Self-respect a necessary quality for Loughgiel Shamrocks
Eddie McCloskey is used to his team being under-rated even as All-Ireland champions
Eddie McCloskey celebrates scoring during the Ulster final against Slaughtneil. Photograph: John McIlwaine/Inpho/Presseye.
Ulster champions for a record-equalling fourth successive year, the Antrim club will go into this weekend’s All-Ireland semi-final against championship surprise package Carlow’s Mount Leinster Rangers.
For once Loughgiel will not be underdogs. This is somewhat surprising given they were All-Ireland champions two years ago and took last year’s winners St Thomas’s to a replay in the semi-finals.
It’s a perception that McCloskey, a talented forward with club and county, recognises all too well.
“We don’t seem to get the recognition. It’s through the media. Even the time we won the All-Ireland we never really got much of a chance from any of the pundits. I remember reading the programme in the changing room before the match and the six pundits tipped Coolderry.
Problem of perception
“It was a wee bit of added motivation for us to go out and prove ourselves. Since then I don’t think much has changed in terms of how we’re perceived.”
They are probably the most successful club team to have come out of Ulster. Their predecessors of 31 seasons ago won the All-Ireland but were not able to follow through on that success whereas Dunloy, winning seven provincial titles between 1994 and 2003, were doomed to contest three All-Ireland finals without bringing home the title.
Two years ago they played tomorrow’s opponents in a challenge match when both were on the way to All-Ireland success: McCloskey and his team-mates at senior and MLR at intermediate.
He acknowledges the paradox of being part of an elite team at club level but within a county which has drifted in the other direction, but isn’t sure how to reconcile the two.
“That’s a good question. I suppose we have to bring success from the club to the senior county team. I don’t know how you do that. In my eyes I would say the Loughiel club set-up is as professional as the Antrim set-up at the minute.
“The professional attitude that the players bring to training, the professional standard of the training itself, the management, the team play, everything is top notch and up there with most county teams.
“If Antrim want to be competitive they have to raise it again. The professionalism has to get as high as possible.”
He reacts sharply to the proposal variously floated but most recently in the annual report of GAA director general that a combined Ulster team could contest the All-Ireland.
Lack of respect
“I don’t know who came up with the idea or what the purpose of it was
– to take the bad look off Ulster hurling? That’s disrespectful of Antrim. We don’t think we’re that far away.”
Yet he also feels that unlike in other, more established counties, club success is probably undermining the county’s prospects.
“It’s hard to say. I think probably Loughiel’s success probably doesn’t help things. We’ve achieved what we’ve achieved and other clubs see that as an opportunity because they’re thinking if we can win it then they can win it so they make a big push.
“We still have to find that balance with the county team but the clubs probably compromise that balance. It’s hard to put a finger on why.”