Posts by thesaffrongael

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

Strong Second Half Performance Sees Antrim Through

Antrim Minor hurlers followed the success of their U21 counterparts when they collected the Ulster Minor championship with a good win over Derry in Owenbeg on he 21st July.

Ulster Minor Hurling Final 2014

                                             Antrim 0-17  Derry 0-9

A srtong second half performance saw Antrim overcome the dogged challenge of a battling Derry in the Ulster Minor Hurling Final at Owenbeg last Sunday. The sides were level at half time but after the break the young Saffrons found anoither gear to pull away and win comfortably in the end.

Indeed Paul McKillen’s side should have won by much more but were wayward in their shooting, recording 14 wides in the second half to add to their 5 first half misses. Antrim now face Galway in the quarter-final and manger paul McKillen was adament after the game that this performance would simply not have been good enough to serioussly challenge the boys from Connaught.

With Loughgiel mid-field partnership of James McNaughton and Carthal McMullan to the fore, Antrim showed three changes from the side who defeated Down in the semi-final with James carey, Caolan McCaughan and Seaghan Shannon coming into the starting lineup.

A couple of early points from Cushendall’s Christy McNaughton gave Antrim the perfect start and James Carey marked his call to the side with another to make it 0-3 to 0-00. Another point from McCaughan saw the saffron lead 0-4 to 0-1 by the 9th minute and at this stage it all seemed to be going to plan.

Derry began to get to grips however and their ploy of dropping high ball in and around the Antrim square began to pay dividend as Pronsias Burke split the uprights to record Derry’s second score of the game. Christy McNaughton replied for the visitors to restore their three point advantage and when Darra Rocks added another the Saffrons looked to taking complete control once more.

Derry had other ideas however as they battled for every ball and they finished the half with a flurry with Eamon Magill, O’Reilly (0-2) and a superb long range free from Burke put them right back into contention with the sides level at the break on 0-6 each.

                                                 BACK IN FRONT

After the break Antrim seemed to step up a gear and Christy McNaughton pointed them ahead from an early free with Rocks following with his second of the game to move his side two in front. McNaughton added another massive free before Ciaran Steele opened Derry’s second half account to keep his side in touch.

Antrim were now beginning to create more space, aided by the strong breeze as McCaughan added a point and then Owens in the Derry goal pulled off a great save to deny McCurdy a certain goal, the Derry net minder coming bravely off his line to block  the corner-forwards close range effort.

Antrim were now calling the shots however as they hit three unanswered points to put further daylight between the sides and Christy McNaughton added two late scores to put a better look on the scoreline.

Antrim manager Paul McKillen will be trying to arrange a couple of friendlies prior to his sides forthcoming game against Galway and he knows that it will take a considerable improvement on this performance if his side are to make any impact against the lads from the West.

There were some fine individual performances with Ryan McNulty, Dara Rocks, James McNaughton, Eoin Conlon, Cathal McMullan and Christy McNaughton in fine form and if they can sharpen up in their finishing then they look well capable of giving hot favourites Galway a run for their money.

Seven Goal Antrim Overpower Down

The Summer of 2014 proved to be a fruitful one for Antrim hurlers with their Minor and U21 teams collecting Ulster titles. The U21 side were in superb for as they overcame Down at the Athletics Ground in Armagh and while Antrim manager, Kevin Ryan was happy with the result he certainly wasn’t happy with the decision of Ulster Council to bring the time of the game forward to accommodate a Reserve Championship game.

                                  Bord Gáis Energy Ulster U21 Hurling Championship Final

                                                          Antrim 7-17 Down 1-5

Antrim  manager, Kevin Ryan was scatching of the Ulster council after Wednesday night’s Ulster U21 Hurling final between Antrim and Down at the Athletic Grounds had been brought forward by half an hour to accommodate a Reserve Championship game.

“Some of our lads had to finish work at 3.30 in order to be here for this game. It’s a poor reflection on how the Ulster Council view the development of hurling” Ryan said.

