When Rasharkin ruled Antrim


St. Mary’s Rasharkin will play their football in the JFC grade this year as the club goes through a rebuilding programme and I expect them to be serious challengers for the Junior title this year but just over a decade ago they were the top IFC side in Antrim and indeed went to the Ulster semi-final in 2010.

The Antrim final was a real cliff hanger that year and it took two games and extra time to separate the men from Dreen and neighbours Cuchullain’s Dunloy. Today the Saffron Gael takes a look back at that great final replay and carry photographs from the game.

IFC Final Replay 2010

Rasharkin 1-15 Cuchullain’s Dunloy 2-10

Jubilation as St.Mary’s Rasharkin are crowned Champions

 St.Mary’s Rasharkin captured the Intermediate Crown following two match winning points from Cathal Mooney and Brendan Etherson during the second half of extra time in the Intermediate final replay. In doing so this talented bunch of players have bridged a thirty two year gap landing the title for the first time since 1978 and completing a remarkable league and championship double.

Rasharkin were made earn this victory by neighbours Dunloy in a fiercely contested game played out in front of a sizable crowd on the perfect sod of Creggan on a perfect evening for Championship football. The two sides could not be separated in Ahoghill two weeks previous; a match in which both clubs didn’t perform to their full potential. Again these rival clubs finished all square at the end of normal time in a much more exciting encounter. There was then twenty minutes of additional time played to try to find a winner, Rasharkin who lead the game several times during normal time had more left in the tank at the end to pull away in the closing stages.

Major surgery was carried out as Paddy McNeill rang in the changes; the Dreen side started this fixture with three new faces and eight positional changes from the last day out.

Dunloy’s Benny McGarry started the scoring with a converted free inside the first minute. Brendan McMullan opened Rasharkin’s account a minute later with a peach out on the right from thirty yards. Rasharkin skipper Thomas Doherty lead from the front and napped over another point a minute later, before McGarry again for Dunloy split the posts. Rasharkin then were forced to replace their ever reliable steely corner back Cahir O’Kane and add another casualty to their growing injury list. Conor Gribben was bounced straight in after seven minutes.

Brendan Etherson clipped over a screamer after eight for the Dreen men before Dunloy Captain Kevin McQuillan replied for his side three minutes later. Rasharkin then took the game to Dunloy and pulled away with four unanswered points, two from the boot of Declan McKay and points apiece from Eamon McNeill and Johnny McAleese five minutes before the break.

Dunloy’s Gareth McAllister was to spring Dunloy right back into the fixture with a major on twenty six minutes. The towering midfielder slipped behind the Rasharkin rear guard to side foot a pass from Steven McAlonan beyond Donal McLarnon on the line.

Cuchullians wing half forward Declan McGarry tied the game before full forward Steven McAlonan gave Dunloy the lead going into added time at the end of the half. However, there was time for one more Rasharkin attack before the break. Top marksman Johnny McAleese was on hand to catapult St.Mary’s back in front when he palmed a pass from Brendan McMullan into the roof of the Dunloy net on thirty four minutes, to leave a  half time score line 1-7 to 1-5 in flavour of Rasharkin.

The importance of a good start in the second half was obviously made clear to the Dreen men at halftime and the first three scores went the way of  Rasharkin to put them five in front five minutes into the second half. Declan McKay and Eamon McNeill from the set ball and a long range effort from midfielder Brendan Etherson. But back came Cuchullians with points from Kevin McAllister and Declan McGarry to reduce the lead to three. Eamon McNeill slotted over an impressive free mid way through the half as Rasharkin moved the ball well round the park.

The comeback kings done it again after twenty one minutes of the second half; Dunloy’s Steven McAlonan won possession rounded his man and cracked a shot, Donal McLarnon pulled off a great save only to watch McAlonan gather the rebound and head goal bound, referee Jarleth O’Donnell then pointed to the spot when the Dunloy forward was up ended in the square. Benny McGarry unleashed a rocket low into the corner of the Rasharkin net, McLarnon did manage to get a hand to it but it was unable to turn it passed the post. This reduce Rasharkin’s cushion to a mere point. Eamon McNeill doubled St.Mary’s lead with five minutes left on the clock from a thirty yard free.

