Gregory O’Kane: “It’ll be the team that’s improved the most.  We’re hoping that’s Dunloy.”

Dunloy manager Gregory O’Kane speaks with Brendan McTaggart ahead on Sunday’s final with Cushendall…

Dunloy manager Gregory O’Kane leads the Cuchullains to their fifth final in six years.  To say they have been there and done that is an understatement.  The run up to Sunday’s final is something they have come accustomed to around the Village.  The Cuchullains have shown no signs of easing the grip on the Volunteer Cup with their performances in this years championship and the Dunloy manager said the group of players set the challenge themselves: “It’s pretty simple, that’s the next challenge.  Whatever happens in the past, it’s gone.  We can only play one game and that’s the one in front of us on Sunday.  All we want to be is the best version of ourselves we can be and we just challenge each other to get there.

“The challenge is Sunday.  The only challenge we can face is the one that’s put in front of us.  That’s our focus and that’s all we can concentrate on.  Whatever has happened in the past won’t be good enough come Sunday.  We’re always looking to improve and challenge each other.”

With the club also winning the Intermediate football championship last Saturday, it’s fair to say their schedule has been busy.  On Sunday they will have played three knockout football and two knock out hurling championship games in six weeks.  O’Kane made light of the busy period, stating it was meant the club and the vast majority of his players were able to build momentum: “It’s been great to be honest.  It actually was good when we had the four weeks out there was two rounds of football.  In terms of keeping the players sharp and match fitness, you can’t put a price on match fitness because you can’t train it.  In those terms it was excellent.  Then the lads who don’t play football were working hard around that.”

At those knock out football ties, those who aren’t dual could be seen on the grassy bank at Dunsilly offering their support.  Gregroy said it was a testament to the unity there is within the group: “We’ve a good group. The unity’s there and everybody wants success, it’s a nice environment to be in and that’s important too.”

There’s a certain excitement that comes to O’Kane’s voice when it came to talking about Sunday’s final.  You can tell he relishes the challenge of what the Volunteer Cup brings.  You don’t have 11 medals as a player and four as a manager without having that hunger and desire to be the best in the business.  The Dunloy manager said: “The best place you can be on Sunday is playing.  There’s no substitute for it, money can’t buy it.  It’s the best place any hurler, especially a Dunloy hurler on Sunday is preparing for a county final.

“You set out every game and that’s your focus, everyone is the same and we’re no different.  We’re absolutely delighted to be in the final and every one of the lads and coaching set up are really looking forward to it.”

Sunday presents Dunloy with a chance of equalling their record of four in a row.  A record they hold with Loughgiel and Rossa.  This will be the third time in six years the teams will have faced each other, Cushendall will be hoping it’s third time lucky but O’Kane said what has happened in the past will have no bearing on what’s to come on Sunday: “We’re definitely not ’17 and definitely not ’19 but neither are Cushendall to be fair to them.  It’s two teams who are improving all the time and it’ll be the team that’s improved the most.  We’re hoping that’s Dunloy.”

With some thinking the decider could be played in Ballycastle, Corrigan Park was given the nod.  One off if not thee best playing surface in the county and a repeat venue from 2021.  O’Kane said the venue matters little to them with the focus and pursuit for the Volunteer Cup their number one objective: “Belfast is a fantastic venue for the county final.  Corrigan has a super surface and it’s the county ground but to be honest it doesn’t really matter where we’re playing.  We’re just looking forward to the final.”

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