However, while the Antrim supremo’s protests seemed valid he could have little complaint about his side’s performance as they systematically took an outclassed Down side apart to earn a place in the All Ireland semi-final against the winners of Cork or Clare.

In doing so Antrim won their sixth Ulster U21 hurling title in a row, overpowering Down in a very one-sided final at the Athletic Grounds.

The Saffrons actually conceded the opening two points of the game, from Down duo Peter Mason and Eoghan Sands, but they hit 1-7 before the break to lead by eight at half-time. Their opening goal came a few minutes before the break through substitute Seán McAfee.

Antrim found the net six times in the second half as they ran riot on Down. Niall McKenna and Saul McCaughan both landed goals shortly after the restart to effectively end the game as a contest, while further goals followed from McCaughan and Connor Burke (2).

Down substitute Conal Fitzsimons found the net for the Mourne County 10 minutes before the end, but it was a brief respite as Ciarán Clarke scored Antrim’s seventh goal mere seconds later to take his personal tally for the game to 1-6.

Antrim will play the winners of the Munster final (Clare or Cork) in the All-Ireland semi-final on August 23. They will be hoping to repeat their achievement of 2013, when they stunned Leinster champions Wexford with a 2-15 to 1-16 victory in the All-Ireland semi-final at Semple Stadium.

Scorers for Antrim: C Clarke 1-6 (2f), S McCaughan 2-1, C Burke 2-0, N McKenna 1-2, Sean McAfee 1-0, D McKernan 0-2, J McGreevy 0-1, M Dudley 0-1, D McCloskey 0-1, R McCambridge 0-1, Stephen McAfee 0-1, E McCaughan 0-1

Scorers for Down: C Fitzsimmon 1-1, E Sands 0-2, J McGrath 0-1, P Mason 0-1

ANTRIM: C Butler; T O Ciarain, P Burke, F Donnelly; J McGreevy, E Campbell, M Bradley; D McGuinness, M Dudley; D McCloskey, R McCambridge, N McKenna; C Clarke, D McKernan, A McAfee. Subs: Sean McAfee for McGuinness (23), S McCaughan for Donnelly (h-t), C Burke for McCloskey (44) E McCaughan for Stephen McAfee (48), M Connolly for Bradley (52).

DOWN: S Savage; M Conlan, M McCullough, G O’Neill; C Taggart, C O’Neill, J McGrath; J McManus, R Brannigan; P Mason, B Nicholson, C Egan; L Savage, S Mageean, E Sands. Subs: B Byers for G O’Neill (37), C Fitzsimmons for Savage (41), A Scott for McManus (55), J Doran for McCullough (55), D Mallon for Mageean (55).

Referee: A Nash (Derry)


21) Antrim celebrate after defeating Down in the Bord Gais Ulster u21 Hurling Final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh on Wednesday night.

Antrim’s Ryan McCambridge breaks clear of  C Taggart of Down during the Ulster U21 Hurling final at the Athletic Grounds on Wednesday night.

Down keeper, Sean Savage clears his lines.

No where to go! An Antrim forward is closed down by C O’Neill and M Conlan of Down.

Two goal Antrim hero, Saul McCaughan solos clear of  C Brannigan of Down.

McQuillan’s GAC & Carey Faughs united for epic journey in aid of Marie Curie

McQuillan’s GAC Ballycastle and Carey Faughs have left their on pitch rivalry to the side for a short time, to unite forces to raise much needed funds for Marie Curie.

The charity had issued an ‘Emergency Appeal’ due to Covid19 putting fundraising on hold with funds for Nurses and Hospices being needed now more than ever. Caoimhe McShane, Mc Quillan GAC Club PRO said ‘Both clubs have many members involved in the local Marie Curie group, so it made sense for us work together to raise as much as we can for this much needed service. Their biggest fundraiser takes place at the Lammas Fair and this 400 year tradition has also been cancelled due to the current pandemic.’

