair play to both ‘keepers. There was a lot of good penalties hit and they made six or seven saves.”
His side were second best virtually all over the field in the opening 30 minutes which added to the dramatic nature of their comeback. Ross continued by telling us they tried to remain calm: “Dungannon are a serious side and they came out on fire. We struggled against that wind big time but we had that wind in the second half and we did to them what they did to us. We played the game as it progressed and thankfully, we didn’t panic.
“That’s one way to look at it. The other way is we were seven down at half time and came back to draw at the end. We could have pushed on and won it but so could they, I think a draw was the fair result and the draw after extra time was the fair result.”
Naomh Éanna had three glorious chances in injury time at the end of the hour to snatch victory. Despite those chances not being converted, the Naomh Éanna captain was happy to still be in the match at that stage: “We were in a better position at the end of full time than we were at half time having come back from seven down. We were happy to take it to extra time and then it could go either way.”
With reaching the All-Ireland series for the second successive year but in a different code, Naomh Éanna’s stock in the GAA has risen considerably. Ross said he was obviously delighted to be part of something special: Definitely is. The committee, the chairman and the underage coaches who have put the structures in place have to take credit for that. We have the facilities but it’s the people behind the scenes who put the time and effort in to coaching the kids.
“We have some serious talent coming through now and that’s down to all those people involved.”