EDDIE McCloskey will only stop believing he can’t win another Antrim senior championship when he finally hangs up his hurl for Loughgiel Shamrocks.
Boss Hugh McCann described McCloskey’s virtuoso display in Sunday’s championship quarter-final win over Rossa as “the Eddie of old” – and he wasn’t wrong.
The former Antrim attacker bagged six points from play in Loughgiel’s most impressive display of the season as the Shamrocks look ahead to their semi-final showdown with Cushendall on Sunday October 2 (Ballycastle, 2pm).
The 34-year-old has endured a difficult two seasons with niggly injuries and thought that an Achilles problem might have forced him to call time on his playing career. But he’s managed to recover and is aiming to win his sixth county championship this season.
“Every year I put on this jersey I think I’m going to win a championship,” said McCloskey.
“That’s the way it has to be. Loughgiel are Loughgiel. I think any young hurler in Loughgiel with any aspiration of playing at senior level wants to be winning a championship. I genuinely do. It’s going to be tough. We’ve Cushendall in the way but we’ll approach it like any other game.”
After Sunday's classy display, it’s unimaginable Eddie McCloskey’s name not being on a Loughgiel team-sheet. A 2012 All-Ireland winner with his club, McCloskey looked as fit as he’s ever been. But behind the hard running and smooth execution of his six points there were days when he thought it wasn’t worth it.
“I pulled my calf before last year’s championship and it hampered me during the championship. This year I hurt my Achilles and I thought that was going to be it, that it was the end.
“But I got myself sorted, I feel good and I had a decent performance against Rossa. I’m 34, it’s about what I can contribute to the team. I always have it in my head, if I can contribute to the team then I’ll keep doing it. But the commitment levels are increasing, you’ve family life to consider and it’s about the time and the balance.
“I think it’s just managing the body at this point too. Maybe the work load has to be managed whenever you get over the 30 mark. I felt good against Rossa but the last day I wasn’t 100 per cent.”
Loughgiel suffered a narrow defeat to St John's in their championship group opener before recovering to ease past St Enda’s. In their final group game against Cushendall, they started well but finished poorly.
By virtue of topping the group, the Ruairi Ogs went straight through to the semi-finals, while Loughgiel would have gained plenty from Sunday’s 16-point win over Rossa.
“If you look at the run of our performances so far in the championship we played St John’s and had a terrible first half, the second half was much better. Against Cushendall it was the opposite. Yes, we played well against St Enda’s but I think Rossa was a better assessment of where we’re at.
“We couldn’t afford to take the foot off the pedal. We expected a purple patch from Rossa but we hung in there and kept chipping away.
“But we’ll not get ahead of ourselves. Cushendall have beaten us twice this year and we’re up against it. Cushendall probably watched our game against Rossa and wouldn’t be worrying too much about us...
"Winning is contagious, it gives you momentum, but Cushendall are coming off the back of three wins in the championship too. So, from that perspective, it doesn’t really mean a lot."
Cushendall grinded out league and championship wins over their north Antrim rivals this season and would still be regarded as second favourites to defending champions Dunloy to win the Volunteer Cup in 2022.
“You know what you’re going to get against Cushendall," McCloskey added.
“It’ll be a dogged game. They’re not going to want you to play hurling but at that the same time they can hurl. Cushendall can give it to you any way. We know each other fairly well over the years and we know what to expect.”
Bathshack Antrim SHC semi-final draw: Sunday October 2: Loughgiel Shamrocks v Cushendall (Ballycastle, 2pm); St John's v Dunloy (Dunsilly, 5pm)