Posts by thesaffrongael

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

Ulster University lose out to Carlow in Freshers final

Freshers Hurling Division 2 All Ireland Final

SETU Carlow 2-14 Ulster University 1-14

Ulster University lost out to SETU Carlow in Thursday’s Division 2 Freshers Hurling final at Abbotstown, the Jordanstown side losing out by a goal in the end.

The killer blow for UU came in the opening minute when Carlow got in for a goal through Wexford man John Kelly. UU fought back to level the game with points from Padraig McKillop, Deaghlan Mallon and goalkeeper Pearse Smyth (from a 65) by the seventh minute, but Carlow edged ahead on ten minute with a point from centre forward Oisin Pepper.

McKillop levelled the scores again with a point from play but they were dealt another bad blow when Kelly got in for Carlow’s second on 20 minutes. McKillop and Eoin Pucci picked off points for the Ulster side, and though Kelly got another point for Carlow, UU hit the front on 27 minutes when Fionn Turpin found the net, and the wen on to lead by 1-7 to 2-3 at the interval.

It was score for score during the third quarter and Padraig McKillop (2) and Pearse Smyth picked off points for UU but three in a row from Carlow gave them the edge. McKillop closed the gap again but the Carlow college hit three more without reply to take a foothold in the game. Two more from McKillop frees kept Jordanstown in touch but late scores from Keelly and substite Conall Byrne sealed the win for Carlow.


Jack Foristel, Ros Dempsey, Ruairi Delaney, Alan Dumphy, Calum Corcoran, Michael Dundon, Eric English, Josh O’Brien, Ryan Quinlan, Eoin Doyle, Oisin Pepper, Aaron Byrne, Alan Mahoney, Oliver Murphy, John Kelly


Pearse Smyth, Ryan Callaghan, Eoin Boylan, James Higgins, Daire McMullan, Kevin Curran, Eoin McBrearty, Ben McAuley, Padraig McKillop, Deaglan Mallon, Odhran Gillen, Eoin Pucci, Tadh Donnelly, Dermot Rogan.

Trip to Longford not a dead rubber-McEntee

Longford v Antrim

Allianz NFL Division 3

Glennon Bros Pearse Park Sunday 2.00pm

Antrim’s spectacular win over league toppers, Cavan at Corrigan Park last Saturday earned them a place in division 3 for the 2024 season and removed he pressure of travelling to Pearse Park in Longford needing a win to preserve their division 3 status

However when I spoke to manager, Andy McEntee after the Cavan game he told me that he didn’t regard Sunday’s visit to Longford as a dead rubber but rather as an opportunity to build momentum as they prepare for their Ulster championship opener against Armagh in a couple of weeks-time.

Antrim were forced to make a number of changes for the Cavan game because of injuries to key players with Jack Dowling and Patrick McCormick coming into the starting line-up and Paddy McBride returning after a lengthy layoff because of a finger injury and McEntee hinted that these players deserve another chance, given the Cavan result.

Declan Lynch was another who returned to the Antrim side and had an excellent game at full-back while Peter Healey and Seamus McGarry saw some late action and Pat Shivers, Ryan Murray and Conor Stewart will be amongst those hoping to get some game time in Longford.

The sides last met on March 12th 2022 when Antrim were still pushing for a promotion place and Antrim recorded a good win that day at Corrigan Park but in the end missed out on promotion.

Five years earlier the sides met at the same venue with division 3 survival the prize and on that occasion with Longford emerging as winners by a single point.

Today we look back at those two games and the reports that appeared in the Saffron Gael as we look forward to the trip to Pearse Park and hopefully another win to build on the Cavan result.

Longford are already relegated but put up a mighty fight against Down in Newry last time out and will be playing for pride and Antrim should not take them lightly but I feel the Saffrons can build on last week’s win and finish their campaign on a high

Antrim v Longford

April 2017

Antrim and Longford met in the National League back in April 2017 with division 3 survival very much the prize for both sides.

Both teams were sitting on four points with Laois and Offaly who met on the same weekend in Tullamore but Antrim had an inferior scoring difference so only a win would do for the Saffrons if they were to avoid the drop.

