Leinster Junior Hurling B Championship
Having won their first ever senior hurling title this year, All Saints head to Limerick where they take part in the Leinster Junior B championship and it’s a journey the Ballymena side are looking forward.
Having unsuccessfully contested three All County Junior finals in the 80’s and 90’s the Ballymena side struggled to field a hurling team and despite a massive effort by a small group of hurling enthusiasts they were forced to withdraw from the ACH Leagues a couple of years ago.
Those same enthusiasts led by Paddy Neeson, Hector Cassley and Joe Casey were determined that hurling wouldn’t disappear from the club and for a couple of seasons two of their best players, Liam Cassley and Damian Gillan transferred to St. Brigid’s Cloughmills where they won Antrim and Ulster Intermediate championship medals.
A number of the club’s young players transferred as sanctioned players to neighbouring clubs to gain experience while a crop of youngsters under the guidance of Roisin McCann and Paul McGarry were introduced to the North Antrim league and have been a resounding success, winning North Antrim U12 and U14 league and championship titles and a North Antrim B Feile.
At the start of 2018 it was decided to enter a team again in the All County leagues with Liam Cassley and Damian Gillan returning and a number of new young players emerging to form a healthy panel that has acquitted itself well in its first season back in division 4.
Fergus ‘Skinner’ McAllister of Cushendall has been brought on board to coach the side and his experience and know how has helped the development of the young players and indeed the team as a unit.
Daire Hasson, Colum Neeson, Terry Diamond, Ciaran Neeson, Brendan and James McDonnell, Luke O’Rawe, Padraig Magill, Eoin McGuigan and Ryan McGarry are amongst the emerging young players who have breathed new life into the All Saints side while Christopher McAffee, Darren McGinty, Ciaran McGarry and Gary Miskella have returned to put their shoulder to the wheel.
They went on to win the Junior B championship, defeating Davitt’s and St. Agnes to take the title which then qualified them to play in the Junior A competition where they were beaten by eventual Antrim champions, Emmet’s Cushendun.
They performed well that night at Armoy, scoring four goals against an excellent Cushendun side who proved to have too much overall craft for the Ballymena side in the end and have now gone on to reach the Ulster Junior championship semi-final.
This Saturday All Saints are scheduled to meet Coolderry of Offaly in a first ever Leinster quarter-final at Pairc Ide Naofa, Rahennagh, Co. Limerick and when I spoke to some of the boys at Friday night’s Annual Presentation Dinner it was a trip they were looking forward.
The Ballymena men quite literally don’t know what to expect, Damian Gillan told me “We’ll go along, give it everything we have and see where it takes us”
The games in preceded by the first quarter-final in the competition where Wolfe Tones, Edgeworthstown, Longford meet Balindereen of Galway and on the following day, Sunday Graigue-Ballycallan, Kilkenny play Trim of Meath followed by the last of the quarter-finals where Cuala Of Dublin meet the Wexford champions who were unknown at the time of writing.
All Saints will be rubbing shoulders with a number of clubs with big reputations but are looking forward to testing themselves against unknown opposition and whatever the result, I’m sure it will prove to be a great week end for the team and their supporters.
The Saffron Gael wish All Saints every success!
All Saints celebrate after defeating St. Agnes in the Junior B hurling final in Cloughmills this year. They head to Limerick on Sunday where they will face Coolderry of Offaly in the Leinster quarter-final.