2020 Championship continues

Glory for Ardoyne and Moneyglass while county promotion hopes dashed

Yesterday we took a look at the 2020 Antrim Senior Football championship and Cargin’s ultimate success in the competition as they recorded an impressive three in a row with a win over neighbours Creggan in an excellent final in Portglenone.

Today we feature the Junior and Intermediate Championships and take a look at Antrim’s bid for promotion and their Ulster Championship game against Cavan as the county scene got underway again following a long shutdown owing to Covid-19.

We start with the Junior Football Championship where the participating sides were divided into two groups and games played on a league basis with the top two from each group qualifying for the semi-finals.

In group 1 it was Pearses and Ballycastle were the top two in the group, each side finishing on six points from four games, but Pearses topping the group on the head to head between both sides.

In group 2 things were a little less straight forward with Kickham’s Ardoyne, St. Comgall’s Antrim and O’Donnell’s all finishing on six points. It could not be finished using head to head as Ardoyne defeated St. Comgall’s, St. Comgall’s beat O’Donnell’s and O’Donnell’s defeated Ardoyne in the league section so score difference came into play.

Ardoyne and St. Comgall’s were handed the semi-final spots despite a protest from O’Donnell’s regarding the Antrim town’s side result against Mitchell’s which was turned down.

In the semi-finals St. Comgall’s were drawn against Pearses while last season’s beaten finalists, Ardoyne faced Ballycastle in the other semi-final

Action from St Comgall’s semi-final win over Pearses

Antrim Junior Football Championship, semi-final

St Comgall’s 1-12 Pearse’s 0-8

St. Comgall’s Antrim advanced to the final of the Antrim Junior Football championship when they defeated Pearses in the semi-final in Ballymena. Both sides had been halted in their progress following a protest by O’Donnell’s but matters were finally settled on the playing field with the Antrim town side running out seven point winners.

St. Comhghall’s hit 1-2 late in the opening half after Na Piarsaigh had Tom McFarlane Black carded and those scores were to prove decisive despite their opponents fight to the final whistle.

The New Lodge Road side gave it everything but just couldn’t find the goal that might have given them a lifeline as the Antrim Town side ran out winners to set up a meeting with Ardoyne next week.

Action from Ardoyne’s semi-final win v Ballycastle at Dunsilly.

Ardoyne v Ballycastle

In the other semi-final Ardoyne finished strongly to defeat a spirited McQuillan’s Ballycastle thus setting up a second meeting of the season with St. Comgall’s Antrim (who they had defeated in the group stages) in the final.

Gymco Antrim Junior Football Championship Final

Ardoyne withstand St Comgall’s fightback to take Junior title

Ardoyne 3-06-0-12 St Comgall’s

Kevin Herron reports from Hightown

Ardoyne regained the initiative late-on and survived the dismissal of Conor McLaughlin early in the second-half as they ran out 3-06-0-12 winners over St Comgall’s to claim the Gymco Antrim Junior Football Championship at Hightown on Saturday afternoon.

The North Belfast side were hard to stop early on and hit St Comgall’s with three goals inside the first quarter of the game thanks to Cormac Mullan, Conor McLaughlin and Aidan McNeill.

But early in the second-half McLaughlin was shown a straight red-card and St Comgall’s made the most of their numerical advantage and overturned a nine-point deficit to level the scores at 3-02-0-11.

The Antrim outfit couldn’t get their noses in front however and were forced to chase the game after Mullan ended a 40-minute scoreless period for Ardoyne who ran out 3-point winners at the conclusion to lift the junior title for the first time in eight years.

In the Intermediate Football Championship we had a similar format with the participating sides divided into two groups of six and the top two sides advancing to the semi-finals.

In group 1it was last year’s beaten finalists, St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass who topped the group winning all five of their games with Cuchullain’s Dunloy finishing second on 8 points.

In group 2 it was All Saints, Ballymena who completed their league campaign unbeaten with 10 points from five starts while St. Paul’s finished second on 8 points from the same number of games.

The semi-finals saw St. Paul’s drawn against Moneyglass under the floodlights in Ballymena while Dunloy faced All Saints under the Clooney light.

Larkin Cassidy Solicitors Intermediate Football Championship semi-final

Moneyglass 1-15 St Paul’s 0-15 a.e.t.

After all the months of lockdown and limited entertainment this year’s Antrim Championships are more than making up for the shortage.

Tonight saw newly promoted St Pauls travel down the M2 to take on a strongly fancied St Ergnat’s side at Quinn Park, Ballymena.

A large crowd turned out expecting a close game and no one left Quinn Park short changed. The game had it all. Drama, excitement, missed chances, pressure points…the lot.

In a game that swung to and fro throughout St Pauls thought they had snatched victory when Liam McLarnon kicked over three minutes into stoppage time but there was time for one more attack.

Moneyglass needed a leader and they found it in Jimmy McMeel when in the last attack of the night he kicked over an inspirational point to send the sides into extra time, though St Paul’s were left aggrieved when they had appeals for a free waved away seconds from the end.

In extra time it was St. Ergnat’s who eventually gained the upper hand to run out winners by three points. St Pauls will be devastated they didn’t put this one to bed but Moneyglass showed great resilience and now can look forward to another tough encounter with Dunloy in the final.

Intermediate Football Championship

Semi Final

Tuesday September 8

Dunloy 1-12 All Saints 1-9

Brendan McTaggart reports from Ahoghill

Dunloy’s annus mirabilis continues.  A weary side with most still licking their wounds from Sunday’s epic contest with Rossa sealed their place in the Larkin Cassidy Intermediate football final with a three point win over All Saints.

