On the other side of the tracks

Dunsilly will be remembered for the championship of 2020

If there is one thing that we can be thankful for during this awful pandemic it is the chance that Antrim fans got of seeing the Antrim Centre of Excellence at Dunsilly. It has been there for years, nestling behind the Ballymena to Belfast railway, with only a few of the Gaels within the county ever having seen it. It has been well used by the county teams training, from underage to senior, and that was the very purpose it was built for, but the County Board’s decision to use it for championship games in recent months has proved a master stroke.

Paddy Quinn and St Comgall’s club volunteers who worked so hard during the championship games at Dunsilly

Because of the restrictions on numbers attending these games it worked really well and accommodated the crowds attending comfortably. It was not perfect of course, with toilets being at a premium as were facilities for the disabled and for the elderly fans in attendance, but the vast majority of those who came along were willing to knuckle down and do what was needed to get through it all. It also showed the real potential of the place to host a lot more games in the future…..with a bit of an upgrade. I am no engineering expert but surely it wouldn’t take too much work to terrace the bank between the first and second pitches and I know that larger crowds would pose more problems with parking, but surely the parking facilities at the nearby Junction Shopping Centre could be utilised in some way.

Jerome Quinn’s livestreams brought the championship to those who could not attend and unveiled a new star in commentator Johnny ‘Tosh’

However the main reason I am writing this is to highlight the great work done by the host club St Comgall’s, and their chairman Paddy Quinn in particular. On those Sundays when they hosted two seperate championship games Paddy was there from 6am making sure everything was spic and span. He and his great team of volunteers were traffic wardens, car park attendants, toilet attendants and much more. Paddy was usually the last man out and on a couple of occasion he was there for fourteen hours in total. That is some dedication.

The man who kept it all running smoothly – Paddy Quinn

When we look back on Championship 2020 we will think of Dunsilly and all the great games we witnessed there, be it live like some of us lucky ones who covered the games, or through Jerome Quinn’s fantastic coverage through his live-streams. Teams who won their first championship there like Tir na nÓg Intermediate Hurlers and ones who ended a long barren spell like Moneyglass Intermediate footballers and St Paul’s Junior Hurlers will always hold special memories of the place. The great games, the special scores, like big Domhnall’s one handed hat-trick for St John’s against Loughgiel. There are more, many more, in what was a great couple of months of championship.

Thanks to all who made it happen!    

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