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Last Updated: Friday, 27 February, 2004, 20:39 GMT
Cup heroes: Paul Loughlin
Paul Loughlin
It was difficult to see hardmen like Andy Platt and Chris Arkwright crying at the end of the game
Loughlin on the 1989 defeat
Paul Loughlin, a Cup hero? Any player who loses five Challenge Cup finals and is not a bitter and twisted old man deserves star status in our view.

Loughlin must have walked under numerous ladders and broken a string of mirrors in his time.

Not only did he lose with St Helens in 1987, 1989 and 1991, he was beaten as a Bradford player in 1996 and 1997.

To make matters worse for Loughlin, the Bulls lost to Saints on both occasions.

Amazingly, Loughlin is neither bitter nor reluctant to talk about his succession of near-misses, as BBC Sport found out.

"Though I was a loser in five Challenge Cup finals I still take great pride in having played in them," says Loughlin.

"There are many players who were far better then me who never managed to appear in a match at Wembley throughout their whole career.

"Whatever the merits of the Millennium Stadium, Twickenham or Murrayfield, none of them have the magic and atmosphere of Wembley.

"It is a unique stadium and I consider myself very fortunate to have played there.

"Of my five finals, my first for St Helens against Halifax and my first for Bradford against the Saints proved to be the biggest disappointments.

"I really did think I was due a winners' medal. But it was not to be.

"Against Halifax, Saints were favourites to win and had every chance. But the fates seemed to conspire against us.

LOUGHLIN'S LOSING RUN
1987:
St Helens 18-19 Halifax
1989:
St Helens 0-27 Wigan
1991:
St Helens 8-13 Wigan
1996:
Bradford 32-40 St Helens
1997:
Bradford 22-32 St Helens

"I had a good game, scoring a try and three goals, but, in the final 15 minutes of the match, everything went against us.

"There was controversy after Mark Elia's try was ruled out for a forward pass by Andy Platt.

"Then there was that incredible piece of play from Halifax's John Pendlebury when he knocked the ball out of Elia's grasp as he was about to touch down for what could have been the winning try.

"Before the game, I walked out on the Wembley pitch with winger Barry Ledger and, jokingly, told him how I would make a break, draw the Halifax winger Wilf George and then pass the ball to Barry for a try.

"I did make a break, but, instead of passing to Barry, I dummied and scored myself.

"Barry came across and called me greedy, but we still lost and I collected my first losers' medal.

"When I played for Bradford against Saints in 1996, we were leading by 26 -12 after 57 minutes of play and I really did think I was going to get a winners' medal.

Saints staged an amazing comeback and Bobbie Goulding set up three tries with his high kicks into the swirling wind
Loughlin on the 1996 defeat
It was difficult to see hardmen like Andy Platt and Chris Arkwright crying at the end of the game.

"When Robbie Paul scored his second try to give us the big lead, I remember Graeme Bradley, who had lost at Wembley in 1992 with Castleford, saying to me that it looked as if we were going to get our winners' medals.

"But still we didn't win.

"Saints staged an amazing comeback and Bobbie Goulding set up three tries with his high kicks into the swirling wind, which caught us out badly.

"We had the game won and a winners' medal was in sight but again it didn't happen.

"You can't change the way games turn out but I still enjoyed playing in five Challenge Cup finals at Wembley."





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