Posts by thesaffrongael

Photographer and GAA writer who has been covering hurling, football and camogie for almost forty years

Dunloy and St. Brigid’s looks a hard one to call

Under-21 Football Championship(final) Sat 13th Dec

St Brigid’s v Cuchullian’s Dunloy (Woodlands 4-30)

All roads lead to Woodlands on Saturday evening as St Brigid’s and Cuchullian’s Dunloy meet at the West Belfast venue to decide the destination of the under-21 A football championship 2018.

Dunloy and St. Brigid’s looks a hard one to call and it could well take a moment of genius or a slip from either side to seperate two evenly balanced and talented sides

Both were equally impressive en route to the decider and have a wealth of talent at their disposal and both will line out unbeaten in the competition to date.

Dunloy started with a win over a fancied Aghagallon in the league phase of the competition and although held to a draw by Moneyglass they made no mistake in the replay before concluding with a convincing victory over All Saint’s.

The Cuchullian’s made a first appearance on the all-weather surface at Woodlands in the quarter final, a winning debut when proving too good for a fancied St Gall’s to ensure a semi-final place on a 3-14 to 0-13 scoreline to set up a semi-final meeting with reigning champions Rossa.

St Brigid’s completed the opening phase unbeaten and in impressive fashion with back to back wins over St John’s and Gort na Mona scoring an eye catching 9-37 in the process to ease into the last eight.

Having proved too strong for the Johnnies in the opening round the South Belfast men continued in such dominance against the same opposition in the quarter finals before establishing a date with Creggan in the semis which looked by far their toughest assignment to date.

The Kickham’s enjoyed ground advantage for that one and indeed the South west side, having remained unbeaten on their way into the last four, looked on their way to the decider when Conor Small’s opening minute strike saw them a goal in front.

St Brigid’s were not to be denied however and taking firm hold of the baton they quickly recovered to move into an interval lead at 1-11 to 1-05, and despite the sterling efforts of the home side in the second period the city lads strode over the winning line and into the final. 

Dunloy having collected minor football titles in 2016 and again this term are certainly not lacking in talent, and indeed the Cuchullian’s took the under-18 title in 2016 at the expense of St Brigid’s in the final.

They have impressed from the outset in the competition and a back from the brink recovery from ten points in arrears to earn a draw and a second chance against Moneyglass underlines their character.

They are strong at the back with Conor Kinsella and Ryan Elliot solid and Deaglan Smith and Callum Scullion strong at mid-field. In a potent and fleet footed attack Keelan Molloy, Seaan Elliot and Conal Cunning carry a real threat with Molloy in electrifying form throughout the competition.

Indeed the Cuchullain’s carry a scoring threat all over the field with Smith scoring 1-03 from mid-field in their semi-final victory over Rossa.

St Brigid’s, like Cuchullain’s caught the eye from early in the competition and the South Belfast side have continued that form on their way to the final.

They are also strong at the back with central defenders Conor King and Odhran Boyle giving nothing away, and in mid field they have more than useful performers in Peter King and Patrick Finnegan.

Up front the Biddies have talent aplenty with centre forward Peter Webb a young man with huge potential and James Smith an excellent target man while corner forward Ethan Carleton certainly has an eye for goal, finding the net twice at Creggan.

St Brigid’s, having impressed in their semi-final win in Creggan will start as slight favourites but this Dunloy side has impressed throughout and they may well collect another title.

