As 2022 fades into the distance and plenty still to play for in 2023 for Antrim clubs, we take a look back at the 2022 season.
We start with football and with the ACFL Division 1 where Kickham’s Creggan, the then Championship holders pipped Erin’s Own Cargin for the league title. The Kickham’s had finally overcome the challenge of beating their nearest neighbours to claim the 2021 championship crown and this year’s league success suggested that the balance of power had moved to the Staffordstown Road.
Erin’s Own have been at the top of the pile for many years however and they were given the opportunity to avenge that championship defeat the previous year when they met Creggan in a thrilling semi-final at Dunsilly.
It took extra-time to separate two well matched sides at Dunsilly before Cargin emerged as winners to take their place in the final against St. Mary’s Aghagallon who were appearing in their second successive final, having lost to Creggan in the 2021 final.
Again it took extra time to separate the protagonists with Cargin emerging as winners at Corrigan Park to book an Ulster club championship meeting with Naomh Conaill of Donegal and once again the never-say-die spirit of the Toome side saw them emerge winners after extra time and a penalty shootout with Cargin keeper, John McNabb emerging as the hero.
It was onto the semi-finals on Sunday the 27th November against Watty Graham’s of Maghera with Glen finally ending Cargin’s Ulster ambitions but they were pushed all the way by Ronan Devlin’s side and Cargin will once again be the side that the rest will have to beat in 23 if they are to win honours.
In division 2 it was St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass who claimed the league title, finishing 7 points ahead of All Saints, who took second place for the second year in succession, and St. St. Ergnat’s went on to play in the Senior Championship having won Intermediate the previous year.
The Moneyglass side will compete in division 1 this year with division 1 survival likely to be the first priority for St. Ergnat’s but with an emerging panel of excellent young players coming through they look more than capable of achieving that ambition and indeed causing a number of upsets in 2023.
In the Intermediate championship it was Cuchullain’s Dunloy who put an indifferent division 2 league campaign behind them to emerge as Intermediate champions when they defeated Con Magee’s, Glenravel in the final at Dunsilly.
Dungloe of Donegal put paid to Dunloy’s Ulster ambitions at the first hurdle in Ahoghill but with a host of duel players on board there would be plenty of honours still to play for on the hurling front and we will take a look at that success story later in the week.
In division 3 Naomh Padraig of Lisburn finished in top spot with Naomh Comhghall of Antrim in second place with both sides playing their championships in the Intermediate grade but both failed to emerge from the group stages.
Na Piarsaigh of Belfast finally got their hands on the Junior Football cup, having lost in a championship and league semi-final the previous year to Rasharkin and the Newlodge Road side did it with some style with a resounding victory over O’Donnell’s at Dunsilly on the 7th October.
Na Piarsaigh found Ulster a bridge too far however when they came up against a very strong Newtownbutler of Fermanagh at the Athletic Grounds and will play their football at Intermediate level in Antrim this year but will surely look at promotion from division 3 as their top priority.
In the U20A football championship it was St. Brigid’s who emerged winners over St. Ergnat’s Moneyglass while Kickham’s Creggan edged out Sarsfield’s in a close U20B final. St. Brigid’s continued to set the standards in Juvenile competitions when they beat Con Magee’s in a tight U17A final in Creggan with only a point separating the contestants in an exciting decider. St. Enda’s defeated St. James Aldergrove in the U17B final while St. Mary’s Rasharkin staged a strong second half comeback to beat South West rivals, Tir na nOg in a good U17C final in Ballymena.
St. Brigid’s continued to set the standards in the U15A championship with a big win over St. Enda’s in the final while Clann na hEireann, Cargin staged the comebacks of all comebacks when they came from 13 points down at half time to beat Gort na Mona 0-14 to 3-4 in a quite remarkable decider. It took a replay to separate O’ Donnell’s and St. Teresa’s in the U15C decider with the MacRory Park side winning comfortably in the replay.