Hurling and camogie

Ryan Bogue enjoying the high road with St Enda's Glengormley

Noamh Enna's Ryan Bogue, in possession, has been a key cog in the Antrim champions wheel this season after transferring from Lisbellaw

FROM Lisbellaw to St Enda’s, Glengormley – Ryan Bogue’s is definitely a road less travelled. At the beginning of 2019, he had a major decision to make.

The Belfast-based Fermanagh hurler had reached the point where he simply wasn’t playing enough games to warrant the commute back home to Lisbellaw three times per week.

Approaching his 30th birthday, it was time to consider the unthinkable: transferring clubs, not for anything other than the love of the game.

“If Lisbellaw had 10 or 15 games a year I’d still be there, no doubt about it,” he says.

The small Fermanagh club gets five or six hurling games on average per season in the Armagh League.

Bogue happened to be reading in The Irish News that said former Antrim Allstar Terence McNaughton had taken the reins at St Enda’s.

“I’d been looking at different clubs and thinking about coming to Belfast to play. When I read it in the paper, I texted my cousin Declan Bogue [sports journalist] and asked him: ‘Do you think it’s too late to transfer to St Enda’s?’

“Within a few minutes he’d my number sent to Sambo and on a Saturday morning he rang me. I was actually doing a park run in Lisburn and he’d left a voicemail. I had a quick chat with him. At that stage I still hadn’t made up my mind if I was transferring at all.

“He said: ‘Look, I’m not trying to poach you from your own club or anything like that. I’d never do that. But if you want to come to play hurling in Belfast, this is the club to come to.’

“He said he’d ring me back the following Saturday at the same time and, literally, on the button, he rang me and I still hadn’t made up my mind.

“And then he passed my number on to Philly Curran [St Enda’s dual player] and Philly rang me. I chatted to Philly and a lot of other people. I didn’t take it lightly leaving my own club.

“It was probably the hardest decision of my life to transfer. My head was wrecked for weeks thinking about it. One day I was transferring, the next day I was staying.

“I eventually made up my mind, I rang Philly and Terence back and said I would join up with them.”

Fast-forward to the present and Bogue will line out in the black and amber of his adopted club to play in an All-Ireland IHC semi-final against Kilkenny kingpins Tullaroan, home to the great Tommy Walsh and Padraic Walsh.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be playing in an All-Ireland semi-final,” says Bogue. “I didn’t go to St Enda’s for the glory, I went to play more games. It’s just worked out that way.”

Bogue’s curious dress sense soon won the hearts of his new team-mates.

“It takes you a while to get your head in the door but it’s the same craic as anywhere,” says Bogue.

“I think my fashion sense wasn’t long getting me noticed. I wore a woolly jumper and pair of skinny track bottoms one day and that soon got me through the door.

“Big Joe [Maskey] got a good laugh out of that. Some of them couldn’t believe that I’d worse fashion sense than Philly Curran!”

Bogue’s commitment to St Enda’s was on show over the Christmas period when he made the 140-mile round trip for a training session on St Stephen’s Day.

He did the same journey from Lisbellaw to Glengormley for further training sessions on the Sunday and on New Year’s Day in preparation for a crack at Tullaroan in Parnell Park this afternoon.

After lining out at wing-forward and wing-back in pre-season games, Bogue finally settled in midfield where he’s struck up a telepathic relationship with Ruairi Donaghy.

Bogue’s arrival at the Hightown Road club this season has coincided with the senior hurlers writing their names into the history books.

They gained promotion to Division One for the first time by beating Dungannon and after clinching a county title they won an epic penalty shoot-out against the Tyrone men at Celtic Park to seal an unlikely provincial crown.

The odds are stacked against McNaughton’s men at the north Dublin venue this afternoon but St Enda’s shouldn’t be taken lightly by the Walsh clan.

Regardless of what happens today, Bogue says it was the right decision to transfer and getting the chance to play under one of the greats of the game.

“I’ve had some great days with Lisbellaw. We won the Ulster Junior in 2008 and Ulster Intermediate in 2012 and those days will be hard to top, but playing under Terence McNaughton is something else. You’ll always be grateful to get the chance to play under him and the way he operates. It’s not that he does anything different, it’s just the way he gets the best out of boys. He’s an amazing coach.”

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All-Ireland Club Intermediate Hurling Championship semi-final: Tullaroan (Kilkenny) v St Enda’s, Glengormley (Antrim) (Today, Parnell Park, 1.30pm)

EVERYONE associated with St Enda’s, Glengormley won’t forget the last 12 months in a hurry after their footballers claimed county and provincial honours at intermediate level last season, only to lose to Kilcummin of Kerry in an All-Ireland final at Croke Park last Feburary.

If those days and nights weren’t enough to sate the appetite of the Hightown Road club for a generation, the senior hurlers have embarked on a similar journey this season under Terence McNaughton.

Managing outside his own club for the first time, the Cushendall man took the Naomh Éanna reins back in January and delivered promotion to Division One for the first time in the club’s history.

Their league momentum brought them to a hard-earned county title but the smart money was on Banagher of Derry to end their giddy hopes of provincial glory.

Once again, they upset the odds thanks to a crucial Philly Curran major and a Ruairi Donaghy winner in the last attack of the game.

And the adventure didn’t end there when McNaughton’s men held their nerve to see off Dungannon in the Ulster decider at Celtic Park, especially goalkeeper Martin Curran – brother of Philly’s – who saved four penalties in a dramatic shoot-out.

St Enda’s are laced with quality all over the field in the shape of Cormac Ross, Joe Maskey, the Curran brothers, Ruairi Diamond, Ryan Bogue and Ruairi Donaghy.

But they face undoubtedly their toughest assignment yet in Tullaroan.

The Kilkenny men, led by county stars Tommy and Padraic Walsh as well as top marksman Shane – nailed their first county title since 1988 back in October before blitzing Offaly’s Seir Kieran of Offaly in the Leinster decider.

The bookmakers odds have Tullaroan 1/14 on. But when did St Enda’s ever pay any heed to odds?

Tullaroan will have to earn the right to progress to an All-Ireland final today.

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Hurling and camogie