St Bendedict’s win Corn Cúchullainn

Danske Bank Corn Cúchulainn final

St Benedict’s, Randalstown 5-10 De La Salle Downpatrick 3-8


Although St Benedict’s Randalstown led this Danske Bank Corn Cúchulainn final yesterday in Coláiste Feirste by 2-5 to 0-5 at the break, it was the direct switch of centre-half back Sean McAlister and free-taker Aidan McErlain that helped them nail the vital scores to keep well in front of a strong comeback from De La Salle Downpatrick.
McAlister had scored the second Randalstown goal just coming into the break but his switch to full-forward for the second half didn’t pay off immediately and a goal from De La Salle captain Cillian Burns had narrowed the gap between the sides to 2-6 to 1-7 with 16 minutes remaining.
That was when McAlister stepped on the gas. Helped by the long direct ball in, he picked up possession time and again and fired home goals in the 45th and 48th minutes to push his side into a comfortable 4-8 to 1-7 lead.
Lee Murphy responded with a Downpatrick goal, but McAlister wasn’t finished and he crashed home a fourth goal to bring his personal tally to 4-2 and St Benedict’s up to 5-8, too far ahead to be troubled by a late Cillian Burns’ consolation goal for De La Salle.
Overall this was a good game of football with both McAlister and Burns the key men for their respective teams, but there were other strong performances from Aidan McErlain and Odhran Molloy for St Benedict’s and James Crangle, Harry O’Bank and sweeper James McConkey in the De La Salle colours.


St Benedict’s : R Gribbon, C Devine, C Logan, T McKinney, S Hinfey, S McAlister (4-2), C Donnelly, O Molloy (1-0), T Murray (0-2 frees), R McVeigh, C Hastings, C O’Kane, C McLarnon, A McErlain (0-6, 0-3 frees), C O’Loan capt.
Subs : M Hood for C Devine (46), E Campbell for C McLarnon (47)


De La Salle : A McEvoy, H O’Bank, L McEvoy, M McMullan, J Crangle (0-2), K Broggy, S Dorrian, N Kelly, C Burns capt. (2-2), J O’Shea, J McDerby (0-2), R Burns, D O’Shea, L Murphy (1-2, 0-2 frees), J McConkey
Subs : A McGrattan for M McMullan (49), O Murray for J O’Shea (52), J Brown for L Murphy (53), M Loudon for D O’Shea (57), J Byrne for L McEvoy (59), A O’Dwyer for R Burns (56)
Referee : B Toland (Lámh Dhearg)

St Benedict’s captain C O’Loan

Crawford points St. Louis into Corn Uan Uladh final

Corn Uan Uladh semi-final

St Louis Ballymena 1-13 St Patrick’s Maghera 2-8

Caitlin Crawford gave a superb exhibition of point taking, both from play and from the placed ball to lead a St. Louis Ballymena come-back as they came from nine points down early in the second half to defeat St. Patrick’s Maghera at Lavey today.

Despite battling hard into the breeze in the opening half the Kintullagh girls looked in trouble when Eilis Toner scored St. Patrick’s second goal in the opening minute of the second half to put her side eight in front  but the Ballymena college dug deep and their determination and commitment saw them slowly wear down the Maghera challenge.

Twelve months on from the first all-North Antrim final in Corn Uan Uladh we will have a second one in January after this superb second half fight-back where Crawford led the way with six superb points but she was only one of a handful of star performers.

St Patrick’s Maghera led by 1-5 to 0-3 at the break and within 14 seconds of the second half throw-in Eilis Toner, playing on her home pitch, hit their second goal and Maria Rafferty pointed a free to put the Derry school nine points clear.

But they couldn’t hold back an aggressive final 25 minutes from St Louis with Maura Downey kick-starting the show with a free and Caitlin Crawford adding two more points.

However by the start of the last quarter the score stood at 2-7 to 0-6 and Maghera were hanging on as Ballymena wasted a number of chances from frees. Then came a touch of fortune with Kimberley Burke’s shot from 40 metres deceiving the Maghera defence and ending in the net.

Spurred on by this bit of fortune St Louis pushed on with an unanswered seven points in the last eight minutes of play, Caitlin Crawford,Caoimhe Molloy and Maura Downey all firing over as the intensity of their challenge over ran their opponents.

Mary McKillen’s final point from play epitimised the determination of the Cullybackey Road side when lying on the ground and surrounded by three opponents she somehow managed to screw the sliotar over the bar.

However Maghera were on top at the start of the match and Chloe Mullan’s goal in the 16th minute had the Derry girls 1-3 to 0-1 up and Ballymena on the back foot.

Play was a little more evenly-contested for the second quarter and scoring honours shared at 0-2 each, although both teams missed handy scores as well. But, apart from that early Maghera goal and point, the second half belonged to St Louis.

However they will need to take a much higher percentage oftheir scoring chances if they are to trouble three-in-a-row chasing Cross and Passion Ballycastle in the final in mid-January.

