Posts by thesaffrongael

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

Antrim girls are Ulster champions

Ulster LGFA Festival of Football – Platinum U14 Final

Cavan 2-5 Antrim 2-13 

Both teams went into today’s Ulster Platinum Final, recording 7 victories & one defeat after the Festival of Football round robin series. Cavan’s only defeat was in the final game to Antrim, but by that stage the Breffni girls had already qualified for todays final. 

Played in very warm conditions at Emyvale Co. Monaghan, Antrim won the throw in and sent out a message of intent going immediately on the attack. The first couple of forays into the Cavan defense didn’t yield any reward but with relentless work from a strong half forward line, soon paid dividends. Orleigha McGuinness chipped in with 2 points from the wing while her cousin Bronagh converted a free to stretch the lead to 3. 

Antrim continued to dominate but failed to convert further scores and with a Cavan point & goal against the run of play, the large Cavan support were given plenty to shout about. The Saffron’s went again on the attack and after a well worked move, full forward Niamh McKinley restored parity with a point from 30m. 

Pics by Elaine Kelly

For the remaining 15 mins of the opening half Antrim dominated. The saffron defense was solid and with plenty of ball going into their inside forward line, a Cavan defensive structure was hard to penetrate and numerous chances went a begging. At the short whistle and although Antrim dominated possession & territory, the sides were still level at 1-1 to 0-4 with Cavan being the happier team heading into the changing rooms having withstood all that Antrim could throw at them. 

The second half started as had the first, with possession won from the throw in, quickly converted into attack and Bronagh McGuinness immediately converted a point to regain the lead. Further dominance at last produced it’s rewards as the ever busy midfielder, Aoife Kelly, rattled the net after a fine team move. Smelling blood, sub Alicia Boyd pointed with her first touch and another Bronagh McGuinness point kept the scoreboard ticking over. 

Back came Cavan with a point but hopes of a come back were shortly dashed as Ciara Maguire broke free, punching Antrim’s second goal to the net. Again Antrim pressed and as Cavan struggled to win their own kick outs, Bronagh & Orleigha McGuinness in the 14th minute further stretched the lead. Caoimhe McErlain’s endeavours were rewarded with a point after the water break and 2 further Bronagh McGuinness points opened up a commanding 13 point lead with 10 minutes remaining, Antrim winning the 2nd half at this stage by 2-8 to 0-1 making this the key quarter.

Cavan though did not throw in the towel. A Breffni goal after confusion in the Antrim defense was followed up by a pointed free. Two more Cavan points narrowed the gap the back to 8 with 5 mins remaining. Another Cavan point brought the gap to 7 but fine Antrim play in the final minutes saw Orleigha McGuinness round off a classy display, with a point deep into injury time to seal the first A Grade Ulster title by any Antrim Ladies Football team.

This was a richly deserved victory for Antrim today. Over the years the county have tasted B & C victories and contested (and lost) A finals. In 2019 the record for this squad is played 9 and won 8. The best that any Ulster team can boast. 

Although winning by 8 today, Antrim’s dominate performance should have made for a more comfortable scoreline. Erin Duffin & Sarah O’Neill had solid games today in defense. Tiernach Fegan played a strong captains role both on and off the field and was ably assisted by the strong running of Aileen McDonnell & Aoife Kelly. Up front it was all about the McGuinness girls & Caoimhe McErlain, who were central to most of the Antrim attacks. 

Well done to the 30 strong panel today who have got their just rewards for the their training since early December. Well done also to the management team of Justin McErlain, Damian McPeake, Ciaran McKinley & Linda Fegan for delivering this first milestone trophy for Antrim Ladies Football

In the end Ulster Ladies President Eileen Jones presented Antrim Captain Tiernach Fegan with the trophy which confirmed Antrim, for the first time, as the best in Ulster.

Eugene Traynor, singer, hurler… and friend to us all.

By John McIlwaine

Eugene Traynor was a hurling fanatic who loved the game and spent every available hour during his life playing or watching it. During my time covering our local games the man I saw most in the crowd was Eugene. Be it senior, minor or juvenile games Eugene was there to see the action and offer his opinion on the quality, or lack of it, of the various teams. An avid follower of Dunloy, he never lost that soft spot he had for Loughgiel, and when his grandchildren began wearing the red jersey he was there without fail to cheer them on.

Eugene started his career with the Shamrocks and won a minor championship medal with them, and was a sub on senior team that beat Dunloy in the 1963 county final in Glenariffe. Shortly after that he married Maureen McLaughlin and moved to live in Dunloy where he threw his lot in with the Cuchullains, as a player and later as a mentor.

