It’s not often you score 2-6 in a county final and still end up on the losing side, but sport is no respecter of such personal exploits, as Benny McCarry knows only too well.
Last year’s final defeat to St Gabriels was a “tough one to take” but not for that reason for the Loughiel Shamrocks man – too many Emmetts players failed to produce their best.
And he doesn’t exclude himself from that honest appraisal.
On Sunday, the Robert Emmetts forward will happily stride off the Ruislip pitch with a zero against his name, if it means he’s coming off it a winner.
“County finals are for winning; it doesn’t matter how you play, it’s about getting over that line,” McGarry told the Irish World.
“The majority of our team will have felt disappointed with the way they played that day.
“But Gabriels were the hungrier team and fully deserved their victory. No arguments.”
No surprise therefore that McCarry takes little consolation from the superlatives lavished on last year’s final, as the best seen in the county for many a year.
“Both teams went hell for leather and I’m sure it was a great spectacle, but the result wasn’t what we wanted,” he adds.
2018 was McCarry’s first year with Emmetts having been part of the Loughiel Shamrocks side which dominated Antrim and Ulster hurling in recent years, and won an All-Ireland Club SHC title in 2012.
McCarry chipped in with three points as Shamrocks beat Offaly’s Coolderry by 4-13 to 0-17.
He’s a man accustomed to winning.
Goalkeeper DD Quinn was also part of that side and McCarry credits him as being a “calming influence” on the Emmetts defence.
“DD’s been massive; he’s organised the defence and every man knows where they’re playing and where they should be,” said McCarry, who also reached a Christy Ring final with Antrim in 2016.
It shone through against Brothers Pearse in the semi-final – a side Emmetts had been “lucky” to scrape a draw with in the group stage.
McCarry with an injury-time free to tie the game up at 2-16 a piece, as Emmetts finished with just 13-men.
“Before the game we’d have been disappointed with a draw, but afterwards we were glad to get out of there with a point,” he said.
But in the semi-final, Pearse’s got no change whatsoever out of a hungry Emmetts defence, which won most of the ball Pearse’s sent in, and swarmed all over the player in possession, when they didn’t.
By far the meanest defence in this year’s championship – 85 points conceded in six games – Emmetts restricted Pearse’s to just one-point from play in their semi-final. McCarry hit 2-3 as Emmetts won by 2-11 to 0-9.
McCarry and Quinn have also been joined by another Shamrocks man, Damon McMullan, who has impressed at centre back. McMullan is a first cousin of McCarry.
“He’s been hurling at the top of his game,” says McCarry.
McCarry also chipped in with 1-3 (3f) – and Ben Conroy 2-3 – as Emmetts got the better of defending champions St Gabriels in the group stage, 3-13 to 0-14.
Emmetts were brighter and hungrier all over the pitch that day against an out of sorts Gabriels, who were missing full back Connor Helebert, Ronan Royston and Daniel Glynn.
Not surprisingly, McCarry isn’t reading too much into that result.
“I think they were doing a bit of shadow boxing,” he says. It was Emmetts who delivered the punches, though.
However, it wasn’t their best performance of this year’s championship. McCarry says that came against Thomas McCurtains in Round 1 in Greenford.
Keen to reverse their defeat to the east Londoners at Goodmayes a few weeks prior, when McCurtains “played them off the park”, Emmetts blunted McCurtains at every turn before running away with the game in the final quarter.
It’s fair to say Emmetts had “a score to settle” in Greenford. They won by 4-20 to 0-7.
Defeat on Sunday will be Emmetts’ third in a county final in a row, but that’s not something that’s even been mentioned in the Emmetts camp says McCarry.
Nor too has the Connacht Club Championship – McCarry and Co are not looking any further than Sunday.
“They’re reigning county champions and if we don’t bring our A game it won’t be good enough,” he said.
“I’ve watched them a few times and I’ve been nothing but impressed by their movement up front and how they sure up defence.
“I’m pretty sure they’ll probably play a sweeper against us and how we counteract that is going to have a bearing on the game.
“They’ll be a bit disappointed at how they played in the Connacht Championship last year and they’ll want to rectify that.
“We have no pressure on us – we’re going in as underdogs.”
And every underdog has its day.