Antrim’s All Ireland Intermedite Hurling Campaign 1970
After Antrim won the Ulster Championship back In 1970 it qualified them for a tilt at the All Ireland Intermediate title, but there were tough challenges ahead in the shape of Galway, and later Dublin if they happened to overcome that hurdle.
Frank Smyth was a forward thinking man who did so much for Antrim hurling for many years. Frank was the hurling board secretary at the time, and was also involved in the management of the county minor and Under 21 teams. A few weeks after the Ulster Championship win over Down he was with the minor team down in Cork and stayed with two famous hurling priests, Fr Bertie Troy and Fr Michael O’Brien, who were then in charge of the Cork minor hurlers. Frank told them that he felt Antrim had a good team and had a chance of winning the All Ireland Intermediate title. He ask if they knew if anybody in Cork hurling who would come up to Antrim and do a bit of coaching, to give the team that little bit of edge. They thought for a while and then suggested that Justin McCarthy might be a good fit for the job. McCarthy was still recovering from the injuries he received in a motor cycle accident the previous year when going to training with Cork hurlers in their build up to the 1969 All Ireland final against Kilkenny. He hadn’t rejoined the Cork panel almost a year later, but was getting back into shape and they felt he would be a good fit for the job.
Frank had to speak to Neilly Patterson the senior manager but as luck would have it Antrim were down again the following week with the Under 21 team to play Cork and Neilly would accompanying them. At half time in the U21 game there was an announcement made over the tannoy asking Justin to meet Neilly Patterson and Frank Smyth after game. McCarthy turned up and had a chat with the two Antrim men and was keen on the idea, but wasn’t sure if you could get the time off work. A few days later the Cork man rang Frank to say he had arranged the time off and that he would come up the following week, in the lead-up to the game with Galway.
That week he stayed in Loughgiel with Eddie McCormick and took three training sessions that week in the lead up to the Galway game. McCarthy’s training methods were a breath of fresh air for the team and they responded to his promptings. The training before then had been good but a different voice, especially a voice with a Cork accent, gave the team that wee bit extra at a vital time of the season. McCarthy’s personality endeared him, not only to the team, but to everyone he met in the county and his still revered in this part of the world. In 2004 when he managed Waterford to their Munster final win over Cork, he took the men from the Déise up to north Antrim for a training weekend. When they played Antrim in Loughgiel on the Saturday evening he was mobbed by fans young and old after the game.
This is a report of the Galway game that appeared in the Irish News the day after the game. It paints a picture of a rough and tumble battle where the Galway defence were not sparing the ‘timber’, but the Saffrons weathered the storm and came strong in the second half.
ANTRIM HURLERS QUALIFY FOR INTER SEMI-FINAL
GALWAY 4-6 ANTRIM 4-14
Antrim hurlers took a step nearer that elusive All Ireland title in Ballinasloe yesterday when they completely outplayed a more that useful Galway side. The foundations for Antirm’s win was laid in the first half, playing into a stiff breeze they more than held their own, to turn round leading by a single point on a scoreline of 2-6 to 2-5.
The wisdom of Cork stalwart Justin McCarthy’s words just before Antrim took the field were shown to be almost prophetic in this hectic first 30 minutes. “Listen lads,” he said “the team which gives in first will lose this game” and how right he was.
Seldom has an Antrim team had to call up such resources of sheer determination as they battled against the wind, every one of them determined to keep a snappy Galway team at bay. Make no mistake about it this Galway was further proof – if proof was needed – that the displays of other Galway teams this year have been no flash in the pan. That Antrim could so effectively beat off the challenge is also proof that at last Antrim are taking the field with a will to win, a team with an All Ireland title very much in mind.
Let-off for Galway
Antrim opened as if they hoped to merely contain the Galway attack for the first half hour, but within minutes big Eddie Donnelly crashed the ball against the bar, with the whole Western defence completely at sixes and sevens. This was only to be the first occasion when the home supporters were glad of the woodwork.
