It’s been four years since the Volunteer Cup has rested in the trophy cabinet of Fr Healy Park. To some that may not be seen as an issue but in Loughgiel it’s bordering on a crisis. After being narrowly pipped by Cushendall in the 2018 final, the Shamrocks have started 2020 like they mean business. After getting the better of arch rivals, the aforementioned Dall in their opening game last week, Hugh McCann’s side duly put St Galls to the sword last Sunday in a devastating manor to take control of Group 2 of this years Bathshack sponsored Antrim Senior Hurling Championship.
‘Two wins out of two, brilliant, absolutely brilliant’ said McCann after Sunday’s win at Milltown. ‘We came here to do a job and we done it. That’s as simple as that and now we are totally focused on St Endas next week’. St Galls bring a physical challenge and they certainly done that today. We knew that coming up here so we had to play to our strengths’ continued McCann.
The win also puts his side within touching distance of a semi-final as the Shamrocks will be massive favourites to claim another win on the road in Glengormley next Sunday and finish the round robin series top of their pool, thus avoiding a potentially nightmare quarter-final clash with a from Group 1, which has become the group of death with no one as yet assured of qualification.
While McCann was quick to praise his squads performance it was hard not to ignore the 0-13 haul from James McNaughton. The wing forward landed six frees in a man of the match display of skill and poise. ‘Outstanding. A joy to watch’ was how his manager described McNaughton’s showing. ‘His balance, his striking. He’s running around with a smile on his face. What more can you ask for?’ continued McCann.
Looking ahead to next Sunday’s final pool game at St Enda’s, McCann admitted to not knowing a lot about the current Ulster Intermediate champions, but for the week ahead, he’ll be nothing but totally focused on the job at hand. ‘In fairness, I don’t know an awful lot about them, but they’ve a lot of good athletes. They’ll move a lot, they’ll move quickly. We just have to set out our stall and see how we go’, while also admitting that we may see Liam Watson taste championship action for the first time this year. Watson wasn’t risked against St Galls because of what his manager described as a ‘niggle’.
With a great blend of youth and experience at his disposal already, the return of ‘Winker’ could have a big say as we approach the business end of the season.