The Frank Fitzsimmons-Gearoid Adams managed side went into the game on the back of an encouraging display against Armagh the previous Saturday evening. They were well organised and showed impressive reserves of spirit and commitment, but two red cards late on meant they would be without midfielder Stephen Beatty and experienced forward Conor Murray for the Longford game.

Ryan Murray was also out injured but Niall Delargy and Sean McVeigh were expected to start after coming on against the Orchard men while rookies Sean Pat Donnelly, Conor Donnelly and Seamus McGarry were also pushing for places.

The game came too soon for county captain James Lavery but his Cargin club mates Kevin O’Boyle and Tomas McCann had returned to the fold and were expected to make a contribution in the crucial encounter.

Longford headed north on the back of a three-point loss to a Laois side Antrim defeated in the preceding round of fixtures. Gearoid Adams said at the time “there’ll be a change of tactics from the defensive set-up against Armagh. I think we need to go for it,” he said.

For the record CJ McGourty scored 0-5 and Mickey Pollock added 0-3 but significantly CJ was off target from a late free that would have earned Antrim a draw.

Allianz National Football League Division Three 

Antrim 1-19-0-12 Longford 

Kevin Herron reports from Corrigan Park 

March 12th 2022

Antrim ensured Division Three survival but more importantly- boosted their hopes of a top-two finish and promotion to the second tier with a 1-19-0-12 win over Longford at Corrigan Park this afternoon. 

An early Tomas McCann goal from a penalty had the hosts in the driving seat early-on with Conor Murray chipping in with four of his sides nine first half scores, though at the other end, a vital save from Oisin Kerr afforded the Saffrons plenty of breathing space at the interval. 

Although Longford did improve after the break, they couldn’t find a way past Kerr with Peter Healy making a goal-line clearance in the visitors most promising moment in the second period and Antrim saw the game out to make it three wins from five and ensure they will be up amongst the contenders for promotion at the league’s conclusion in two-week’s time. 

Enda McGinley was forced into pre-game alterations to his starting fifteen as Dermot McAleese and Martin Johnston were promoted from the bench in place of Kevin Small and Jamie Gribbon. 

The hosts made the ideal start on the Whiterock and within the first 30-seconds had a glorious opening when Tomas McCann fed Odhran Eastwood for an early goal opportunity, though his attack was halted abruptly by Patrick Collum in the Longford goal and referee Niall Cullen signalled for a penalty. 

Tomas McCann took responsibility and confidently rifled high past Collum- who guessed the right way- and Antrim were off the mark. 

McCann notched up his first point of the afternoon a few minutes later after taking the ball from Ryan Murray and swinging a shot between the posts. 

Further scores arrived: Conor Murray claimed an advanced mark and converted from a routine position, Martin Johnston then had his run halted, and Ryan Murray swung over the resulting free and Ruairi McCann claimed a mark out wide and steered it between the posts to give his side a 1-04-0-00 lead. 

Longford kicked the opening point of the second period through first half substitute Oran Kenny, but Ryan Murray kicked his first point from play and Tomas McCann took an off the shoulder pass from Marc Jordan and shifted it high over the bar. 

Jack Duggan got his angles right and landed his first score of the afternoon and a few minutes later his side carved out another goal opportunity. 

Like the chance in the first half, it came after a pointed effort came off the large upright, this time an effort from Darren Gallagher, the loose ball fell to Daniel Reynolds- who only entered the fray 60-seconds before and despite Oisin Kerr narrowing the angle, Reynolds got a shot towards goal, which was cleared on the line by captain Peter Healy. 

Odhran Eastwood and Jayson Matthews traded scores from frees and Eastwood would double his account after a neat interchange with Michael McCann as Antrim were 1-15-0-06 to the good with a quarter of an hour remaining. 

Matthews would follow-up with his second point from a free and then substitute Mark Hughes popped over a second score in succession for the visitors. 

Enda McGinley began to run his bench and the introduction of Pat Shivers yielded two further scores. The Cargin forward carried on from his eight league points at Hannahstown last weekend with a score 60-seconds after his introduction. 

Cian Dooner produced a fantastic score in response, though the Saffrons hit three on the bounce- Conor Murray adding to his four first half points with another two from play with Shivers squeezing over his second in-between times. 

