By Brendan McTaggart
As the Dunloy faithful poured onto the Corrigan Park pitch, Gregory O’Kane stood with the biggest smile in Ireland’s second city and taking the wishes from all those who found him among the crowd. His side had just produced a masterclass to defeat a Rossa side many seen as a tough opposition for the Cuchullains.
It didn’t happen. What happened was Dunloy purring through the gears and putting in a relentless display to see off the Jeremiah’s with 15 points to spare. Three goals before half time from the Cuchullains inside forward trio of Seaan Elliott, Conal Cunning and Chrissy McMahon with the majors that set up the Cuchullain’s win. O’Kane said the scores were pivotal but praised the forward play from his side: “In Championship games, goals are massive.
“Their alertness and just that composure to pick the perfect pass and give the man on the ball the right time… I thought our decision making around the three goals was fantastic.” The Dunloy manager continued: “Their skill-set is good and that’s backed up by their pace and movement. Once they take the right decision, then the score is on.”
The win sealed three championships in a row for the Cuchullains and O’Kane said they tried to forget about any of that and focus on the game: “Sometimes you get caught up (in the three-in-a-row hype).
“We don’t talk about that – we just want to play the next game and these boys are growing all the time. “They are growing every week, maturing well and they’re just a joy to manage. We just provide the platform for them and they take it on. We’re delighted today.”
With the integration of Eoin McFerran into the starting 15, the average age of the Cuchullains starting 15 lowers again as they continue to evolve while striving for hurling perfection. O’Kane has masterminded the evolution of this side and instilled his own hurling philosophy. The Dunloy manager said the club and community of Dunloy deserve the credit for the side who have won the Volunteer Cup three years in a row. He told us: “Every team grows and every team matures – we’re no different.
“Most of those boys are 22 or 23 years of age and their appetite for hurling is massive. They just want to play and get as much out of their careers as much as they can.
“If you have talent, you don’t want to waste it and get as much out of your career as you can and that’s what they’re doing now.
“Our club is massive but it’s not just about this team today, it’s about every family in Dunloy contributing by some small amount,” he said.
“These players had to come through from underage coaching to get to senior level. We just live for hurling in Dunloy and this is part of our DNA. So many of the players now are sons of the players who went before and we’re just delighted to get to this level.”