By Brendan McTaggart
Shane Elliott joined Gregory O’Kane’s management team for the 2017 season along with Liam Richmond and the former Dunloy goalkeeper is no stranger to winning championships himself. During the 90’s and in 2000 the former Dunloy shot stopper won six county championships and five Ulster crowns in that period.
With his son Ryan now between the posts for the Cuchullains, Elliott has more than just a coaching interest in the team and he gave us his thoughts on Ryan’s involvement: “It’s probably sorer on my wife to be honest. I think I’m so involved in the game that it possibly passes me by a little but I’m possibly sorer on him than I am with a few others in the team.
“I have great confidence in his ability and don’t get nervous for him anymore than I do have going into any game.
“I suppose with having the experience of having played in goals as well I can help him in ways others maybe can’t but look I’m very proud of the fact that Ryan is part of the team. He plays the game with great confidence and loves being involved.”
With the dust now settled, just about, from the county final win against Cushendall, Elliott gave us his views on the Cuchullains 12th championship success: “The result I have to say was of no great surprise to us to be honest. We knew how we were playing coming into the game and how we prepared and we were very capable of producing a performance on the day.
“We had a jittery first half where we weren’t at our best but we knew that as the game went on it would open up and we needed to make sure we were capable of taking advantage.
“There was a lot of talk about the forwards but the supply of ball into the forwards was excellent on the day, as it has been all year.
“The 15 and even 20 minutes at the start of the second half we blew Cushendall away. We were excellent and the game was over. It was a matter of seeing the game out and we did that comfortably in the end.”
For a club that had enjoyed huge recent success for the better part of 25 years, an eight year championship drought seemed like a lifetime and for many that were in attendance greeting the Cuchullains back into the village on the Sunday night, it was a lifetime. Elliott said that the scenes are something that will create and inspire a generation: “I think there was an element of surprise just how much people thought on us as underdogs but the winning feeling at the full time whistle was one of relief more than anything else and the scenes on the pitch afterwards shows how much it means to the team and the village to bring the Volunteer Cup back to Dunloy. We have a great affinity with the Volunteer Cup within the village so for us as managers to be part of that and for the players, it was something special.
“There was an eight year gap before that Sunday and when you consider the success the club had in the 20 years previous I think it brought a lot of old memories back for us all. The passion for hurling and the Volunteer Cup in the village is unrivalled and that was shown on the night.
“It was great for everyone and it was great to see the number of young ones out to welcome the teams home. This is the start of their early hurling memories and hopefully it’s the start of us building something again in the club. These sort of memories stick with you and it’s these memories that create the passion for the game, to want to be part of something special. I know the players were taken back with the scenes that welcomed them back to the village that night, especially the younger guys.
“They had been used to success at underage level but this was their first taste of success at senior and the difference just took them by surprise and left them gobsmacked. It just means so much to the village.”
Slaughtneil will present another stern examination of the Cuchullains credentials and Elliott told us that they are fully aware of the size of the task at hand but surprisingly admitted that he’s pleased with the draw: “I have a massive respect for Slaughtneil for everything that they’ve achieved in all three codes and there’s certainly lessons there to be learned for us all but as far as the game goes, we actually think it’s the perfect draw for us.
“It’s quickly brought us back down to earth after a couple of days celebrations. The players are well aware that they have a massive task on their hands, Slaughtneil are the reigning Ulster champions and the team to beat. Our feet were soon planted back on the ground and that’s why I think this is the perfect tie for us.
“Slaughtneil are a good team and have been made favourites for a reason. They’re big, strong and physical but make no mistake about it, they can hurl too but we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“We’re well aware of the challenge that faces us against a seasoned championship team like Slaughtneil but we’ll be up for it and there’s no better place to be two weeks after winning the county championship.”
The Dunloy footballers have since booked their place in the Intermediate Championship final and with as many as 11 players being directly involved in both games, the preparations have had to be meticulous by the Cuchullains but Elliott added that they’ve tried to stick by what’s served them well thus far: “Our preparations haven’t changed drastically from what they have been all championship. We’re trying to develop a style of hurling and that’s what we’ve been working on. We do talk about the opposition as do all managers but we’re definitely not obsessed with them or go into too much detail. We’ll tweak things here and there and try to exploit any weaknesses but mainly playing to our own strengths.” Elliott added: “Slaughtneil bring something different to the table to what we’ve played before in Cushendall, Ballycastle and St John’s but we’re concentrating on ourselves. We know how we want to play and the consistency that we want to achieve. If we can get it right on the day then we won’t be far away but it’s going to be a close game.”