St Louis : Kimberly Burke 1-0, Caitlin Crawford 0-6, 0-3 frees, Maura Downey 0-2, , Mary McKillen 0-2, Caoimhe Molloy 0-3 free

Maghera : Chloe Mullan 1-1, Eilis Toner 1-0, Maria Rafferty 0-4, 0-2 frees, Chloe Bradley 0-1, Bronagh Gallagher 0-1, Niamh McCullough 0-1.

Referee: Peadar Lagan (Watty Graham’s)

Old friends bearing gifts very welcome

An old friend of the Saffron Gael called at the house this week, no two old friends. Jimmy Gaston and his wife Maureen dropped in to make a donation of £100-00. Jimmy and Maureen from Dunloy are long-time friends, followers and occasionally literary contributors to the site.

As a fellow lover of Gaelic games and Irish culture, Jimmy has followed the Saffron Gael since its launch 18 months ago. This is the second time he has made a financial contribution. Without such generosity the Saffron Gael would not have survived this long.

Despite having had 2,066,822 views and 933,177 visitors in that time we continue to rely on people like Jimmy, our sponsors and clubs to finance the Saffron Gael site. Our sponsors increased this year and a lot of clubs have continued to support us financially, disappointingly others have not.

When John and I took the decision to launch the site in 2017 after both the Ballymena Chronicle and Antrim Post folded it was a decision based solely on promoting Gaelic games and Culture within the Saffron County and a love of those games.

A labour of love but we soon discovered that in order to do it right we had to bring other people on board and while money wasn’t a primary objective at the time the site needed and continues to need finance to exist and grow.

Curly and I are reporters-photographers and we don’t have any expertise on finance or do we like to write about it or keep launching appeals but unfortunately we have to in order for the site to continue and grow. 

To those clubs who have not made a contribution we again appeal. It may have been an oversight on your part but we really need all your help. We made a decision from the start to treat all clubs equally regardless of their contribution but your club could never the less play its part.

To those clubs, sponsors, advertisers and people like Jimmy Gaston who have made financial donations we are indebted and we send you our sincere thanks. To those who have not we again appeal to you to do so by getting in touch with John at john.mcilwaine@yahoo.co.ukor myself at ptrckmclwn@yahoo.co.uk.

You can also contribute by going to the Saffron Gael page on the website and following the link to make a donation.

Happy Christmas to our sponsors, advertisers and contributors and we will undoubtedly bump into you at a game soon.

We have included a selection of our sponsors and advertisers over the last year but haven’t been able to include them all and once again we thank you for your continued support.

Cuchullains cruise to U21 decider

Antrim U21 A Football Championship  Semi-Final
Dunloy 2-14 Rossa 0-7
Wednesday December 12th
Brendan McTaggart reports from Coláiste Feirste, Belfast
Dunloy saw off the challenge of Rossa on Wednesday evening to book their place in the U21 Final. 13 points separated the sides after the 60 minutes with the Cuchullains clinical and efficient laced with touches of brilliance throughout.
After a tense and tentative opening, the Cuchullains built a seven point lead by the short whistle while second half goals from Keelan Molloy and Deáglán Smith ensured a healthy score line in favour of the men from Pearse Park.
Rossa started the semi-final well with Eoghan McMenamin and Darren Grego lively in attack and Michael McGreevey busy at centre half but a scoring burst of four points in barely two minutes mid-way through the first half put the Cuchullains in control with Eoghan McGrath, Molloy and Deáglán Smith all catching the eye in the opening 30 minutes.
Rossa were more competitive after the restart and looked to pressurise a Dunloy defence who strolled their way through the first half but the wind was knocked out of their challenge with Molloy’s 45th minute goal while Deáglán Smith’s goal in the last minute of normal time added further gloss to the score line for the Cuchullains.