The intensity levels reached sky high (as did quite a few heart rates around the ground) as both teams franticly seeked possession. Dunloy showed great determination in the closing stages to pull the games from the jaws of defeat and send the game into additional time following two pressure kicks from Kevin McQuillan and Benny McGarry.

Yet again these teams could not be separated with Rasharkin taking the lead on four occasions always being hauled back by Cuchullians; the next twenty minutes would decide who would emerge worthy winners and which players would make the headlines. The first half of extra time finished scoreless as both sides nervously got men behind the ball. Johnny McAleese sent out a message of intent inside the first minute of the restart. The ace forward caught clean possession, rounded his man and coolly slotted over the head of Gary McIlfatrick on the Dunloy line.

Second half substitute Cathal Mooney stepped up to the plate midway through the half and push the Dreen men further in front following a brilliant long range effort. Declan McGarry pulled Dunloy back after nine minutes before Brendan Etherson finished the scoring in the second minute of added time in injury time. From the resulting kick out Jarleth O’Donnell called for the ball and sent Rasharkin players and many supporters into ecstasy.  

Donal McLarnon had a good game between the sticks he worked his magic yet again pulling off some match winning saves, Michael Hasson slipped back to shore up the defence and put in a man of the match performance from corner back. Aiddy Scullion, Sean Hasson and Conor Gribben done the business at the back along with Mr Consistency Paul Doherty in his new role at centre half. Veteran defender Alan McNeill justified his call up by putting in an incredible display. Duirmuid Quinn and Brendan Etherson were in the mix all afternoon at centre field and won their battle. Joey Quinn, Thomas Doherty, Decky McKay and Brendan McMullan caused havoc in the Dunloy defence. Johnny Mac with a personal tally of 1-2 put in a good shift along with Eamon McNeill who ran at Dunloy all afternoon. Substitutes Cathal Mooney, Conor Hardy and Conor Hasson all contributed to this victory.

Cuchullians Dunloy deserve much credit for their attitude and determination with a never say die motto. They can feel proud of the efforts from Steven Dooey, Paudie Shivers, Cathaoir Cunning, Conor McKinney, Gareth McAllister, Declan McGarry, team captain and leader Kevin McQuillan, Kevin McAllister, Steven McAlonan and Benny McGarry.

This was an outstanding Rasharkin performance from a great team of superb players who have worked hard all season to achieve their success. Congratulations go to each and every player who has made this dream a reality, a special mention much go to team manager and Rasharkin man Paddy McNeill and back room staff of Ryan McAleese, Thomas Donaghy, Johnny McErlaine and Liam Hardy who has lead these guys to fulfil their ambitions.

Rasharkin: Donal McLarnon, Michael Hasson , Adrian Scullion, Cahir O’Kane, Sean Hasson, Paul Doherty, Alan McNeill, Duirmuid Quinn and Brendan Etherson, Joey Quinn, Thomas Doherty (Capt), Johnny McAleese Declan McKay, Eamon McNeill and Brendan McMullan.

Subs: Conor Gribben for Cahir O’Kane, Cathal Mooney for Brendan McMullan, Conor Hardy for Joey Quinn and Conor Hasson for Conor Gribben.

Dunloy: Gary McIlfatrick, Steven Dooey, Barry Murphy, Eoghan Scott,  Cathaoir Cunning, Paudie Shivers, Colum Cunning, Conor McKinley and Gareth McAllister, Declan McGarry, Kevin McQuillan (Capt), Kevin McAlonan, Kevin McAllister, Steven McAlonan and Benny McGarry.

Subs: Jamie McFerran, Chris Brogan, Paddy Doherty, Johnny McAleese

Referee: Jarleth O’Donnell (Con Magees Glenravel)

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