Eugene Traynor (6th from right on the back row) with the Loughgiel 1963 team who beat Dunloy in the final in Glenariffe.

He played for Dunloy for many years after that, the highlight of his career with the Cuchullains coming in the 1976 county final against Rossa in Casement Park. Success eluded them on that occasion but the club’s push of senior honours continued and when the Cuchullains made the breakthrough in 1990 Eugene was part of the team management with his good friends Willie Richmond and Chris Elliott.

In the 1980s he was a selector under Sean McGuinness with the Antrim county team from 1984 to ’87. He admired McGuinness greatly and remained firm friends ever since. Eugene’s son Adrian told me that Sean had visited him a few weeks before his death and the night was filled with stories of hurling and of great players they had worked with.

Of course Eugene had tragedy in his life also and the loss of his son Paul a number of years ago was a bitter blow from which he never fully recovered.

Eugene with his good friend Chris Elliott

Dunloy PP Fr Blaney spoke highly of Eugene at his funeral on Saturday and spoke of his love of hurling and of the parishes of Dunloy and Loughgiel. He talked about his daily trips in the car over to Cloughmills, then on to Loughgiel before returning home to Dunloy, stopping for regular chats along the way. He also spoke of his love for music and his great singing voice which saw him perform with a range of local showbands from Walter Lewis, Leo McCaffrey and the Four Aces, and many of the mourners told me that he could have made the big time if he had been a little more driven.

One thing Eugene Traynor was driven by was the game of hurling and the love of the people involved in it. Be it Dunloy or Dublin, Ballycastle or Belfast, Loughgiel or Limerick, he was there to enjoy the action.

Eugene shares a joke with his niece Donna McLaughlin at one of the many games they attended together.

He will be missed at the games, leaning over the wire, offering his opinion, shouting words of encouragement (and even criticism on the odd occasion). However he will be missed most of all by his wife Maureen, son Adrian and daughter Siobhan, his loving grandchildren, and by the McLaughlin family, especially his niece Donna

To them were offer our sincere condolences.

Rest in Peace Eugene    

Late Johnnies goals break Ballycran hearts

Late Johnnies Goals Break Ballycran Hearts

By Liam Tunney @ Unit Updates

St John’s snatched victory from defeat’s snarling jaws in a pulsating game of hurling against Ballycran at McKenna Park this afternoon, with injury time goals from Domhnall Moran and Dannan McKeogh overturning a two-point deficit to take home the points.

Played in blistering sunshine on the Ards Peninsula, a tetchy first half ended with a Conor Woods goal putting five between the sides at the break, but with the hosts registering only 1-04 in the second half, the Belfast side chipped away at the lead, eventually reaping the benefits in added time.

Despite opening the scoring after a matter of seconds from midfielder Shea Shannon, the hosts assumed control of the early stages and points from Conor Woods and Cormac McAllister had the Down side in front with the next two attacks.

St John’s then had their first sight of the ‘Cran goal, Conor Johnston attempting an audacious reverse shot after a goalmouth scramble, but goalkeeper Stephen Keith was alert to the danger, springing low to his right to turn the sliotar around the post.

Ciarán Johnston converted the 65 to level matters, but a brace from Christopher Egan and a neat Michael Ennis point once again pegged back the Johnnies, only Conor Johnston’s reply attempting to stem the flow.

Ballycran corner forward Brendan Ennis pulls on the ball to send it past Simon Doherty in the St John’s goal. Pic by John McIlwaine

On nine minutes the Naomh Eoin defence looked on helplessly as the ball fell kindly for Brendan Ennis, who swept the ball home on the ground past the advancing Simon Doherty for the game’s opening goal.

The early stages had been fraught with off-the-ball exchanges and there was a lengthy stoppage as the home side lost corner-back Sean Ennis to injury and referee Darren McKeown appealed for calm among warring backs and forwards, but with play restored, Stuart Martin helped himself to a score to extend the Ballycran lead to six.

A further brace followed from the clinical hurl of Conor Woods but as it looked like the hosts were gaining momentum, St John’s corner forward Conal Bohill plucked a high ball from the Peninsula air and tapped over the bar to reduce the arrears to five.

Bohill’s intervention inspired a revival for the Whiterock men and points followed from Ciarán Johnston, Mícheál Bradley and Conor Johnston, the latter a beauty from under the stand, before Shea Shannon notched his second with another long-distance effort.