It was an accomplished performance from Anthony McQuillan’s side who controlled this contest and had a foot in the final by the time Caolan Gillan scored their goal from the penalty spot in the 42nd minute.  It put them 10 points clear of the Ballymena men but the Cuchullains had to withstand a rally from the Slemish Park side. 

Ballymena played with more urgency, fluency and pinned the Cuchullains in their own half as they got the bit between their teeth.  Time, however, was not their friend as Dunloy had enough on the scoreboard.

Antrim Intermediate Football Championship final

Moneyglass seal Intermediate glory in thrilling final

Moneyglass 2-09 Dunloy 1-08

Report by Gary Duffin

Moneyglass staged a fantastic second half comeback to beat Dunloy in Saturday’s thrilling Antrim Intermediate Football final at Dunsilly to clinch the title for the first time since 2004. When they trailed by four at half time last year’s beaten finalists must have felt this was not going to be their day once again, but a brilliant goal from substitute Ryan Doyle within a minute of the restart turned the game on its head and they pushed on to victory. Keelan Molloy hit back with a point to leave the game on a knife edge with time running out and it looked like it could go either way.

However this year the St Ergnet’s men were not going to be denied and big Seanchann Duffin sent the Moneyglass support wild with a fantastic point from well out the field.

It could still have gone either way but Paddy McCormick then sealed the deal when he got on the end of a wonderful counter attacking move involving the very impressive Conor Boyd and Fearghal Duffin to inflict the fatal blow on Dunloy, his goal expertly finished from a narrow angle.

County scene returns

It was back to the county scene on the 17th October when Antrim travelled to Aughrim to face Wicklow with promotion still within their grasp but the momentum they had built up with that excellent win over Limerick back in March had gone.

The home side dominated from start to finish with Antrim look a mere shadow of the side who had defeated Limerick prior to the lockdown.

Allianz Football League Division Four

Wicklow 7-11

Antrim 0-7

Antrim’s promotion hopes hang by a flimsy thread following this 7 goal mauling by a lively Wicklow in Aughrim today. The Saffrons went into this game knowing a win would almost certainly guarantee them a place in division 3 next season but the men from the Garden County failed to read the script.

Instead it is they who have put themselves right into the promotion race and on today’s performance they look more ready for a tilt at life in the higher grade than today’s opponents.

Antrim made six starting changes from the side who comprehensively defeated league leaders Limerick way back at the start of March, just before the lockdown with Odhran Eastwood who scored 2-3 in a man of the match performance in that excellent victory left on the bench.

In the event it was Wicklow tore up the form book to put themselves firmly in the promotion picture with a stunning 7-11 to 0-7 win over Antrim in Aughrim this afternoon.

Antrim’s promotion hopes had been firmly dashed but could still steal a promotion place if results in the final round of games went their way and they could gain a win over Waterford in their final game.

They received a further setback when Waterford refused to travel north, citing Covid-19 concerns but Antrim called their bluff with the game hastily rearranged in Haggardstown outside Dundalk.

A week later Allianz National Football League Division Four

Win over Waterford keeps promotion hopes haning by a thread

Antrim 2-14-0-13 Waterford 

Kevin Herron reports from Dundalk Geradlines

Antrim missed out on promotion to Division 3 of the Allianz National Football League but ended the campaign with a 2-14-0-13 win over Waterford thanks to goals in each half from Odhran Eastwood and James McAuley at Haggardstown this afternoon. 

The scenario was simple ahead of throw-in, Antrim needed to defeat Waterford and hope for a Sligo win over Limerick and a winner from the game between Wexford and Wicklow- not as easy set of permutations.

The introduction of Michael McCann in the 29th minute brought a bit of calmness to proceedings  while his brother Tomas gave the Waterford defence plenty of problems when he came into the fray with 20 minutes remaining.

However it was St. Enda’s man, James McAuley who just edged Mick McCann for the man of the match accolade, the sweeper setting up the opening goal for Odhran Eastwood in the first half and then getting forward for a second himself late in the game to kill off the Waterford challenge.

The win, although welcome proved in vain with Wicklow and Limerick gaining wins on the day to ensure promotion but the Saffrons had one last chance to save their season when they travelled to Breffni Park to face Cavan in the Ulster championship.

Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final  

Saffrons edged out by Cavan in Ulster Championship

Cavan 0-13

Antrim 0-9

At half time in this Ulster SFC quarter-final at Breffni Park Antrim looked in with a serious chance of causing an upset having out played and out fought Cavan as they produced their best 35 minutes of football for quite a time.

Superbly marshalled in defence, where they denied their more illustrious opponents time and space and sharp on the break, they led the home side by 0-6 to 0-5 at half time and might have been further ahead.

Michael McCann marshalled those around him to great effect and was at the heart of nearly everything they did while Paddy Cunningham rolled back the years with a couple of scores that would have graced any game.

During the second half Cavan, as expected came back strongly but when the Antrim management sit down to analyse where it went wrong in the second half they will surely point to the number of scoring chances their side wasted.

Cavan went on to win the Ulster championship, putting the Antrim performance in some sort of perspective but in the wake of the Cavan defeat Lenny Harbison stepped down as Antrim manager.

The former All Ireland club championship winner with St. Gall’s had served the county well over the past three years but missed out narrowly on promotion on each occasion, finishing third in all three years.

Out with the old and in with the new

We at the Saffron Gael wish Lenny all the best in the future and always found him helpful and easy to approach during his tenure as Antrim manager.

He has been replaced by Tyrone All Ireland winner, Enda McGinley who has appointed a strong backroom staff and expectations will again be high that Antrim can push on to better things with promotion again the priority.

We wish Enda and his backroom team of Stephen O’Neill, Sean Kelly and Stephen Quinn our support for the coming season and will be there to cover their games and lend our support to the Saffron cause.

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