Loughgiel and Cloughmills aiming to bring Ulster titles back home

REIGNING All-Ireland Club Champions Loughgiel and near neighbours Cloughmills will both be in action this weekend in their respective Ulster hurling finals and with interest at fever pitch they will be hoping to make it an historic double at Senior and Intermediate levels.

As far as those who support hurling in the respective villages go it could be a case of last one out turn out the lights as the Shamrocks and St Brigid’s fans hope to see their heroes achieve glory.

Loughgiel are in Casement Park against Down champions Portaferry (2.30pm) while Cloughmills play Lisbellaw from Fermanagh at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh (2.30pm).

Turning to Loughgiel first and Shamrocks supremo PJ O’Mullan told the Times there is a slight sweat on for their talisman Liam Watson to be fit as he has been carrying a bit of an Achilles injury but the manager was confident that will be shook off and Neil McGarry is also battling to beat a back injury to be fit for the final.

Apart from those niggling injuries which has seen both players resting and doing some preparation in the swimming pool, O’Mullan said the mood in the camp is good ahead of the regional decider.

Said PJ: “It has been going very well apart from those one two wee injuries but the squad is relaxed and totally focused. As All-Ireland champions there is always an element that other teams will raise their game to try and beat you but at the same time it works both ways because we are determined to hold onto the title.

“We did a lot of work to get where we are and we want to stay where we are. We feel we have raised the bar as far as hurling in Antrim is concerned and we want to hold on to our All-Ireland title.

“This is another challenge for us but the hunger is there,” said O’Mullan.

He is not under-estimating the threat posed by Portaferry who play in the Antrim league and with whom Loughgiel drew with in County Down.

Then, a few weeks ago after the league title was already decided in favour of Cushendall, the Shamrocks met Portaferry at home and won easily although that match was something of a ‘phoney war’ with players rested on both sides ahead of Ulster Championship action.

The Loughgiel boss is expecting a big support to once again come out of north Antrim this Sunday for the decider and he has praised the local fans for the atmosphere and colour they have brought to games.

Cloughmills chief Geoff Laverty told us there is big interest in the village ahead of his side’s game.

He said: “This is the biggest day in the club’s short history and we will go into the final as underdogs as this is Cloughmills’ first year playing at Ulster Intermediate level.

“Our preparation could not have been better although the weather has been poor all outdoor training has gone ahead at our magnificent pitch in Cloughmills and we have also been using Dunloy’s splendid sports academy.”