This was the best club final I’ve seen since the All-Ireland final was moved to Croke Park in the mid 80s.
The most striking thing about both Loughgiel and Coolderry on Saturday was the direct, no-nonsense hurling from both teams. Then there was the fitness levels with the conditioning of the Loughgiel players especially impressive.
This was a team of players that didn’t care how the ball came to them, because every one was capable of competing for and winning possession.
I wonder are they studying Kilkenny?
Because that’s the Kilkenny style, that’s the Kilkenny attitude — every man strong and able enough to win their own ball.
Of course when you have a finisher of the calibre of Liam Watson, you’re in a luxury position. You can focus on your defence, knowing that if you get them right you’ll get enough ball up to that man do the damage. And did he do damage — 3-7 in an All-Ireland final is a story for the grandchildren.
The Loughgiel half-back trio really impressed me. Martin Scullion in the centre was very strong, and alongside him the Campbell brothers were dominant, Johnny especially. Above all, however was the little number four, Ronan McCloskey who completely dominated his corner.
A few words also about goalkeeper Damien Quinn. Apart from being a brave and outstanding shot-stopper Quinn is also a leader, which you want to see in the last line of your defence.
Loughgiel had done their homework on Coolderry. They knew they were vulnerable in their full-back line and they targeted that sector. The ploy paid off with 4-10 of their 4-13 coming from their full-forward line.
I liked the way too the forwards kept moving, shifting, and here I’ll highlight the two wing-forwards, Eddie McCloskey and Joey Scullion, two big, strong physical players. When you have forwards of that ability you’re going to give yourself a chance.
Credit to Coolderry too. They managed the same number of scores as Loughgiel, 17, but they just couldn’t get the goal that might have lifted them to the next level.
They came close, and you can’t fault Joe or Kevin Brady, Cathal Parlon, Eoin Ryan or Brian Carroll. But when you have a weakness at this level you pay a price — Coolderry had that weakness in their full-back line, and Loughgiel exposed it. This was the best value anyone got for their euro in Irish sport this weekend. Finally I would like to wish Ben O’Connor well in his retirement from inter-county hurling.
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