Dunloy's Paul Shiels basking in glory of being a county champion again
DUNLOY ace Paul ‘Shorty’ Shiels has revealed he didn’t think he would savour winning a county championship again after two career-threatening hip injuries earlier in his career.
But 10 years after winning his first county title, the county ace was top of the world on Sunday after the Cuchullain’s blitzed Ruairi Og Cushendall to make it 12 senior titles in the roll of honour list, ending an eight-year famine.
“That’s right up there,” said Shiels of Sunday’s six-point triumph.
“Whenever you win your county championship is a great day. We’ve the minors in the bag and we won the U21s – it’s just been an unbelievable year for the club.”
Shiels missed Dunloy’s last senior championship success in 2009 due to hip surgery.
Seven years later, he went under the knife again to repair a similar problem in his other hip.
On both occasions, the 29-year-old doubted whether he would play hurling again.
“There were stages where you didn’t know whether you were going to play again,” admitted the midfielder.
“But this is the reason why we do it. There are so many people here and I’m so happy for the club.
“I missed the ’09 final through injury. I played in ’07 when we won it but this win makes up for it a wee bit.
“This means everything to the club. Dunloy is a small village and the hurling field is right in the middle of it. Everything revolves around hurling.”
Shiels was sensational from start to finish in Dunloy’s six-point final victory over Cushendall last weekend. But ‘Shorty’ preferred to heap praise on some of the team’s flying forwards. Keelan Molloy, Eoin O’Neill and Conal Cunning are just out of minor and played the shirt off their backs while Nigel Elliott was a constant thorn in Cushendall’s side during Sunday’s final.
“Those young boys are fearless; they’ve come up through the ranks and won everything and this is just another stepping stone for them. It’s a privilege to play with them. You give them the ball into space and they do the rest.”
Despite enjoying more possession in a scrappy opening half, Dunloy trailed 0-7 to 0-4 at the break – but Shiels wasn’t fazed by the deficit.
Midway through the second half, the Cuchullain’s club had turned this year’s final on its head by outscoring Cushendall 2-8 to 0-1.
Although Cushendall tagged on a couple of late goals, Dunloy were far superior in the second period, with Nigel Elliott and Conal Cunning raising green flags for Gregory O’Kane’s side.
“In our championship game against St John’s we were two down at
half-time and when we came out we were three down, but we didn’t panic, we just kept plugging away.
“We know we have the hurlers. To be honest, I thought six points flattered Cushendall because we were by far the superior team.”
Shiels added: “We felt we should have been ahead at half-time. We had all the chances and all the play but we couldn’t put the ball over the bar. And that was the talk at half-time.
“I don’t think we even conceded a goal chance in the first half and we knew the boys were getting a hard time up front but we also knew we had the fitness and the legs to keep plugging away and get over the line. It was a great performance.”
Dunloy have a mouthwatering provincial encounter with holders Slaughtneil to look forward to on October 8.
But there was some partying to be done in the north Antrim village before sizing up their next task.
“Slaughtneil are a massive challenge,” Shiels acknowledged.
“They’re a great team. They beat Loughgiel last year to win the Ulster title but we’re not thinking about Slaughtneil right now. We’ll enjoy this and get ready for the game in a couple of weeks.”