Conor Woods then pounced on a loose sideline ball to put four between the sides, but St John’s hit back immediately with a brace of Ciarán Johnston frees, before Woods caught the Johnnies with a sucker punch right on the bell.

Fielding a high ball in the full-forward line, the lively Woods wriggled free of his marker and buried the ball into the bottom corner of Doherty’s net to leave St John’s reeling and trailing by five at the break.

Christopher Egan’s hurl breaks over Conal Morgan’s as the timber flies in Saturday’s league game in Ballycran. Pic by John McIlwaine

Woods and Ciarán Johnston began the second half by trading frees, before Ciarán and Conor channelled their inner Paul and Barry Chuckle with a short free routine that ultimately ended up wide of the mark.

Domhnall Moran restored order with a long-range point before Ciarán Johnston won another free. No training ground set play on this occasion and he landed it from 45 yards to leave three points between the sides.

A further Johnston free and another huge effort from Moran saw the deficit cut to the minimum, but as the danger grew for Ballycran, they found a cushion, scores from Woods and Niall Breen edging them back into a three-point lead.

Another Moran-Johnston double followed before centre-back Barry McFall drove forward to level the score on 53 minutes after some neat stick work from Shannon and Aidan McMahon.

Just as the Johnnies manoeuvred into a promising position to mount a winning challenge, St Joseph’s hit them again. Doherty’s acrobatic save from a Christopher Egan shot fell into the path of Stuart Martin, who made no mistake with the rebound, pulling the ball into the empty net to leave them three ahead once again.

The action continued to be intense as Shannon swapped points with Woods, before another massive Barry McFall effort left two separating the sides in the 59th minute, when the visitors lost Ciarán Johnston to a second yellow card.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, St John’s were thrown a lifeline minutes later. With the ball ricocheting towards an empty net, Gerard Hughes got his hand to it and brought it clear, only for referee McKeown to rule he had touched it on the ground.

Domnhall Moran’s 20 m free rebounds off the bottom of Stephen Keith’s hurl, down off the ground and up into the net as St John’s grab an injury time winner. Pic by John McIlwaine

Up stepped Moran and with the goal line packed, somehow managed to squeeze the ball to the net in the 64th minute. Substitute Dannan McKeogh then added the proverbial insult to injury, wriggling through a minute later to poke the ball past Keith.

A cruel ending for Ballycran, who had done more than enough to warrant something from the game, but ecstasy for the Belfast men who refused to panic, continuing to pick off scores and clinical when the match-winning opportunity arose.

St Joseph’s Ballycran: Stephen Keith, Michael Hughes, Patrick Hughes, Sean Ennis, Gerard Hughes, Pádraig Flynn, Aaron Dorrian, Scott Nicholson, James Coyle, Michael Ennis (0-01), Conor Woods (1-07, 0-03f, 0-02 – 65), Christopher Egan (0-02), Brendan Ennis (1-00), Cormac McAllister (0-01), Niall Breen (0-01).

Subs: Stuart Martin (1-01) for Sean Ennis 12’, Huw Flynn for Aaron Dorrian 45’

St John’s: Simon Doherty, Jack Bohill, Ryan McNulty, Aidan McMahon, Conal Morgan, Barry McFall (0-02), Pádraig Nugent, Shea Shannon (0-03), Sean Wilson, Ciarán Johnston (0-08, 0-07f, 0-01 – 65), Mícheál Bradley (0-01), Oisín Donnelly, Conal Bohill (0-01), Conor Johnston (0-02), Donal McKernan.

Subs: Dean Madden for Pádraig Nugent 12’, Domhnall Moran (1-03) for Donal McKernan 12’, Dannan McKeogh (1-00) for Conor Johnston 51’

Referee: Darren McKeown (Naomh Gall)

Saffrons storm back to seal final place

Lidl Division Four Ladies National League semi-final

Antrim 2-20-2-14 Louth (AET)

By Kevin Herron from St Tiernach’s Park, Clones

It’s very rare for an Antrim team to come out on the end of a winning result in Clones – ten years in fact- but this afternoon Antrim ladies became the first side since the senior men in 2009 to claim a victory at the home of Ulster football.

Beating Louth 2-20-2-14 after extra-time to seal a place in the Lidl Division Four league final in two-weeks time.

Twenty minutes previous victory looked unlikely as Lauren Boyle had edged Louth into a four-point lead two minutes into injury-time at the end of the second-half.

Maeve McCurdy hit a point when her side needed a goal – however enough time remained after the subsequent kick-out and Saoirse Tennyson won back possession to put the wheels in motion. Eventually the last roll of the dice saw  Cathy Carey rifle past Una Pearson to force two additional periods of extra-time as it finished 1-14-2-11.

