2001 JUNIOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP
Twenty years ago Eire Og won the Antrim Junior Football Championship title when they beat St Malachy’s in the final at Casement Park.
The Og’s had made their way through to the final with wins over O’Neill Crowley’s , Mitchell’s and Ballycastle in a hard month of championship football. The campaign started on July 25th at Casement Park where they had and easy win over fellow Belfast side O’Neill Crowley’s, running out winners by 1-12 to 0-2 in a game they dominated from start to finish.
The quarter final against Mitchell’s was a much tougher affair at Poleglass, a game which marked the opening of Mitchell’s new pitch. The Og’s had won their two league games with a bit to spare but Mitchell’s proved to be tougher opponents on this occasion and it took a late Sean O’Neill goal to get them over the line.
In the semi-final they had had their toughest game of the campaign against a big, strong Ballycastle team at Corrigan Park on Saturday August 25th. After dominating in the early stages the game turned when Ballycastle got a goal just before half time and when the McQuillan’s added two early goals in the second half they looked to be on course to book that finals spot. However Eire Og rallied and boosted by another Sean O’Neill goal they hit back to book a final spot with a 2-9 to 3-5 win.
JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP FOOTBALL FINAL 2001
Eire Og 2-12 St Malahy’s 2-8
Straight from the first whistle Eire Og looked the hungrier and better team, and were well worth their 4 point winning margin.
For the first 10 minutes both teams seemed to struggle with the slippery conditions and strong wind. Then, somewhat fortuitously, Eire Og scored a goal when the St Malachy’s keeper misjudged the flight of the ball and could only watch as it bounced over his head and into the net. Minutes later a goal from a deflected shot saw Eire Og race into an early 6 point lead.
St Malachy’s came back strongly with 4 unanswered points, but Eire Og managed to steady themselves and looked to go into half time with a healthy 3 point lead until St Malachy’s were awarded penalty on the stroke of half time. It was well taken and both teams went in level 2-2 to 1-5.
A more determined Eire Og came out for the second half and immediately hit three unanswered points. The game became an open, end to end contest, with both teams trading point for point. The Og’s hard work all season eventually paid off and they extended their lead to 6 points with 5 minutes remaining. St Malachy’s then piled on the pressure looking for goals and would have found some had the Eire Og keeper not produced two superb saves, one diving high to his left when the ball seemed destined for the top corner, and then saving with his feet moments later. St Malachy’s did get their goal through a penalty with a couple of minutes left to cut the game to three point. The pressure was now back on but to their credit Eire Og reacted really well and they went straight up the field and added a point to put four between the teams and secure the Junior Championship title.