Brendan McTaggart speaks with Dunloy manager Gregory O’Kane after the Cuchullains were defeated in the All Ireland Club hurling final…
As Ballyhale Captain Ronan Corcoran stood at the top of the steps of the Hogan Stand waiting to receive the Tom Moore Cup from GAA President, Larry McCarthy, Gregroy O’Kane stood on the battered Croke Park surface with a steely stare in his gaze.
A penny for the thoughts running through the Dunloy managers mind at that point as he stood with his son and daughter, Paidi and Ailbe either side.
O’Kane brought the Cuchullains to the brink. Not many outside of the club gave his side a prayer against the hurling aristocrats from Kilkenny but Dunloy pushed the Shamrocks all the way. The final score certainly not reflecting the efforts that O’Kane’s men put into the hour that preceded.
It’s often difficult to try and summarise a contest so soon after the final whistle with emotions still running high but O’Kane told us that he felt the game hinged on small margins throughout the game: “We were well in the game.
“We shouldn’t have been two points down at half time. We made a few mistakes and we didn’t execute as well as we normally do. We got it back to a point in the second half and it was game on. We scuffed a few chances and dropped a few into the ‘keepers hand. We just couldn’t break the line and it’s something that we’re normally really, really good at.”
Ballyhale stretched into a four point lead with three scores in just two minutes from the 52nd minute. It seemed to knock the energy out of the Dunloy challenge that looked well placed going into the final stretch. The Shamrocks were ruthless in the closing stages however and as O’Kane continued, he paid tribute to the Kilkenny men: “They’re a super team and their game management in injury time was excellent.
“They made a few turnovers and it was extremely small margins. It looked like we had them and about to break the line and we were in but look I couldn’t be more proud of the team. They came here today against a club like Ballyhale and gave it everything they had but we feel like we didn’t kick on. The game was there for us.”
At the fifth time of asking, the Cuchullains fell short. An agonising defeat in a game where they gave everything they had. O’Kane said his players are feeling that hurt and are thinking on ‘what might have been’ already: “When you get that close and we wanted to take them down the home stretch, the players will feel themselves that they’ve left it behind. They know themselves but I’m extremely proud of how they played today.”
As his players walked off the Croke Park pitch on Sunday afternoon, the Dunloy support rose to their feet. They knew they had witnessed a huge performance from their side and the Cuchullains manager said that he and his players are thankful for the support they have received every step of the championship journey he and his side have been on: “You look at the stands out there today, what a support we had. The families, grandparents and children. That’s what it’s all about and the journey they’ve been on all year. It’s been fantastic for them.”