Shamrocks have a great St Patricks Day.

There are few enough red-letter days for Ulster hurling to let one pass-by unremarked.

For those blissfully unaware of the travails of hurling in the north, no Ulster county has ever won a senior, Under-21 or minor All-Ireland or National League title. Nor has Ulster ever won the [inter-provincial] Railway Cup in hurling. The only senior hurling title came nearly 30 years ago, to Loughiel Shamrocks in the 1983 All-Ireland senior club hurling championship.

[I feel obliged to also note that QUB won the Fitzgibbon Cup in hurling some 30 years earlier, in 1953.]

On the former occasion, Loughiel Shamrocks had defeated the Leinster champions, St Rynagh’s of Offaly, after a replay. Last Saturday, Loughiel returned to the final and again an Offaly club (in this case Coolderry) provided the competition. Exploiting a shaky looking Coolderry full-back line, four first-half goals (including 3 from the imperious Liam Watson) meant that Loughiel were never really troubled en route to a 4-13 to 0-17 win.

Notably, much of the same Loughiel panel had endured the indignity of losing six consecutive Antrim county finals between 2003 and 2008.

A crowd of 25,000 (and a live TV audience) witnessed the Croke Park win, including Ballymoney’s DUP mayor Ian Stevenson (whose grandfather Sean O’Neill had played for the club in the 1920s). Loughiel, like Coolderry (and Crossmaglen and Garrycastle who drew the football final) are merely amateur local clubs with the core playing staff generally drawn from a handful of families. In the stadium the Shamrock’s support was visible and audible in both the main stands.

By Tuesday, the fans and players of all four clubs will have went back to their lives. The kids who played the half-time mini-games got to tell the story in the playground. Little fuss, no bomb scares, no grand-standing, no ministerial air-miles, no losing fans smashing windows, no nonsense.

Having said that, Liam Watson’s second and third goals were special enough to live in the memory. The second was an outrageous free (9 minutes into the clip). For the third (10.45 into the clip), at speed, he showed great touch to tame a dropping sliotar into his path and lash it past the Coolderry keeper.

Hopefully that memory won’t have to sustain us saffrons for another thirty years.

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  • JR

    I have to say it was a great performance. A proud day for Ulster Hurling. I hope it can inspiere some of the other other Ulster clubs to Hurling success.

  • John Anderson

    I had the fortune of being in Croker to see this brilliant performance, and must commend the Loughgiel supporters on their superb support for their team. By far the best of all four clubs involved on the day. Watson’s first half hat-trick goal blitz was one of the finest virtuoso performances you’re ever likely to see. Well done to all the Shamrocks.

  • lamhdearg2

    well done the antrim/ulster men, those in the know could you tell me why Hurling plays such a second fiddle to G/football, which to me anyway is a shite game. ps i think i know antrims secret, as it seem from time spent in its hills, the children are born with a stick in their hand, again well done the shamrocks.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Sensational stuff from the Shamrocks!

    Liam Watson’s hat-trick will live long in the memory – the third goal, particularly, must have had Isaac Newton spinning in his grave.

    Ecstasy for Ulster hurling!

  • John Ó Néill


    The standard is relatively more level in gaelic football. While there is a gap between the top and bottom, most counties can manage the occasional shock against the bigger teams and the winning margin tends to be respectable even when it may not really have been in doubt (a bit like soccer). Hurling is more like rugby – it is pretty unforgiving if there is a significant differential in quality and the losing margins can be horrendous for the weaker teams. There is no real chance of a weak county giving any sort of competition to the stronger counties even on their worst of worst days. The same counties have pretty much always dominated in hurling while football has varied considerably. The scale of coaching and player development required to bridge the gap in skill levels in hurling seems to be beyond an amateur organisation. Only 13 counties, including London, have won a senior hurling All-Ireland and all but two won their first before 1923. In football, 19 different counties have won and 11 have won their first since 1925 (four since 1990).

  • lamhdearg2

    thanks john, i still prefer the hurling, maybe because i dont care who wins, unless of course an Ulster team is playing one from the gray mists.

  • Zig70

    Just imagine how dominant Ulster would be if the both tribes played.

  • DT123

    Zig 70.

    Are you referring to the Northern Ireland football team per chance?

  • Tochais Síoraí

    You’d want 40 or 50 tribes playing for the NI football team for them to have any chance, DT.