Antrim Town bridged a 23 year gap to win the Junior Championship

1995 Antrim Junior Football Championship Final

In 1995 Antrim Town bridged a 23 year gap when they won beat St John’s in the final of the Antrim Junior Football Championship at Hannahstown. It may well have been the Johnnies second string side, but the men from the Whiterock had in their ranks players who had played at the top level in the not too distant past, and had represented the county with distinction. Men like Mickey Darragh, Mickey Carlin, Eddie McToal, Rory Best and Shane Caldwell. A few weeks earlier the Antrim side had won the South West Antrim Junior title when they beat Glenravel, but this was a much bigger scalp for them and they celebrated in style afterwards.

Damian Devine’s late goal seal the win for Antrim

This is the Ballymena Chronicle report of the match from back then

St Comgall’s Antrim 3-3 St John’s 1-7

It has been a long time since the men from Antrim had a triumph like this to celebrate – in fact it is twenty three years since they last tasted success at this grade.

Since then it has been an uphill battle to stay in business, and this success is just reward for those who have stuck with them through thick and thin. Winning the McCormick Cup earlier in the season was the first indication of the side coming good. They then put together and excellent run in the championship, culminating in this tremendous victory. The fact that they took out a team with a history like St John’s certainly added to their victory.

The victory was secured thanks to a late goal, plus a defensive display that will be talked about in Antrim for many a year to come.

From the off this game always looked like it would a close one and Antrim must have been greatly relieved that they turned in the first half display they did. Henry Quigg, operating at corner forward, opened their account in the second minute but St John’s bounced back when Mickey Darragh pointed at the other end. Then Damien Devine, the man who has transformed the image of football in the town, knocked over a sixth minute point to restore their lead, but once again the Johnnies refused to be shaken and their dangerman Darragh brought his side level again in the tenth minute.

Two minutes later Antrim got their first major break when a long ball from Cormac Allen beat Damien Rafferty in the St John’s goal and rebounded off the underside of the crossbar. It appeared the chance had gone but in the ensuing melee up popped Adrian Adams to crash the rebound to the net.

Another point from Mickey Darragh settled the ship for St John’s but four minutes later Adams was the toast of Antrim when he grabbed his second goal to put his side five clear. Darragh and Shane Caldwell pointed for the men from the Whiterock to cut the gap back to three but Devine hit back with a point for Antrim just before the break to send his team in at the break with a four point cushion.

What the second half lacked in score it certainly made up for in excitement as Antrim adopted the tactic of defend at all costs. To hold St John’s at bay for 30 minutes was a task of immense proportions. The defence and midfield did a tremendous job of keeping the Johnnies at bay for the first ten minutes of the new half until substitute Kevin Gough pulled a point back for St John’s. Things got worse for the Antrim men when four minutes later when a Rory Best free hit the corner of the Antrim net to bring the scores level at 2-3 to 1-6 and at this stage it looked that Antrim had blown their chances.

When Mickey Darragh pointed St John’s ahead their chances looked doomed, but to their credit that kept battling away and held their opponents scoreless for the remainder of the game. However they still need a score to save the game. They would have settled for a point to bring the game to extra time but they hit the jackpot when the mercurial Damian Devine, star of the McCormick Cup final win over Con Magees, caught a high ball before rounding his marker and planting the ball firmly in the back the Johnnies net to seal a famous win.

Antrim scorers – Adrian Adams 2-0; Damian Devine 1-2; Henry Quigg 0-.

St John’s scorers – Mickey Darragh 0-4; Rory Best 1-0; Brian McFall 0-1; Shane Caldwell 0-1; Kevin Gough 0-1.

Antrim Town – Peter Lennon, Euan McGrattan, Barry Draine, Robert Moore, James Sisk, Neill McLaughlin, Aidan McGovern, Cormac Allen, Peter McGratten, Adrian Adams, Paddy Quinn, Barry Fitzpatrick, Henry Quigg, Damien Devine, Peter Duffy.

Subs – Tommy McHenry and Liam Connolly.

St John’s – Damien Rafferty, Aidan Darragh, Kevin Cunningham, John Grinder, Kevin McGuinness, Mickey Carlin, Noel Darragh, Eddie McToal, Rory Best, Paul Montgomery, Conor McCafferty, Shane Caldwell, Mickey Darragh, David Knocker, Brian McFall.

Subs – Kevin Gough

Referee – Bobby Grant (Glenavy)

St John’s legend Tommy Hall

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