This incredible fundraiser has involved club members of all ages, as they use their daily exercise during lockdown, to clock up their kilometres by running, walking or cycling and posting this into their respective groups. 

‘It has given everyone a great buzz and the club Social Media platforms have been used to keep everyone motivated. The posts and the videos have been excellent and have really captured the spirit of what we want to achieve. We have also been blessed by the weather and the fact that we live in an area of incredible beauty, with the striking Fairhead linking both Carey and Ballycastle, so it is easy to exercise from our own doorsteps.  Everyone is very respectful when we are out, crossing over the road and maintaining social distance, calling out to each other so the banter has also been good. Families have really enjoyed getting in on the challenge and we have club people from everywhere posting in their pictures from Liverpool, Belfast, County Down, Dublin, Derbyshire and even Canada to name a few.’

It had been originally planned for the squads to take on the challenge to race from ‘Fairhead to New York’, but such has been the response they arrived in New York in just 3 days clocking up an amazing 5,855.71km, exceeding all expectations.  The organising committee said ‘We decided to keep the challenge going and to continue on to Australia adding a further 16,020km to the journey. There are so many of our younger members from both clubs out in Australia and they had already set up their own group out there clocking their distances and making donations, so we agreed it would be a nice touch to go on and ‘pick them up’, if only we were really able to take them home!’

This target was again smashed and the clubs made it to Sydney with 5 days to spare. The Ballycastle Club PRO vowed that ‘It was a real challenge to get back home again, but the groups within the clubs, not just the players but the ‘Carey Fit Club’ and our ‘Brighter Nights’ crew plus the Committee and Supporters groups were all keen to keep going until the challenge was met’ and that they did.

Within the 14 Day target that was set, they collectively covered a massive 40,592.93km through running, walking and cycling, a phenomenal effort. The equivalent distance of travelling from Fairhead to Sydney via New York and back home to Ballycastle again, with 2,463.93km to spare. That’s a lot of exercise!

The clubs had originally set a fundraising target of £2000, however this amount has also been surpassed as well with over £16,000 pledged to support Marie Curie to date.

Martin ‘Cubby’ Mc Auley, who is involved in the management of both Mc Quillan’s Senior Camógs and Carey Faugh’s Hurlers spoke highly of the epic journey the two clubs have been on, ‘What a fantastic effort from everybody involved with both clubs. To see the phenomenal community spirit at such a difficult time is heart-warming and a pleasure to be a part of. I would like to thank everybody for their efforts locally and from all over the world, raising funds for a cause close to so many hearts in our local community’.

Winnie McGarry, the Treasurer of Marie Curie Moyle group said ‘We have been overwhelmed by the response – the Clubs came to us with this idea and the uptake has been brilliant; it has been fantastic and shows how generous everyone is in times of crisis, especially in these uncertain times, where there are many individuals and organisations in need.’

If you would like to contribute to the McQuillan’s GAC and Carey Faughs fundraiser for Marie Curie go to:

The Just Giving Page will remain open to allow anyone who has not yet donated to do so. McQuillan’s and Faughs would like to take this opportunity to say a massive Thanks to everyone who has donated so far.

Epic clash see Rasharkin and Ballela share the spoils

AIB Ulster Club Junior Hurling Championship – Quarter Final

Ballela GAC 3-20           St.Mary’s Rasharkin 2-23 (AET)   

Sunday 4th October 2015

This very entertaining end to end fixture had all the thrills and spills of championship hurling, both sides had chances to win this fixture in normal time and indeed additional time but neither did enough to get over the line and alas neither team deserved to lose. The game was nip and tuck until Antrim kingpins Rasharkin pulled away, going eight clear by half time of extra time and the game looked to be over. They then went nine up early in the second period of additional time but Ballela with a never say die attitude, rallied scoring 2-3 on the bounce to rescue draw from certain defeat.

The Down Champions coming out of the hat first were afforded home advantage and due to the unavailability of county ground Páirc Esler in Newry, St.Mary’s Rasharkin, who recently collected their third Antrim Junior crown, travelled to Ballela on Sunday past to fulfil this Ulster Club Junior Hurling quarter final tie against the Katesbridge side.

