Ruairi’s open ‘Laochra Gael’ Mural

Ruairí Óg are delighted to unveil our new mural on Cushendall’s Coast Road.  At the launch were; Kathleen & Mally Darragh (Parents of John Darragh), Anne-Marie McNaughton (Danny McNaughton’s widow), Terence ‘Sambo’ McNaughton, Dan Delargy (Cathaoirleach, Ruairí Óg) Martin Allen ) Cathaoirleach, Gaeil Ruairí Óg), Órla Black (Community Foundation NI).

As part of the Club’s new MUGA development the trees behind the ball wall had to be cleared.  This presented the Club with the perfect canvas for a new mural.  As luck would have it a funding opportunity was identified for cultural art and the planning was set in motion.

The theme for the mural is ‘Laochra Gael’.  Across the 8 panels our community’s culture is represented through our Club and County crests – and artistic depictions of sporting and cultural heroes.  Sadly Ruairí Óg has 2 hurling martyrs.  Danny McNaughton and John Darragh both passed away representing the club and colours they loved.  It is only right that their proud portraits adorn our new mural.  The Club will never forget their passing or the contributions of their families throughout the years.

On a happier theme, in 2020 Sambo McNaughton was inducted into the GAA hall of fame.  Sambo is the first hurler we have had inducted into the hall of fame.  Due to COVID restriction plans to recognise this momentous achievement were never realised…  It is fitting that we are able to appreciate Sambo by depicting him doing what made him known across Ireland.

Depicted on the other panels are Finn McCool, Setanta & Queen Mdeabh.  We would encourage research on their many daring exploits!

Ruairí Óg would like to thank Órla Black and Community Foundation NI for funding this project.  It has already proven to be a hit with both locals and tourists young and old.

Is mise, le meas,

Dan Delargy

Cathaoirleach, Ruairí Óg

Regular contributor to the Saffron Gael, Colum Thompson, shared a few words and thoughts on the murals and what the images mean to the people of Cushendall…

Terence “Sambo” McNaughton – Ruairi Og’s most famous son, Terence “Sambo” McNaughton made his Ruairi Og debut in 1981 at the age of 16. In his first season he played left half back on the team that won the club’s first Antrim Championship in 1981. He made his Antrim debut in the same year and played for both club and county with distinction for almost 20 years, finally retiring in 2000. During his hurling career Sambo won 8 Antrim and 7 Ulster titles with his beloved Ruairi Og and 8 Ulster titles with Antrim. In 1989 Terence wore number 15 but lined out at half forward when Antrim contested the 1989 All Ireland Hurling Final against Tipperary having shocked the hurling world with a magnificent victory over Offaly in the semi-final. In 1991 Terence was selected at midfield on the All Star team following a sensational performance, scoring 4 points as Antrim came within a whisker of beating Kilkenny in Croke Park. Following his retirement as a player Sambo quickly moved into coaching and has managed both club and county teams as well as travelling the length and breadth of Ireland spreading the hurling gospel. He continues to coach underage teams and many Ruairi Og hurlers have benefited from his knowledge, understanding and undoubted passion for our national game.  

Danny McNaughton – Danny McNaughton, a replacement All Star in 1988, was one of seven brothers who all hurled for Ruairi Og. He was one of the driving forces behind our first senior championship win in 1981 and his goal, from a long free in the final replay was the catalyst that drove our boys over the line. Danny was already making a name for himself with some superb displays for Antrim and he only enhanced his reputation in the following years. Perhaps his best day in the saffron and white of Antrim was in 1987 when he scored a scintillating 2-4 from play in the All Ireland Semi Final against Kilkenny, his 2 goals were both sublime overhead efforts under the dropping ball. In 1992 Danny, then a 36 year old veteran gave another marquee performance in the Antrim County Final against old rivals Ballycastle. We were behind at half time but in the second half Danny really took the game by the scruff of the neck. He also took over the free taking duties and plundered 1-5 from placed balls, his goal an almost carbon copy of his major in the 1981 final, an effort from long range that found the net and changed the game. In the summer of 1996 Danny sadly passed away after feeling unwell during a game in Dunloy. Despite being only 40 at the time of his death Danny left a lasting legacy, stories of his performances, his dedication and his love of Ruairi Og have helped to inspire future generations of young Ruairis. 

John Darragh – Thirty years ago 14 year old John Darragh tragically passed away after becoming ill while playing for Ruairi Og minors against Glenariffe. John sadly only graced the hurling fields of County Antrim for a short space in time but during that time he forged a great reputation as a hurler. John was big and strong, a great striker of the ball and a natural leader who had established himself as the mainstay of the team. Despite his tender years John was universally respected by his team mates in Cushendall, Cross And Passion College and The Antrim U-14’s as well as his opponents. John was buried in the maroon and white jersey of his beloved Ruairi Og. His family later presented The North Antrim Board with The Darragh Cup in John’s memory, which is contested by minor hurling teams throughout North Antrim. The competition has a special place in the hearts of all Cushendall people and a Darragh Cup win holds as much significance as a minor county title, if not more.  

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