The visitors replied with three points of their own, Dooner conjuring up his second in quick succession with Oran Kenny and Jayson Matthews converting the last two from frees. 

Both sides would end the encounter a man light after Dermot McAleese was shown a black-card in injury-time and then Eoghan McCormack was given his marching orders for a second yellow-card offence. 

It mattered little in the grand scheme of things as Antrim were convincing 1-19-0-12 winners at the conclusion and keep alive their hopes of promotion going into the final two games of the campaign away to Louth and home to Westmeath. 

Antrim: O Kerr, E McCabe, R Johnston, P Healy, P McAleer, J Laverty, M Jordan (0-01), M McCann, D McAleese, R Murray (0-03, 0-02f), M Johnston, C Murray (0-06, 0-02m, 0-01f), T McCann (1-03, 1-00p), R McCann (0-02, 0-01m, 0-01f), O Eastwood (0-02, 0-01f). Subs:

J McCann for P McAleer (HT), B McCormick for M McCann (57), P Shivers (0-02) for M Johnston (60), P McCormick for R Murray (64), E Hynds for T McCann (69). 

Longford: P Collum, P Fox, A Farrell, B O’Farrell, J Moran, PJ Masterson, I O’Sullivan, R Moffett, D Gallagher (0-03f), J Hagan, J Duggan (0-01), D Farrell, E McCormack, J Matthews (0-03f), A McGuire. Subs: O Kenny (0-02, 0-01f) for D Farrell (32), D Reynolds for A McGuire (45), K Diffley for R Moffett (47), M Hughes (0-01) for J Hagan (51), C Dooner (0-02) for Duggan (57). 

Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh) 

Joe (Liam) McCartan RIP

Joe (Liam) McCartan, for decades a community leader in West Belfast through his dedicated work at CLG Naomh Pól on the Shaw’s Road.

The 77-year-old died at his home in Coolnasilla Park East on Sunday after a long battle with illness.  He is pre-deceased by his wife Maura and son Liam, and survived by his children Fiona, Grannia and Conor and his adored grandchildren Cara, Cormac and Cillian.

Joe is also pre-deceased by his mother Rita, father Jack, brother Thomas and survived his sisters Kathleen and Philomena (Australia) and brothers Jim (Australia), John and Eamonn.

Joe was educated in St Kevin’s Primary School and then St Thomas’s Secondary School on the Whiterock Road. Following shorter stints of employment, he spent the majority of his professional life working as a Sales Manager for the Prudential and played a key role in providing opportunities and employment for many local people within this industry.

Liam and his wife Maura

However, his great passion was for the GAA and particularly CLG Naomh Pól, Béal Feirste.  He started playing for CLG Naomh Pól in the late 1950’s and in later years he excelled in the administration of the club.  In his roles as Secretary and Chairman Liam was the driving force behind many of the club’s key milestones including the relocation to Shaw’s Road, the development of the pitch, the construction of the club rooms, handball alleys and changing rooms.

Liam had the vision to see how CLG Naomh Pól could develop and possessed the qualities to deliver this for future generations by establishing a structure that drive the club from junior to senior status. 

He was instrumental in creating a love and loyalty for the GAA culture and community in thousands of young people in West Belfast.

Liam was never happier than when he was either at Shaw’s Road or at his caravan in Enniscrone, Co. Sligo with his late wife Maura and his family.

In a family statement, Liam’s children commented on their love for their father and described him as “their hero”.

The hundreds of comments on the CLG Naomh Pól social media platforms provide a snapshot of the positive impact Liam has had on so many people within the local community.

Liam’s funeral will take place in St Agnes’s Church today Thursday 23rd March 2023 at 1.30pm with burial taking place at Hannahstown Cemetery.

Liam who was the man behind building the handball alleys at St Paul’s

Goals give Loreto the edge against St Pat’s

Allianz Corn Gobnait Junior A final

St Patrick’s Maghera 0-9 Loreto Kilkenny 4-10

St Pat’s Magera’s bid for All Ireland Junior A glory was undone by a very good Loreto side at Darvar on Wednesday as the Kilkenny college collected yet another title at this grade, their 14th since 2007.