Derrytrasna club man Anthony Nash was officiating and was flanked with linesmen his brother Eddie and Leon Reynolds, fourth official was Gerard Devlin.

First blood when to the visitors when St.Mary’s corner man Conor McFerran flashed the sliotar through the posts inside the opening minute, Ballela’s wing half back Niall Burns opened his sides account three minutes later, indeed it was the Down men who settled best in the early exchanges the home side when on to point a hat trick of long range frees from their talisman and Down County star Johnny McCusker. Rasharkin responded with points from Thomas Doherty and two sublime strikes from wing half back Daniel Doherty to leave the tie all square midway through the first half. St.Mary’s last line of defence James O’Mullan produced an excellent save on sixteen minutes to deny Ballela’s Daniel Doran, the agile keeper was quick off his line to narrow the space and turn the ball from a one on one situation.

Long range free takers on both sides played a big part of this fixture throughout, and both made valuable use of the elements. Ballela’s Johnny McCusker and Rasharkin Brendan McMullan exchanged frees on the eighteenth minute before the Down Champions finished the half on a high – four points in as many minutes all from the stick of McCusker, three from the set piece and one resulting from a poor clearance out of the Rasharkin defence, saw them establish a firm grip. Shane Hasson and Declan McKay replied for the visitors before McCusker registered his ninth point on half time to leave halftime scoreline Ballela GAC 0-10 St.Mary’s Rasharkin 0-7.

The Katesbridge men started the second period with a substitution, Paddy Mackin had an instant impact on the game and had barely fastened is helmet before he lifted the Rasharkin net with a rasper in the opening seconds. Rasharkin skipper Declan McKay restored calm within ranks and coolly slotted over a minute later, before Shane Hasson pulled on the sliotar from close range to raise the green flag following a goal mouth scramble and reduce arrears to two points. McKay struck again for the blue and amber hoops to close the gap to the minimum before McCusker pointed a free to nudge his side further ahead after ten.

The Dreen men dug deep and took full advantage of the wind in the second period, Decky McKay pointing two frees before his side took the lead for the first time in the game after Brendan McMullan drop the ball over the crossbar from right in front of St.Mary’s dugout much to the cheers of the many travelling supporters. Conor McFerran had Rasharkin on their way and pushed further daylight between the sides when he collected possession rounded his maker and split the points from fifty yards, midway through the half. However, the Down men showed reliance and levelled matters for the third time through none other than McCusker after twenty minutes. The pendulum swung back in favour of St.Mary’s when Declan McKay collected his sixth and seventh points to open up another two point lead. It was a one point game once more when Ballela’s McCusker came to the rescue with five minutes on the clock, before Rasharkin’s Conor McKeever pointed a screamer which looked to have lifted the visitors in the closing minutes. Back again came the home side to close out the game with two back to back points and force additional time. Full time score line Ballela GAC 1-16 St.Mary’s Rasharkin 1-16.

Additional time would be ten minutes each way and was ultimately a game of two halves in more ways than one, The Antrim Champions took on board the inspiring words of wisdom from mentors Paul McFerran and Liam McCart and started at 100mph, Conor McKeever fired over within seconds of the restart and followed up two minutes later smashing the sliotar beyond Gary McMullan on the Ballela goal line raising the green flag, Enda McFerran got in on the act with two points back to back followed by Eamon McNeill with two as Rasharkin released the shackles and opened up a commanding eight point lead. A shell shocked Ballela could only respond with a free from Johnny McCusker before Shane Hasson re-established the eight point margin on the stroke of half time.  

St.Mary’s started the second period of additional time similar to the first after Eamon McNeill blazed over to extend their advantage to a convincing nine points with eight minutes remaining. However, the Down men dusted off and got back at it, Ballela’s midfielder Malachy Magee started the comeback with a major after three before Johnny McCusker added two points from range after six. St.Mary’s frantically held on but couldn’t get a foothold, Magee bagged another goal with two minutes remaining before fittingly man of the match McCusker dropped over on full time to bring his personnel tally to a magnificent eighteen points – a good day at the office!

