Hurling & Camogie

I will be fit for All-Ireland final crack insists Dunloy's Paul Shiels

Dunloy's Paul Shiels hurt his back in an innocuous collision with Cushendall’s Eoghan Campbell during the county final at Corrigan Park back in mid-October, but insists he is 'ready to go' for the All-Ireland final clash with Ballyhale Shamrocks. Picture by Sportsfile
Dunloy's Paul Shiels hurt his back in an innocuous collision with Cushendall’s Eoghan Campbell during the county final at Corrigan Park back in mid-October, but insists he is 'ready to go' for the All-Ireland final clash with Ballyhale S Dunloy's Paul Shiels hurt his back in an innocuous collision with Cushendall’s Eoghan Campbell during the county final at Corrigan Park back in mid-October, but insists he is 'ready to go' for the All-Ireland final clash with Ballyhale Shamrocks. Picture by Sportsfile

PAUL ‘Shorty’ Shiels says he will be fit for Dunloy’s tilt at All-Ireland glory against Ballyhale Shamrocks on Sunday week after a back injury limited his game-time in the Ulster final with Slaughtneil and their All-Ireland semi-final tie with St Thomas’s.

At last night’s All-Ireland final press night in Dunloy, both Shiels and manager Gregory O’Kane were adamant the team’s most trusted metronome was "ready to go".

Shiels was involved in an innocuous collision with Cushendall’s Eoghan Campbell during the county final at Corrigan Park back in mid-October and has only recently fully recovered from the injury.

“I’m not too bad at this stage. I’m ready to go,” said Shiels last night.

“After the county final I knew I was in trouble. It was a tougher build-up to the Ulster final because I knew I wasn’t ready. It just came too soon for me and I had a few more weeks building up to the All-Ireland semi-final and I felt right then, so it’s been easing ever since.

“It was one of those things. It was a collision which left me with a back injury and there was nothing I could do about it. But nothing long-term or sinister.”

The highly-regarded midfielder, who stepped away from the county panel in 2017, has helped guide the Cuchullain’s to five county championships out of the last six seasons.

“In fairness to Gregory, he trusts his players. If he didn’t think I was fit enough, he would come and talk to me. He sees me at training every night so there’s a good level of trust between us.”

O’Kane also keenly dismissed any fitness doubts surrounding his 34-year-old captain.

“I read an article recently where it said your best players are always your best players no matter what. That’s the bottom line. Everybody knows the quality of Paul.

“These few weeks have been good for him and he’s had a good run there recently,” said the Dunloy boss.

“We’re 10 or 12 days out and hopefully everything goes well.”

Aaron Crawford, a revelation at wing-back this year, is definitely ruled out after suffering a broken collarbone in the second half of their All-Ireland semi-final against St Thomas’s.

“Aaron has been absolutely outstanding all year for us,” O’Kane said. “He played wing-back and he’d added scoring to his game too.

“He came back from Antrim and you just saw the development in him, he had this athleticism about him. He’s a very, very good player and a big loss.

“I’m gutted for him. I’m gutted for his family for him to miss out on an All-Ireland Club final. That said, the four weeks has been good to us.”

Dominic McKinley, Kevin and Nicky McKeague got some minutes in their legs for Antrim on Monday night in a McGurk Cup game against Armagh in Dunsilly as O’Kane tries to deepen his resources ahead of their January 22 showpiece game against Ballyhale.

Since their pre-Christmas semi-final victory, the Dunloy camp has been “really relaxed” with the underdog tag helping O’Kane’s players a great deal.

“Probably because we’re overwhelming underdogs I feel we’re more relaxed," O'Kane added. "There is nothing expected of us, particularly against Ballyhale, so in that regard there is a nice atmosphere in training.

“It was a wonderful time going into Christmas knowing that you were in an All-Ireland Club final and we're looking forward to the final now.”