Antrim Senior Football Championship final preview 2017 – Their last title
Lámh Dhearg 1-13 St John’s 1-12
Sunday’s opponents met in the 1971 final at Casement Park when Lamh Dhearg withstood a late St John’s fightback to clinch a 1-13 to 1-12 victory in a game described by Denis O’Hara in the Irish News as a game of mixed standards.
The men from Budore had opened a two point lead by half time and had stretched that advantage to three when Tyrone county player Sean McElhatton took advantage of a mistake by the Johnnies goalkeeper Len Vernon to fist the ball to an empty net three minutes from time. Six points to the good the title was bound for Hannahstown but their fans had to endure an anxious finish as St John’s hit back with two points from Mickey Gallagher to cut the gap to four. The Lamh Dhearg anxiety rose to fever pitch deep into injury time when the Johnnies were awarded a penalty by match referee Phelim Green of Pearses. Ace marksman Andy McCallin stepped up to drill the ball to the Lamh Dhearg net but it was to be the last meaningful kick of the game and the final whistle sounded on the kick-out to the great relief of the Lamh Dhearg followers.
Star of the show for the Hannahstown side was 22 year old Mickey O’Neill who scored eight points of his team’s total. In his report in the Irish News Denis O’Hara wrote
Just on the fringe of senior county honours Mickey gave the selectors a hefty nudge with his display of instinctive and opportunist football. With loads pf speed and guts, despite his lack of stature, he regularly tormented the Johnnies defence, and rarely did the Corrigan Park outfit find a real answer to the roving O’Neill. It was amazing to witness the freedom given to O’Neill who popped up in all kinds of unexpected places without an opponent in-tow.
Another star for the red hands was goalkeeper Paddy McCann who O’Hara described as cat-like in his report. O’Hara wrote
Given blanket coverage by Sam McGarry, Gerry McCague and unyielding Gerry Regan, McCann casually dealt with anything the St John’s attack cared to offer. Although their success was due mainly to teamwork McCann, Regan, Gerry McCague, O’Neill and Sean McQuillan, in spite of erratic judgement in the early stages, were undoubtedly Lamh Dhearg’s most prominent players.
The first half was a close fought affair and after Andy McCallin put St John’s ahead from a fifty metre free Sean McElhatton was on the end of a good three man move to draw Lamh Dhearg level. O’Neill put the winners ahead for the first time in the eighth minute but St John’s hit back with a point from Brendan Rainey to tie the scores at two apiece soon afterwards. St John’s began to gain the upper hand and they went two clear with points from John Rainey and Mickey Gallagher and had it not been for the heroic efforts of goalkeeper Paddy McCann the Corrigan Park side would have been much further ahead. Buoyed by these let offs Lamh Dhearg came back strongly and four points on the bouche from Pat McCague, Mickey O’Neill (2) and Gerry McCague from a ‘50’ they went in at the break with a two pointe lead.
Lamh Dhearg dominated the early stages of the second half as O’Neill added another point to stretch the gap to three, but an Andy McCallin point from a free reduced the gap to two again in the fortieth minute. The gap was down to a single point when Eamon Grieve and Jim Milligan combined to set John McCallin up for a point they were back on terms with eleven minutes to go after another McCallin point. It looked like remaining close to the very end until Lamh Dhearg pushed for home with three Mickey O’Neill points inside five minutes, and when McElhatton took advantage of goalkeeper Vernon’s mistake the gap was out to six. The Lamh Dhearg celebrations appeared to be a little premature when the Johnnies hit back with two points, followed by Andy McCallin’s penalty goal, but it was a case of too little too late for the Corrigan Park men and the title was on its way to Hannahstown.
Lamh Dhearg scorers – Mickey O’Neill 0-8; Sean McElhatton 1-1; Pat McCague 0-1; Gerry McCague 0-1; Sean McQuillan 0-1.
St John’s scorers – Andy McCallin 1-3; Mickey Gallagher 0-3; John McCallin 0-2; Brendan Rainey 0-2; Eamon Grieve 0-1; John Rainey 0-1.
Paddy McCann, Gerry Regan, Sam McGarry, Vincent Duffy, Jackie Duffy, Frank Fitzsimons, Gerry McCague, John P O’Kane, Sean McElhatton, Mickey O’Neill, Sean McQuillan (capt), Sean McNama, Cyril Jordan, Dominic McCann, Pat McCague.
Subs – Pat McQuillan for D McCann
Len Vernon, John Gough, Herbie Gallagher, Martin McGranaghan, Dessie McNeill, Eamon Grieve (capt), Sean Burns, Terry Dunlop, Jim Milligan, John Rainey, Andy McCallin, Gerry McCrory, John McCallin, Mickey Gallagher, Brendan Rainey
Subs – Gerry McCann for McCrory; Hugh Murphy for B Rainey
Referee – Phelim Green (Pearses).
NB The following year the Johnnies gained revenge when they beat Lamh Dhearg in the final in Ahoghill