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'Very proud to manage a great group of men in Clonkill... I hope we did Enda and his family proud'

It was a tough night for the Westmeath club after the untimely death of three-year-old Annabel Loughlin.

IT WAS A highly-charged, emotional affair at Parnell Park last night, but despite their AIB Leinster club SHC quarter-final exit, Clonkill can hold their heads high after an extremely difficult few days for the club.

Luke Loughlin and Shane Power at the end of regular time Clonkill's Luke Loughlin and Shane Power. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The scoreboard read 2-25 to 2-19 as the final whistle sounded after extra-time and Dublin champions Ballyboden St Enda’s progressed. 

But it was what it read soon after that mattered most to the tragedy-stricken Westmeath townland: “Rest In Peace Little Annabel”.

Three-year-old Annabel Loughlin, the daughter of Clonkill stalwart and former Westmeath hurler Enda, tragically passed away late last week. 

The heartbreaking circumstances meant that the match was postponed from Sunday, with the funeral taking place just hours before throw-in yesterday.

Her cousin Luke hit 1-2 for his side and contributed greatly to Clonkill’s brave performance, while another cousin, Adam, was also involved.

On a night where victory and defeat seemed irrelevant as the curtain came down on a desperately sad day, there were some lovely gestures on show in the capital.

The scoreboard, the comforting scenes at full-time and a guard of honour from Ballyboden players as the Clonkill men exited the field to name a few; the Westmeath champions can take solace in the fact that they honoured Annabel and her family accordingly.

Manager Kevin O’Brien hailed his players afterwards, tweeting: “Very proud to manage a great group of men in the Clonkill senior hurling team. 

“Sorry we didn’t get the job done. Thanks to everyone for their support. I hope we did Enda and his family proud. Best of luck to Ballyboden. Rest In Peace Annabel.”

Speaking to RTÉ Sport, he explained the tragic build-up.

“I spoke to the players last night and we said we’d try and give the people of the club a bit of a distraction,” O’Brien said.

“Sometimes sport can be a good distraction, after the awful tragedy we had in Clonkill last Friday. We lost a little girl, three years of age, Annabel Loughlin.

“Her father Enda Loughlin would have been a star from Clonkill and Westmeath and her uncle Sean is my Maor Foirne on the senior team this year and her two cousins Adam and Luke Loughlin would have been playing.

Clonkill players line up for a minute of silence Clonkill observe a minute's silence. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“So they’re steeped in Clonkill and we went out and honoured them tonight.

“It’s a very tight group of players and as manager I’m very proud of them. They were asked last night to leave every bit of them out of the pitch for themselves, for our club, for Enda, and try and give the people of Clonkill a small little bit of a distraction with a game of ball.”

Luke Loughlin and Paddy Dowdall after the game Loughlin and Dowdall at full-time. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

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Emma Duffy

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