St Marys prove to be excellent hosts for Sunday’s final

Long after the players of Cargin and Creggan had left the Clooney pitch on Sunday and volunteers from the St. Mary’s GAC club had gathered the barrels of rubbish discarded on the terraces there was surely a moment of reflection by those involved of a ‘job well done’.

Since the Casement Park debacle hit Antrim like a bomb, a number of year’s back leaving the Saffron followers as nomads and without a county ground to call our own in has been left to clubs like St. Mary’s Ahoghill, St. John’s, Glenavy, Ballycastle, Loughgiel, Dunloy and others to take up the slack and none of them have been found wanting.

On Sunday I arrived at Clooney before 1-00pm in order to get a good parking spot aware of a potential bumper crowd for the most eagerly awaited county football final in the South West for many years and saw at first hand just a bit of what goes into hosting such an event.

From early morning stewards were out on the road placing cones to ensure there would be no cars on the road causing obstructions and making sure the two overflow car parks were ready for the large volume of traffic expected on the day.

Inside the ground county officers were manning a mobile ticket office while the St. Mary’s stewards were busy parking the early arrivals while a group of ladies had already opened the clubs tea-coffee shop and were providing refreshments for those early arrivals for the MFC final that preceded the senior game. Another shop was situated at the other corner of the ground.

Another group of ladies were selling tickets for the half time draw and there was a great sense of carnival in the build up to the clash between Dunloy and St. Gall’s who were about to contest the minor final.

At the end of the minor final a mobile platform was quickly placed on the pitch, providing a clear view for the presentation of the cup and after the presentation it was into preparations for the senior final. As before the minor game a bench was placed on the pitch for the benefit of photographers and the arrival of the teams for pre-match photographs.

At half time in both games press, county officers and guests were treated to a splendid selection of tea, coffee and food in the St. Mary’s clubrooms while instruction were issued by the M.C over the loud speaker system sending stewards to a bottleneck that had been caused by illegal parkers.

By the time I and my fellow photographers had taken the after match photographs and made my way back to the car at about 5-30 most of the large  crowd, estimated at anywhere between 4,000 and 6,000 depending who you talk to, had departed the ground and I was on my way.

Along the road back to Ahoghill some stewards were lifting cones of the road while others were directing the last of the cars out of the overflow car park. Instruction had already been handed out during the game advising motorists as to the best route for a quick getaway.

A large logistics operation carried out to precision and another fine example of what the GAA is about. Volunteerism at its best! Most of those on duty were there from early morning until late evening without financial reward and did a superb job in making the day the great success that it was.

Well done to St. Mary’s Ahoghill-nobody does it better!

Left to right: 1) Mick McCann raises the Paddy MacNamee Cup. 2) lifelong Cargin fan Stephen McCoy gets his hands on the cup. 3) County chairman, Collie Donnelly presents the MFC cup to Dunloy captain Aaron Crawford

St. Mary’s stewards place the MacNamee Cup on the platform after the game

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