With the momentum Antrim kicked on and substitute Ciara Durnein’s goal in the second period of extra-time helped the Saffrons into a commanding position.

There were some nervy moments late on, including Eimear Byrne finding the net with a minute remaining – though after consultation with his officials referee Declan Callaghan disallowed the goal because of a hand pass to the net.

The final whistle sounded shortly after and Antrim were able to celebrate a result that looked unlikely just four weeks ago when they suffered a 4-11-2-03 defeat at the hands of the same opposition.

Louth were over-whelming favourites to progress to the league decider in the clash between 1st and 4th in Division Four, but it was Antrim who made the brighter start on a warm day at St Tiernach’s Park.

Inside of the first five minutes Caitlin Taggart split the posts after a patient passing move through the hands and Saoirse Tennyson doubled the lead soon after, although a goal may have been on it was fine score from the skipper.  

Lauren Boyle hit back for Louth – but converted frees from Cathy Carey and Caitlin Taggart had the Saffrons 0-04-0-01 in front approaching the midway point in the first-half.

Boyle doubled her account in response and it was soon level pegging in Clones as Kate Flood converted a free and Niamh Rice conjured up her first score of the afternoon to make it 0-04-0-04 after nineteen minutes of play.

Antrim regained the lead through back to back points from youngster Lara Dahunsi – the second of which squeezed narrowly between the posts.

Though the Saffrons suffered a blow losing tenacious corner-back Orla Corr to the sin-bin for ten minutes approaching the break.

Louth made the most of their numerical advantage as back to back points from Lauren Boyle levelled at 0-06-0-06 with five minutes remaining.

The vital moment of the opening period arrived sixty seconds later as Louth hit the front for the first time – Niamh Rice rifling past Anna McCann to give her side a 1-06-0-06 lead.

Despite leading on the score front; Louth lost their numerical advantage as Ceire Nolan was sin-binned by referee Declan Callaghan two minutes before the break.

Cathy Carey and Caitlin Taggart (free) made it a one-point game approaching the midway whistle  – though two would separate the sides at the interval as Lauren Boyle converted a free to edge Louth 1-07-0-08 ahead .

Orla Corr’s reintroduction ensured it was Antrim who held  a numerical advantage and Cathy Carey converted an early second half free to close the gap to a point once more.

Louth were dealt a further blow, being reduced to thirteen players as Aoife Russell was sin-binned minutes before Ceire Nolan’s re-emergence.

Aoife Taggart levelled the game for the third time on the 35 minutes and before the half was out the lead would switch hands on the number of occasions.

Louth restored their slender lead ten minutes into the second-half through influential captain Kate Flood.

Cathy Carey levelled up through a converted free and midway through the half substitute Michelle Magee made an immediate impact – curling the ball over to give Antrim a 0-12-1-08 advantage.

Kate Flood levelled from a converted free within sixty seconds as the sides were tied level for a fifth time approaching the final ten minutes.

On 50 minutes Louth took a massive step towards victory as Lauren Boyle took off towards goal and rifled to the net to give the league table toppers as 2-09-0-12 lead.

Caitlin Taggart (free) responded with five minutes to go – though the Saffrons needed a goal and instead went into injury-time trailing by four points as Sinead Woods and Lauren Boyle split the posts to give their side a 2-11-0-13 advantage.

It looked as though it was going to be a familiar hard-luck story for the brave Saffrons – now in desperate need of a goal.

Maeve McCurdy shot over the bar but time was surely against Antrim – Louth goalkeeper Una Pearson kicked the ball out and time continued, in need of possession captain Saoirse Tennyson led by example and forced a turnover in the midfield.

The Saffrons went on one final attack and were rewarded as Mairead Cooper-as she did all afternoon got out in front of her marker and switched the ball to Michelle Magee whose pop off was gathered by Cathy Carey and the half-forward blasted to the net to salvage the most unlikeliest of draws at the end of an absorbing half as the game was level for a sixth time on a score line of 1-14-2-11.


Antrim began the first period of extra-time on the front foot and regained the lead for the first time since the 45th minute thanks to a converted Cathy Carey free.

Mairead Cooper conjured up a magnificent point to open her afternoons account and a further Carey free had the Saffrons three to the good.

Louth almost hit back and levelled but for an outstanding save from Anna McCann, the rebound was blocked and at the third time of asking; Niamh Rice shot over the bar a minute before the end of the first period – as Antrim led 1-17-2-12 at the halfway point in extra-time.

