With leagues and championships completed in Antrim, Ulster provides the platform for GAA supporters and club loyalty for most Gaels switches to the sides who are representing their county on the Ulster stage. Not always the case I know but certainly for this Gael it is the way it should be.
So it was with my blue scarf around my neck I travelled to Ahoghill on Saturday to cover the game between All Saints conquerors, Tir na nOg as they took on Carricruppen in the Ulster Intermediate football quarter-final and the Whitehill men certainly didn’t disappoint.
In far from ideal conditions the Randalstown side took the game to their opponents from early in the game and led 0-9 to 0-3 at one stage before the Armagh side staged a late rally with the last three points of the opening half to leave it 0-9 to 0-6 at the break.
The second half was even more spectacular than the first and Carrickcruppen were still hanging in there until late in the game when county keeper Blain Hughes went A.W.O.L. and the Antrim champions took full advantage with two opportunist goals from Ciaran Dobbin and Eamon Og McAllister to set up a semi-final meeting with Moortown of Tyrone who defeated Erin Gaels in their quarter-final contest.
And so it was on to Corrigan yesterday, suitably impressed by Tir na nOg the day before and now wearing my green and yellow scarf and hoping that the men from just down the road from Randalstown could make it a memorable double.
Kickham’s Creggan were excellent in the opening half as they led Clan Eireann by 0-9 to 0-3 at the short whistle and they were good value for that lead but as the sides emerged for the second half there was a lingering notion that there might be more to come from the Lurgan side.
My fears were realised as Clann Eireann took the game to Creggan and a goal from substitute Ruairi McDonald in the 44th minute brought the sides level. The introduction of Kevin Rice and Fergal Burke stemmed the Clan Eireann tide for a time and Ruairi McCann and Jamie McCann looked to have done enough with late points to see Gerard McNulty’s side through.
The Armagh champions were relentless however and a massive free from Tiernan Kelly, deep into injury time sent the game into extra time. A Daniel Magee goal in the opening half of extra time finally killed off the brave challenge of the Kickham’s though they fought to the final whistle.
Ulster keeps the hungry GAA fan fed at this time of year and with fans from Glenravel, Tir na nOg, Loughgiel, Dunloy and St. John’s there is still plenty on the menu in football, hurling and camogie for the Saffron Gael as we head into the festive season.
We have one outstanding final in Antrim to look forward to this weekend when Rasharkin and Naomh Padraig Lisburn meet in the U20 B football final in Crumlin while Glenravel, buoyed by their U20A final win over St. Galls on Saturday past, take on Craobh Rua in the Ulster Junior Hurling semi-final this Saturday at the same venue.
On Sunday there’s a real heavyweight encounter on the cards when Dunloy attempt to wrestle the Ulster senior club hurling title away from Slaughtneil when the sides meet again at the Athletic Grounds in this year’s semi-final and I fancy them to do just that and move on to meet Ballycran of Down in the Ulster final seven days later.
St. John’s (Bridie McMenamie), Tir na nOg (Junior) and Loughgiel in a repeat of last weekend’s Ulster senior replay against Slaughneil have all important dates on the camogie front while Tir na nOg footballers face Moortown St. Malachy’s in the Ulster semi-final on the 13th of December at a venue and time to be announced.
As always we at the Saffron Gael will be there to cover these games and we wish all the Antrim clubs competing the best of luck in their forth coming encounters so go out and do the business so we will have something to write about in the build up to Christmas and into the new-year.
A FEW PICS FROM YESTERDAY’S CREGGAN V CLANN EIREANN GAME