Continued Antrim pressure brought a point from a free by Andy MCallin, but Galway were soon back on terms when wandering sharp-shooter John Gillane – no novice by any standards – put Galway on level terms. Thus was set for the see-saw battle which the remainder of the first half turned into. Antrim attacked and were chopped down unceremoniously, while Galway used the strong wind to score points from long range.
Not that the crowd had no goals to cheer or weep about. The first of four such score fell to Galway within ten minutes when the experienced Gillane whipped the ball to the net from a 21 yard free after the Antrim defence had been forced to use similar tactics to those employed at the other end of the field.
Donnelly kept hopes alive
This put Antrim a goal ahead and then further tragedy struck Antrim when livewire Aidan Hamill, a thorn in the Galway defence until then, received a head injury and had to retire. But Eddie Donnelly, who was later to inspire his team in the second half, kept their hopes alive with a point, and later with a brilliant goal after a solo run from Brendan McGarry, put the visitors back ahead. But Galway attacked straight from the puck-out and were rewarded when they forced Aidan McCamphill to overplay the ball, and this lapse led to the home team’s second goal.
The ding-dong battle continued and Andy McCallin, thankfully wearing his new helmet, avoided two brutal tackles, and with the referee allowing him to go on, he beat Sean Kelly in the Galway goal to level the score.
Further points from Eddie Donnelly and McCallin, with only a single score in reply from Galway’s Tom O’Hara, saw Antrim stagger to their mentors at half time leading by the minimum margin.
The second half saw Antrim take complete control. They had taken all the stick Galway could hand out and with the wind at their backs set about getting the scores they needed to win the game. During this spell Ballycastle man Eddie Donnelly gave a memorable performance. On several occasions he ploughed into three or four ad came out on the other side, slightly more bruised, but still with the ball safely in his hand. His team mates rose to his example and after ten minutes of the second half the result was never really in doubt.
At midfield Sean Collins and complete master Sean Burns assumed complete control, while in defence the Connolly brothers Aidan and Tony, along with Dunloy’s Aidan Mccamphill, seldom let Galway beyond the three-quarter line. On the odd occasion Galway did manage to break through Chris Elliott, Kevin Donnelly and Eamon Hamill were pillars of strength. In goals the ‘daddy’ of the team Johnny Coyle gave a superb performance between the posts.
In attack Loughgiel players Brendan McGarry, Seamus Richmond and substitute JP McFadden combined very well and took their scores expertly. Andy McCallin unfortunately lost his partner in crime Aidan Hamill early in the game and was strangely subdued in the second half. At full forward Willie Richmond was constantly tussling with the Galway full-back Pat Donaghue, and both me will know they have been in a hard battle this morning.
Well where do Antrim go from here? Justin McCarthy has had to go back to Cork, leaving many useful tips behind him. The next step of course is for Antrim to master Dublin in the semi-final, to be played – one hopes- in Loughgiel in two weeks’ time. And while Antrim mentors are understandably cautious, lest too much optimism should undermine their plans, they are nevertheless overjoyed with yesterday’s performance and must now be hoping to overcome Dublin and earn a tilt at Warwickshire – one point winners over Kerry in yesterday’s other semi-final, and the chance to bring Antrim its first All Ireland hurling title.
Antrim scorers – Andy McCallin 1-4 (0-4 from frees); Eddie Donnelly 1-4; Brendan McGarry 1-0; Seamus Richmond 1-0; JP McFadden 0-2; Willie Richmond, Paddy McShane, Sean Burns and Sean Collins 0-1 each.
Galway scorers – A Gillane 2-1; T Cahilan 2-0; S Norris 1-3; T O’Hara 0-2
ANTRIM – J Coyle, C Elliott, K Donnell, E Hamill, N Wheeler, T Connolly, A McCamphill, S Burns, S Collins, S Richmond, E Donnelly, A Hamill, B McGarry, W Richmond, A McCallin.
Subs – A Connolly for Wheeler; JP McFadden for Hamill; P McShane for Richmond.
GALWAY – S Kelly, M Fahy, P Donaghue, S Kilkenny, D Fahy, A Fintan, M O’Ryan, D Cahilan, M Hannify, S Burke, T O’Hara, J Norris, J Fitzgerald, A Gillane, M Deely.