Antrim hurlers lay Ballycran bogey at last


Ulster Intermediate Hurling Championship 1970

Down 3-13 Antrim 5-10

Last week Saffron Gael took a look back over Antrim’s Division 2 national League win back in 1969/70, which ended with a final win against Kildare in Croke Park. That hard fought campaign was to stand them in good stead when they started their Intermediate Championship campaign later that year. In the league run they had played Down three times, beating them in the home game at Casement in October 1969, but the men from the Ards gained revenge in the Spring of 1970 when they came out on top in Ballycran. That set up a play-off for a place in the semi-final and the two met again in the Athletic Grounds in Armagh on a day when Seamus Richmond inspired the Saffrons to a good win.

Man of the match Andy McCallin who scored 4-3 against Down

Down’s win in Ballycran had maintained their unbeaten record over their arch rivals at the new McKenna Park, so the Saffrons faced another tough task when they had to travel back there for the Ulster final of 1970, which was the start of the Intermediate campaign. Antrim had the nucleus of the team which had won the league title a few months earlier. A few had dropped out but the bulk of the team was still there and a few had been added like Loughgiel’s JP McFadden, St John’s Leonard ‘Boo’ Vernon (who came in as reserve goalkeeper) and Martin McGranaghan of Sarsfields.  The final was another hard hitting and high scoring game, and not for the first time Andy McCallin was the hero of the hour, with a personal tally of 4-3 in a man of the match performance.


Ulster Intermediate Hurling Final

ANTRIM 5-10 DOWN 3-13

Antrim’s Intermediate Hurlers retained their Ulster title yesterday when they achieved their first ever victory at Ballycran’s new pitch. But a hard tackling Down outfit nearly kept their unbeaten record intact and Antrim must again thank ace marksman Andy McCallin.

Down fielded without the stocky Hugh Dorian and Antrim had to do without the services of Sean Collins, otherwise both counties had all their big guns on display. The battle started with Down aided by a strong breeze, piling on the pressure in an attempt to build up a worthwhile first half lead.

The rearranged Antrim rear-guard, in which Eamon Hamill replaced Kevin Donnelly at full-back, was finding it difficult to settle down and soon forced to concede a 70, which Paddy Byers pointed effortlessly to open the scoring. Seconds later Martin Coleman registered a similar score and the Antrim attack had yet to show itself.  

                      LOOSE MARKING LED TO GOALS   

Eventually Antrim steadied, and aided by the promptings of midfields Sean Burns and Aidan Connolly, they at last broke away and Aidan Hamill pointed. Some loose marking by both defence saw Brian Faloona and Eddie Donnelly exchange goals, and after Brendan McGarry attempted to lift the ball ten yards out when he might easily have struck the ball to the net on the ground for the lead, Down began to gain control, and use the strong wind to considerable advantage. Eventually they added a further goal and two points by the end of the first quarter, and only some remarkable saves by Johnny Coyles in the Saffrons’ net, prevented a total collapse.

Eddie Donnelly who scored 1-1 in potent Antrim forward line

It was in the second quarter that Andy McCallin stamped his class on the game. First he took a neat pass from Brendan McGarry and left goalkeeper Sean Hollywood helpless and shortly afterwards while everyone stood watching the ball apparently sailing wide, young Andy waited in the Down square and sure enough the wind brought the ball down onto his flashing hurl, and the Down ’keeper had no chance. The score looked all over a “square” ball but the referee had no option as both umpires signalled a goal.

Intermittent points at both ends brought the sides level at 2-6 to 3-3 five minutes before half-time. Down forged ahead again with points from Faloona and Coleman before McCallin again hit the target to cut the Down lead to a single point.


Although McCallin was responsible for putting the finishing touches to many of the Antrim scores Down dselectors were seriously troubled by the roving of Andy’s co-star Aidan Hamill who was giving the Down rear-guard plenty to do and was creating the space for McCallin to work in.  Jimmy Hughes was brought back from the three-quarter line to the full-back line to try and put a stop to Hamill’s antics, while Gerry Lennon took Hughes’ place up front and Paddy Curran stood down. The effect of the changes were not immediately noticeable for after Paddy Braniff and Seamus Richmond exchanged points the referee blew the whistle for half time with Down in the lead by the minimum margin. 2-9 to 3-5.

Down resumed in a blaze of confidence and captain Paud Braniff pointed to stretch their lead to two. One immediately recounted the previous encounter between these two teams at Ballycran when Down put in a super display against the breeze to beat the Glensmen.                  Just when Down looked like the might be capable of another uphill fight McCallin struck again. First he took a pass from Aidan Hamill in his stride before crashing the ball home and then repeated the dose shortly after Johnny Coyles had produced another fine save at the other end. Antrim now appeared to be coasting home and captain Sean Burns showed that he too found pointing a ‘70’ a simple matter with the strong breeze to aid him.

                                             DOWN RALLY

Then came a remarkable Down fight-back, and a ten minute spell when they hemmed Antrim in their own half, but Joe McCallin, Eamon Hamill and Chris Elliott were in no mood to give away the hard earned lead, and Down could only muster 1-1 for the stick of Paud Braniff during this long spell of pressure. Meanwhile Antrim had managed three breakaways and scored points from all three so in the end Down had to concede victory, but what a fight they put up.  

Antrim must contribute their success to Andy McCallin’s sharpshooting but at the same time one must bear in mind they won because they were more of a team than the Arsdmen. After all two of McCallin’s goals came from neat hand-passes from McGarry and Hamill – a fine indication of the forward sextet’s sendse of unselfishness.

At midfield Antrim captain Sean Burns broke even with his Down counterpart Paud Braniff and it was left to Aidan Connolly, making a welcome return to the yellow jersey, to give Antrim the edge in this sector. Antrim’s rearguard will have to plug many gaps and the 13 points they conceded is far, far too many and only four good saves from Johnny Coyles gave them victory at all.

Johnny Coyles saved Antrim with some outstanding saves

In defeat Down can be reasonably pleased with their display. New full-back was a pillar of strength and along with Paddy Byers did most to contain the Antrim attack. Up front Down were extremely accurate and Martin Coleman and Brian Faloona would a hot handful for most defences on this display.

Antrim scorers – Andy McCallin 4-3; Eddie Donnelly 1-1; Sean Burns and Seamus Richmond 0-2 each; Aidan Connolly and Aidan Hamill 0-1 each.

Down scorers – Brian Faloona 2-3; Paud Braniff 1-3; Martin Coleman 0-3; Paddy Braniff 0-2; C Smith and Paddy Byers 0-1 each.

ANTRIM – Johnny Coyles, Chris Elliott, Eamon Hamill, Joe McCallin, Niall Wheeler, Tony Connolly, Aidan McCamphill, Sean Burns, Aidan Connolly, Brendan McGarry, Eddie Donnelly, Seamus Richmond, Andy McCallin, Paddy McShane, Aidan Hamill.

DOWN – S Hollywood, P Curran, S Crawford, C Duff, P Byers, W Coulter, C Coulter, E Faloona, Paud Braniff, Paddy Braniff, C McMullan, J Hughes, M Coleman, B Faloona, C Smith.

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