The Antrim kingpins will wonder how they let a nine point lead evaporate and Ballela must be thankful their ace man was is scintillating form. Both sides will have gained a lot from this game, we’ll find out next Sunday who has learned the most. Replay is confirmed 3.30pm Sunday 11th October at Loughgiel. Armagh Champions Sean Tracy’s await the winners of this pairing following their victory over Cavan champions Cootehill.       

St.Mary’s Rasharkin: James O’Mullan, Donagh Quigg, Aidan McKeever, Conor Hasson, Daniel Doherty, Brendan McMullan, Conor Donaghy, Conor McKeever and Thomas McMullan, Eamon McNeill, Thomas Doherty, Shane Hasson, Conor McFerran, Declan McKay and Enda McFerran

Subs: Joey Quinn, Kevin Agnew, Aidan Darragh, Chrissy McKiernan and Emmett McFerran

Ballela GAC: Gary McMullan, Ryan Burns, Daniel McCusker, Donal McCann, Niall Burns, Gareth Burns, Michael Doyle, Johnny McCusker and Malachy Magee, Calvin Magee, Rory McPolin, Daniel Doran, Kevin Close, Ryan McCusker and Mark Cosgrave

Subs: Deon Kelly, Paddy Mackin, James McParland, Paddy McPolin

Referee: Alan Nash (Doire)

Antrim Junior Hurling Champions St.Mary’s Rasharkin

Lines man Eddie Nash (Doire), Ballela GAC captain Johnny McCusker, referee Alan Nash (Diore), St.Mary’s Rasharkin captain Declan McKay, linesman Leon Reynolds (Ard Mhacha) and Standby Referee Gerard Devlin (Ard Mhacha).

Down Junior Hurling Champions Ballela GAC

There was a feeling after the game that this the one that got away and so it proved to be when Ballela narrowly won the replay in Loughgiel but never the less it is a time that the hurlers of Rasharkin can look back at with some pride after the disappointment abated.

4Oth Anniversary Championship Celebration in Cargin revisited

On the 4th August 1914 Erin’s Own GAC, Cargin held a special celebration on to honour the team who won the Antrim SFC in 1974. Most of the team who took part in that famous win attended the function and those deceased or unable to attend were represented by family members. A packed house attended the function in the Erin’s own clubrooms and after a meal MC for the night, Dermot Shivers spoke eloquently about the players who brought about that success.

The team of 74 and their representatives at an evening in their honour in the Erin’s Own clubrooms.

Back l-r

Artie Close, Eddie Mc Keever, Donal Laverty, Damian Mc Kee (Seamus Mc Kee RIP),  Laurence Mc Cann, Eamon Laverty, HP Johnston (TJ Johnston), Ciaran Mc Guckin (Geordie McGuckin), Terence Mc Allister.

Middle l-r

Raymond Mc Guckin (Martin Mc Guckin), Colm Grant, Patrick Mc Guckin (captain), Paddy Graffin, Henry Johnston, Terence Laverty (John Laverty), Gerard Laverty.

Bottom l-r

Finnoula Murray (Gerry Murray RIP), Gerard Close, Pat Close, Eamon Close, Sean Quinn, Kyle Johnston (Richard Johnston), Francis Mc Cann, James Mc Corley, Dan Mallon (Michael Mallon RIP), Collette Devlin (Brendan Devlin RIP).

Erin’s Own stalwart, Brian Devlin addresses the crowd.

The Mc Corley brothers, James and Pat.

Ciaran Close who captained the 2006 winning team with his dad Eamon who was part of the 74 team.

JP Mc Corley and his dad James

Francis Mc Cann wows the audience as Sean Quinn looks on.

The Cargin team who won the Antrim SFC in 1974.