Rossa’s Cormac McGettigan in action against Dunloy’s Conal Cunning

Dunloy opened the scoring in the second minute with Seaan Elliott firing over for his first of three points over the hour. Eoghan McMenamin replied instantly for Rossa to draw the sides level but the Cuchullains looked to be more fluent in their play and were finding holes in the Rossa defence at will. A run of wides threatened to hurt any momentum they may have built but a brace of points from Molloy and Eoghan McGrath gave the Cuchullains a two point lead by the 10th minute.
Any Rossa attacks were fleeting in the opening exchanges but the Shaws Road side were back on terms by the 17th minute with McMenamin and Cormac Murphy splitting the uprights. The aerial ability of Murphy and Cormac McGettigan meant Rossa were winning the lions share of high ball. The Cuchullains looked to go short with their kick outs and build from the back and while Rossa were content to keep a man back, Dunloy began to take advantage of their possession. Points from Deáglán Smith, Eoghan McGrath (two) and Molloy gave the Cuchullains a four point lead in the space of just two minutes.
Dunloy were well on top and the movement of the attack was causing Rossa huge problems. The artificial surface allowed the Cuchullains to utilise their pace and the four point lead soon became six with Conal Cunning (free) and Deáglán Smith finding the target.
Seaan Elliott finished the scoring with a composed finish from distance in the last minute of the first half to give the Cuchullains a seven point lead.

Dunloy’s Seaan Elliott in action against Rossa’s Manus Smyth.

The Cuchullains were more efficient in attack and the calibre of ball into the forward line allowed the Dunloy forwards to make hay. Rossa were struggling to penetrate the Dunloy defence in the opening half and the Cuchullains took advantage with a number of turnovers immediately resulting in scores during the opening half.
Rossa looked energised after the restart and began to pressure further up the pitch. Dunloy did open the scoring with Elliott splitting the posts in the 35th minute with his third point of the semi-final but Rossa were keeping a quartet of attackers up front and it was beginning to pay dividends. A free from Conall McDonnell gave Rossa their first score in 22 minutes and while Deáglán Smith landed a point from distance with the next attack, Rossa were beginning to turn the screw and looked like they could eat into the Dunloy lead. A brace of points from McMenamin and McDonnell (’45) reduced the deficit to six points once again by the 42nd minute but McDonnell’s point would be the last score Rossa would register.
The first Dunloy goal came from a counter and while hand bags were being thrown at one end of the pitch, Keelan Molloy went on a marauding run down the Rossa left leaving a trail of defenders in his wake before cutting inside and finishing smartly despite the best efforts of Michael Byrne in the Rossa goals.

Dunloy’s Deaghlan Smith in action against Rossa’s Tiernan Murphy

Molloy took his tally to 1-3 for the match with a 54th minute free and while Rossa began to have more possession as they tried to unlock a water tight Dunloy defence, the Cuchullains remained resolute with Conor Kinsella and Aaron Crawford excelling as the match progressed.
The second Dunloy goal came in the last minute of the hour with midfielder Deáglán Smith matching Molloy’s tally of 1-3. Eoin O’Neill providing the assist for the rampaging Smith and the talented midfielder finding the bottom corner with great aplomb to finish a comfortable nights work for the Cuchullains.
Dunloy will face St Brigid’s in the decider on Saturday at Woodlands in a repeat of the minor final from two years ago as they chase an U21 hurling and football double to match the minor double already achieved during 2018.

Bear hug! A nice light hearted moment near the end of the game as Rossa substitute Ryan Bear O’Neill and Dunloy’s Seaan Elliott have a laugh when Bear is sent on to mark the Dunloy flier.

Dunloy: Frankie Cochrane; Ciaran McQuillan, Conor Kinsella, Anton McGrath; Chrissy McMahon, Ryan Elliott, Aaron Crawford; Callum Scullion, Deáglán Smith; Eoghan McGrath, Keelan Molloy, Eoin O’Neill; Anthony Smith, Conal Cunning, Seaan Elliott.
Scorers: Deáglán Smith 1-3; Keelan Molloy 1-3 (1 f); Eoghan McGrath 0-4; Seaan Elliott 0-3; Conal Cunning 0-1 (1 f).
Rossa: Michael Byrne; Matthew Mallon, Gavin McGrath, Manus Smith; James Cooley, Michael McGreevey, Niall Crossan; Cormac Murphy, Cormac McGettigan; Tiarnan Murphy, Eoghan McMenamin, Conall McDonnell; Michael Close, Darren Grego, Daire Matthews.
Scorers: Eoghan McMenamin 0-3 (1 f); Conall McDonnell 0-2 (1 ’45, 1 f); Cormac Murphy 0-1; Darren Grego 0-1
Referee: Conal Roberts (St Johns)