St Pat’s fought tooth and nail throughout, and had a great spell during the second half, but it was Loreto’s ability to take their scores, and their goals in particular, that divided the sides in the end.

Playing with the aid of a strong diagonal wind Maghera started well when Cáit Conway sent over a point from a free, and the Co Derry school could have had a few more but for some wayward shooting.

Loreto got on the scoreboard in the fifth minute when left half forward Aofie Shealy got in for a goal, but Magera hit back with two more points to level the game. The second goal was a real body blow for the St Pat’s girls, as Sarah Kehoe’s shot for a point just dipped below the crossbar and into the net, the goals proving the difference as they girls in black and amber went on to lead by 2-5 to 0-5 at half time.

Most pundits were expecting Loreto to run away with the game when they had the use of the wind in the second half, but the St Pat’s girls had other ideas and they played their best Camogie of the game in a hard fought second half. Good defensive work by the Maghera side denied full forward and team captain Ciara Dunne in the early stages and when they moved the ball down field Cáit Conway pulled a point back from a free.

With wing half backs Branagh Brolly and Ellie Griffin running at Loreto at every opportunity, ably assisted by Lucy McKaigue, Rhianna Doherty and McEldowney they began to create chances and closed the gap with some well take points. However the goal they needed to really get them back into the game never really looked like coming and Loreto bided their time.

Entering the last ten minutes the Kilkenny girls began to find their range and goals from Eleanor Doheny and team captain Ciara Dunne put the game beyond St Pat’s grasp.

The Player of the Match award went to Loreto centre back Anna Doheny who gave a masterful display to keep the Ulster champions at bay, but St Pat’s, who had four Antrim girls in the ranks,  can take great heart from their second half display.


Loreto: C Dunne 1-6, A Shealy and E Doheny 1-1 each, S Kehoe 1-0, L Boyd 0-2 frees

St Patrick’s: C Conway 0-6 frees, MT McCullagh, R Doherty and O McCartney 0-1 each.


E Brennan, S Doheny, A Carroll, C Hickey, E Murphy, A Doheny, G Brennan, O Kennedy, L Gilmore, S Kehoe, A Kirby, A Shealy, E Doheny, C Dunne capt, L Boyd.

Subs: A Laherty for E Murphy (35), M Kenny for L Boyd (58), A Murphy for O Kennedy (59)

St Patrick’s:

Ó Henry, L McKaigue, E Murray, A McFaul, B Brolly, K McCloskey, E Griffin, C Conway capt, MT McCullagh, R Doherty, O McCartney, C Hampsey,A.Hampsey, C Chambers, A Mulholland.

Subs: M Horgan for A Mulholland and C Mallon for C Hampsey (both 47)

Referee: C Dooley (Offaly)

The Saffron Gael speaks to Andy McEntee

After Saturday’s thrilling win over Cavan on Saturday I spoke to Antrim manager, Andy McEntee. The former Meath man was obviously delighted by his side’s performance and the result on the day and was only too willing to share his thoughts on the game, on the rest of the league campaign and just where he though Antrim football was at and is going after his first year in charge

Andy McEntee Interview

Saffron Gael: Andy thank you first of all for agreeing to speak to us and congratulations on securing division 3 status for next year with that splendid win over Cavan. What were your thoughts going into that game and your feelings after that win?

Andy McEntee: It was hard to know exactly where the lads were at after the heavy defeat to Westmeath last day out coupled with the large amount of injuries we had. I suppose we really tried to focus on getting a performance from the lads and let’s see where that gets us. We knew that the Westmeath game didn’t represent where we have been in the majority of games in the league to date and just tried to get back to doing the right thing and showing the right attitude. We were all delighted with the game but also with the way the lads played the game. They showed great character- especially when we conceded the second goal. I know everyone was thinking “here we go again” but to go up the field and get the last score was huge.

Saffron Gael: As a photographer-reporter and an ardent Antrim supporter I’ve been through the wide range of emotions that probably you and your backroom staff have experienced this year. There were the games where we played well in spells and actually outplayed Offaly for half a game, Down for 50 odd minutes and Fermanagh for a similar period of time and as I look this morning at this weekend’s fixtures and our trip to Longford I’m thinking we could have been aiming for promotion if things had went our way. What’s your thoughts?

