Bathshack Antrim Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final
Naomh Éanna v Cushendall (Sunday, 4.30pm, Dunsilly, live on Páirc TV)
CUSHENDALL native Terence McNaughton led Naomh Éanna to an historic Antrim and Ulster Intermediate Championship double back in 2019.
Another Cushendall man, Michael McCambridge, guided the Glengormley outfit to their first Senior Championship win over Ballycastle last Sunday.
Now, as fate would have it, McCambridge is tasked with plotting the downfall of his own club as Naomh Éanna clash with the Ruairi Ógs in Sunday’s Antrim SHC quarter-final at Dunsilly.
“It is great for the lads and great for St Enda’s as a club,” said McCambridge.
“They had last year as their first season in the Senior Championship, but it was a stop-start season for them.
“Making that step from Intermediate to Senior and getting their first win in the Senior Championship is great for the club.
“They are now up against my own club, a club that’s very much in my heart. I still do stuff with them at underage level. I’d have been hoping for a different draw, but it is what it is.
“Being honest, it is very difficult. I was lucky enough to be part of Championship winning teams and played with some great players down through the years.
“Cushendall are very much a Championship team and they seem to be able to pull wins from nothing at times.
“Plotting the downfall of a team like that will be difficult. I coached them a few years ago as well and I know what they are capable of.”
He added: “For St Enda’s, it isn’t just about turning up and enjoying the occasion. It is going out there and taking whatever they can from the game and building and learning from it.
“There is no point in being unrealistic, but I’ve never been one to just turn up. I’m coaching the team to compete in every game and against any team and that’s what we’ll do on Sunday.”
Huge Crowd required this Sunday.— Naomh Éanna CLG (@NaomhEannaCLG) September 8, 2021
🎟🎟Ticket only 🎟🎟
💶💶No cash on gate ❌❌
👩👦👨👧U15 free with adult 🧒🧒
Link to tickets: https://t.co/xv8rwujuUs…#clubcolours #Dunsilly #Sunday #PobalÉanna #quarterfinal #shc #antrimshc #NÉA pic.twitter.com/bJWRlANE5H
Competing in Group One of the Antrim SHC, Naomh Éanna left it late to book their place in the quarter-finals having suffered home defeats to both Loughgiel and Rossa by 14 and 20 points respectively.
However, they claimed their maiden win in the Senior Championship with a stunning 3-18 to 0-19 win at Ballycastle last Sunday with Eddie O’Connor, Philly Curran and Daniel Lowry scoring the vital goals. “I was over the moon for the lads and the club,” reflected McCambridge.
“They have a great club and a great bunch of lads as well in the squad. They are a group of players who really want to push on and do well. They’ve a lot of passionate hurling men up around the club.
“Everyone knows about their history and they hadn’t had an easy time of it, through the troubles and that. They are building a hurling community up there. To make that step into the Senior Championship and get that first win was great.
“We went in against Loughgiel and Rossa and had hopes of doing something in those games, but it was a step too far.
“Being honest, and no disrespect to Ballycastle, but that was the match we were targeting.
“Thankfully, we achieved it and it is a big step for the club and a bit of history for them. It might not seem like much for other clubs, but for St Enda’s, last Sunday was a big deal.”
Cushendall missed out on gaining a place in the semi-finals with North Antrim rivals Dunloy taking the top spot in Group Two on scoring difference.
Brian Delargy’s side drew with the county champions thanks to a late Christy McNaughton free before beating both St John’s and Tír na nÓg.
With county stars Paddy Burke, Ryan McCambridge, Neil McManus and Eoghan Campbell as well as former Antrim ace Arron Graffin in their ranks, Cushendall are overwhelming favourites to progress to a semi-final meeting with Rossa.
Naomh Éanna’s task isn’t helped by injuries to leading forward John McGoldrick, who is out for the season with a cruciate injury while both Eoin Conlon (hip) and Cormac Jennings (broken hand) are also ruled out of Sunday’s contest.
This Naomh Éanna side continue to make history, but Sunday’s quarter-final may be a step too far.