Cathy Carey added her third point of the additional period and the energetic Lara Dahunsi popped over in the immediate aftermath.

It was game set and match on the 74th minute as substitute Ciara Durnein attempt to fist the ball over the bar saw it crash off the post and Durnein got to the follow up and turned it past Una Pearson to give Antrim a 2-19-2-12 lead with little over five to play.

The emphasis of Antrim’s game was about to switch to keep-ball with the game firmly in their grasp – Eimear Byrne shot over the bar in response to Durnein’s strike.

Lara Dahunsi who scored three points for Antrim

Michelle Magee doubled her afternoon’s tally to restore the seven-point advantage with time fast running out.

Louth thought they had salvaged a late goal to set-up a grandstand finish as Eimear Byrne hand passed to the net – but after consulting with his umpires behind the goal; referee Callaghan correctly disallowed the consolation strike.

Niamh Rice would salvage the final score of the game but it had little impact of the final bearing as Antrim ran out 2-20-2-14 winners to make their third league final in six seasons.

It will be an all Ulster affair in two-weeks time as Fermanagh came up trumps against Limerick in today’s other semi-final.

Antrim: A McCann, N Killen, M Hanna, O Corr, K Farren, C Brown, S Tennyson (0-01), A McFarland, L Dahunsi (0-03), C Taggart (0-04, 0-03f), C Carey (1-07, 0-05f), SL McLaughlin, M Cooper (0-01), M McCurdy (0-01), A Taggart (0-01). Subs: M Magee (0-02) for SL McLaughlin  (39 mins), C Durnein (1-00) for A Taggart (52 mins), L Wallace for M McCurdy (65 mins).

Louth: U Pearson, S McLaughlin, S Quinn, E Hand, C Nolan, M McMahon, A Breen, R Carr, E Byrne (0-01), A Russell, S Byrne, S Woods, L Boyle (1-06, 0-01f), K Flood (0-03, 0-02f), N Rice (1-02). Subs: C Woods (0-02) for S Byrne (40 mins), M McGuinness for S Woods (67 mins), G Murray for E Hand (73 mins).

Referee: Declan Callaghan (Donegal)

Colm Lynn RIP

“He was a gentleman, a local legend, a fine hurler and a handsome devil”

By John McIlwaine

That was one of the many tributes paid to Colm Lynn this week at his wake, and quoted again at his funeral on Friday by Ballycastle PP Fr Daly, as Ballycastle said farewell to a much loved son of the ‘Town’. Born in June 1930 Colm grew up playing hurling and would become a major player during a golden era for Ballycastle’s when the McQuillan’s won five titles in seven years, including the club’s first 3-in-a-row in 1952, ’53 and ’54. They had won it 1948 and 1950 but relinquished their titles in ’49 and ’51 but they marked themselves down as one of the greatest ever teams to wear the black and amber by following it up to do the 3-in-a-row. Overall he won 5 championship medals. 1950, ’52, ’53, ’54, ’64

During the fifties Colm was a regular on the Antrim county team and played against many of the best hurlers in the country during that period, including the legendry Christy Ring of Cork. Local legend has it that Colm carried the scars to prove it.

He went on to coach and manage teams in the club and was a selector with Dermie Donnelly when Ballycastle beat Crumlin of Dublin in the 1980 All Ireland semi-final in Croke Park to become the first Antrim team to reach an All Ireland club final. He held various positions in the club’s committee over the years, including secretary, a post he held during his playing days in 1953 and ’54, and President and always had the club at heart.

Antrim camogs 1946. Deirdre Lynn (O’Gorman) is send from the right on the back row.

Colm met his wife Deirdre (O’Gorman) when she came to teach in Ballycastle in the 1950s. Deirdre, who played her club camogie with St Teresa’s, was a member of the Antrim All Ireland winning team of 1956. Always the charmer, he apparently told her the first time they met that he was going to marry her one day. That’s exactly what happened, and the happy couple were together for sixty years.  

Many of his former club mates attended Friday’s final farewell and watched as a hurl, bound in black and amber, was placed on his coffin as it was lowered into the grave. Among them was the great Robbie Elliott. Before Colm’s death there were only three members of that 3-in-a-row team still alive. Colm’s passing leaves just Robbie and his brother Raymond.

Colm leaves behind his wife Deirdre, sons Liam and Colm Og and daughters Una, Catriona and Eimear. To them we extend our sincerest sympathy.

Colm Lynn spent his 89 years in the town he was born in. Ballycastle will remember him as the stylish hurler who charmed us all during a life well lived.

May he rest in peace!