Former Antrim and Cork defender James Loughrey calls time on county career
FORMER Antrim boss Liam 'Baker' Bradley has heaped praise on James Loughrey after he announced his inter-county retirement yesterday.
The 34-year-old, who transferred to Mallow in 2013 for work and family reasons - brings the curtain down after 14 years on the county stage, having come onto the scene in 2007 and played in Antrim’s Tommy Murphy Cup final defeat to Wicklow that summer.
The former St Brigid's clubman was there as the Saffrons gained revenge the following year, and was a central figure in Liam Bradley’s class of ’09 as Antrim stunned Donegal and Cavan (he was man-of-the-match in that game) en route to the provincial decider, where they lost out to Tyrone.
He proved a steady presence in Cork teams - but Bradley feels Antrim never replaced him.
"I remember in '09 James got an Ulster Allstar and I think a couple of Antrim players were nominated for Allstars that same year," Bradley said.
"I always thought it was a disgrace that James Loughrey wasn't nominated for an Allstar as well because at that time he was one of the best half-backs not only in Ulster but Ireland.
"I thought he was that good. His attitude, his will to win, his will to listen to better himself - he was just a first-class athlete. There is no doubt if James had stayed, Antrim would have been in a much better place and I firmly believe they wouldn't have fallen into Division Four."
After helping Ulster to a Railway Cup in 2012, it wasn’t long before Loughrey was moving down to Munster, becoming a stalwart in the Cork defence for the past eight years.
“He is retired,” confirmed Rebels selector Sean Hayes.
“It was his own decision. He came back stronger than ever in the last two years because Mallow were still involved in the county championship. In fairness to James, he is an accountant, he had a second kid and between age and mileage he found the pace very fast.
“He just felt after training the other night he had enough. It is sad to see him go, it was his own decision and you have to respect him for that.”