James O’Connell: “we dug deep out there today”

Clooney Gaels star James O’Connell speaks with Brendan McTaggart after his side powered to the Intermediate Title against Cushendun….

Clooney Gaels forward James O’Connell was the star of the show on Saturday as his side defeated Cushendun by four points.  O’Connell himself would finish with 13 points out of the Gaels tally of 1-19 in an exhibition of score taking and accuracy from placed ball.

He told us that the pain of defeat at the same stage two years ago was the main driving force for his side to claim the Intermediate title: “Unbelievable.  A couple of years ago when we were beaten by Randalstown, it was a lonely place walking off after.  With Covid there was no changing rooms and it was just a bunch of lads walking back to the car.  It was the most depressing time, I swear to God but look at how we dug deep out there today.  The game looked like it was getting away from us, three points down but men stepped up all over the pitch.”

Despite his scoring exploits, O’Connell was able to laugh off the chance he missed for a major in the first half when he laughed: “I had a goal chance, thought I had a little more time than I had but obviously not.”

Being on the back foot for the majority of the second half, the Gaels found something within them to turn their fortunes around in the final ten minutes.  Their midfield and half back line dominated the restarts and forced turnovers which brought it’s own momentum.  O’Connell wasn’t sure on how the momentum swung so dramatically while he played down his own performance, putting it down as ‘one of those days’ when he continued: “It just clicked today for some reason, it happens sometimes.  But look, a couple of years ago against Randalstown I didn’t hit a ball the whole day.  It just happens that way sometimes, sometimes you get the drop of the ball.”

In what was a titanic tussle, O’Connell was full of praise for the Emmett’s and gave his own prediction for the beaten finalists: “I’m friendly enough with Donal O’Hara and Conor (McHugh) through Jordanstown and that.  How those lads reached this final after getting beat in every game in Division One this year, it’s a credit to them.  You know what I mean, they are going to win one.  There’s no doubt in my mind they are going to win one.  They were beat in the junior before claiming it, there’s a championship going to Cushendun in the next couple of years.”

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