Andy McEntee: Absolutely agree. The truth is we could very possibly be sitting on 8 points and even 10 points going into the last game where we would be playing for promotion. But that’s how tight the league is and the importance of playing to the final whistle. We need to get used to winning and a lot of the panel are relatively new to inter-county football. The lesson is plain and simple – you have to keep your focus and play to the end. Experience plays a big role and perhaps you need to go through those heart breaking losses to get hardened to the reality of sport at this level.

Saffron Gael: When I looked at Saturday’s starting line-up against Cavan the thought occurred to me that perhaps we were holding a few back with the thought that Longford was going to be a must win for us and to be honest I wasn’t looking forward to that trip if that had been the case. Having attended the Offaly, Down and Fermanagh games, and given the fact that we lost so heavily in Mullingar I had a feeling that we might come up against an over confident Cavan and that we could get a result. What’s your thoughts on it?

Andy McEntee: I can see where you were coming from but the truth is that any of the lads that were left out of starting line-up were left out for a reason, they were injured. I suppose there was always the possibility that Cavan might have underestimated us, which was understandable given the score-line v Westmeath but we could only control how we approached the game and as you would have seen, anyone who wore an Antrim jersey on Saturday went out to win the game.

Saffron Gael: The trip to Longford doesn’t have the same significance as what it would have had if we had lost to Cavan. Will you see it as an opportunity to give some of the fringe player’s game time or with the championship just a few weeks away or do you see it as an opportunity to build further confidence in the run up to that one?

Andy McEntee: It’s an important game for us in that we want to get used to winning. We haven’t decided on a line up yet but it would be harsh not to reward the lads who played so well on Saturday.

Saffron Gael: You came into the Antrim job not knowing too much about Antrim players and deprived of quite a few of the more experienced players from previous years. I know you carried out quite a few trials and training sessions and had a couple of run outs in the McKenna Cup in a relatively short time. I thought at the beginning of this year’s league campaign when I looked at the fixtures that division 3 survival would be success and we have achieved that and might have had much more. What do you think?

Andy McEntee: There is no doubt that survival was hugely important for the group and for Antrim football. However I would have to say that I fancied our chances of getting promoted at the start of the campaign and as the games have shown, it wouldn’t have taken an awful lot more for us to be in division 2 next year. Having said that, we still have a lot of football to play and a lot of work to do.

Saffron Gael: Finally Andy give us your thoughts on how the season has turned out to date and how you see Antrim football progressing in the coming season. Your thoughts on the forthcoming Ulster Championship game away to Armagh and your thoughts on the development of the side in your first year in charge?

Andy McEntee: They say that the tables don’t lie but I do feel that they don’t tell the full story either. There is no doubt that we let a couple of games slip that would have put a totally different look on the league campaign. We have been hit with a large number of injuries in the last month, at one stage we had 15 out of 37 players out injured, but as you have seen from the Cavan game it gave us the opportunity to look at players who might not have played otherwise.

That can only be of benefit to us in the long term. Looking forward to the Armagh game we would hope to have a full hand to play with and hopefully be in a position to put in the type of performance that we are capable of. I think the lads have put in a huge amount of work to date and they have developed physically as a result. However we are definitely playing catch up in this area and it will be vital that they continue this development throughout the rest of the year so that we can come back stronger next year. It will be vital to increase the quantum of players capable of playing at this standard.

Saffron Gael: We at the Saffron Gael thank Andy McEntee for taking the time to speak to us and wish our footballers all the best in Longford on Sunday and in their forthcoming championship game away to Armagh.

Despite finishing just clear of relegation it has been an exciting season for me personally, a season of what might have been rather than the one it is. It’s not over yet and I’m personally looking forward to the visit to Armagh where I know, we will be massive underdogs.

If we can put all the best phases of our play in games throughout the league together at the Athletic Grounds then we might not be too far away.

In the meantime we wish Andy and his backroom team all the best in the future. It seems to me that we are a project in progress and I’ve been impressed by the buy-in to that project and I believe the future can be bright for Antrim football if that buy-in continues.