By Larry Cooney
Warwickshire hurling manager Chris Brough couldn’t contain his smile as the midlanders pulled off a truly sensational turnaround at Pearse Park to stun Donegal, and preserve their Division 2B league status.
Having been hammered by 16 points by the Hills County just six days earlier in the sides’ ‘dead-rubber’, Brough’s charges twice trailed by five points in the first half of their relegation play-off in Longford.
But they turned it around in the second half thanks to goals from Emmett McCabe and Kelvin Magee, and then held on for a thrilling victory, 2-10 to 0-14.
It’s a day that will live long in the memory for Warwickshire hurling, and there have been a few of those in recent years.
“We’ve had some great days in the past few years and also some not so good, but today is definitely up there with some of the great days and I could not be more proud,” Brough told the Irish World.
“It was an awesome second-half performance against a team who will be playing Christy Ring hurling in a few weeks.”
Brough added: “There was always a big performance [in this team] because they’ve been getting better from game-to-game. We knew we had to improve game-by-game.
“Last week, we conceded five goals so that is why I’m delighted, especially with our defensive performance. We kept a clean sheet against one of the most improved hurling minnow counties.”
Brough’s joy was shared by his players. Forward Ian Dwyer says he wasn’t unduly concerned about the Exiles being four points down at the break.
Awesome is right!!! Shows just what hard work and dedication will bring you!! What a weekend for County Hurling! Congrats again to the team @brough1983 @gozzy1981 and John O’Shea https://t.co/31SUOCvYEe
— Official Warwickshire GAA (@warwickshireclg) March 12, 2019
He said: “The early goal gave us a real lift and the second goal came at a time when we were on top and gave us the belief that we could pull it off and we did.
“It was definitely one of the best Warwickshire team performances that I have been involved in over the past few years.”
A sentiment echoed by centre back John Collins, who called it one of the most “satisfying” wins he’s ever been involved in.
“Last week’s result in Letterkenny did not do us justice which is why it was great to have the opportunity to turn it around. I’m delighted we managed to do it,” said Collins.
Warwickshire forward and Limerick native Niall Kennedy was reunited with his Longford-based Ballingarry clubmate Benny Hanly at the whistle.
Hanly will be lining out for Longford in the Nicky Rackard Cup and is set to face Warwickshire in the Exiles’ next game in Ireland in May.
“It all came good in the second half and we will have that momentum for when we are back here in Nicky Rackard Cup,” said Kennedy.