One more step for the Saffrons to book a final date

Joe McDonagh Cup – Round 4

Saturday November 28 at 1pm

Antrim vs Meath at Pairc Tailteann, Navan

Referee: David Hughes (Carlow)

By Brendan McTaggart

Ah sure, 2020 hasn’t been a bad year so far.  Unbeaten, promotion obtained and barring any disasters on Saturday, a final in Croke Park on the biggest day of the hurling calendar.

T’is grand being an Antrim supporter in this, of all years.

A brilliant display against a previously unbeaten Kerry side in this years McDonagh Cup last day out has the Saffrons with more than one foot in this years final and the Kingdom lying in wait for a potential fourth encounter of the year.

It would take a swing of 27 points over the matches at the weekend with Meath needing to beat Antrim and a Carlow win over Westmeath by an accumulative total of more than 27 points.  Possible?  Anything is possible.  It is 2020 and the year to expect the unexpected.  There’s a job to be done in Pairc Tailteann on Saturday and Antrim dare not take their eye off the ball against the Royals. 

Saturday will be the second time the sides will have met this year with Antrim playing on Pairc Ui Cheallaigh for the first time.  A 24 point win against a disappointing Meath side who had two men sent off before half time and a Man of the Match performance from Neil McManus.  Remember him?  It should be worth noting the Saffrons have got to this stage in the McDonagh Cup without the talismanic Ruairi Og man.

Domhnal Nugent in action during Antrim’s win over Meath in Portglenone

They had 12 different scorers under the late winter sunshine in Portglenone with goals coming from McManus (two), Eoghan Campbell, James McNaughton and Keelan Molloy.  The most impressive stat of the day belongs to the tally from play.  5-23 of their 5-27 tally came from open play while conceding just 1-7.

It was a big score racked up from Darren Gleeson’s side but it’s nothing new.  It’s a trend the Saffrons have continued to set throughout the year.  They have an astonishing ability to create goals from nothing.  An ability to break from rucks and carve open defences in the blink of an eye.  It’s something that has proven fruitful this year with 12 goals so far in the McDonagh campaign.  None have benefitted from this more from their style of play than Conor McCann.  The Antrim Captain has scored majors in each of his last six matches, seven green flags raised in that period.  An astonishing run to rival the best out there, he’ll be hoping he can keep that run going for a while yet.

A closer look at McCann’s performances and he’s truly led from the front.  A powerhouse on the edge of the square, a knack of being in the right place at the right time to take the plaudits but it’s his ability to win primary possession in the middle third that also helps his side.  If anyone would dare call McCann a poacher, they know little about the Saffrons this year.  He’s relentless.  He gives 100% commitment and brings 100% intensity every time.  He’s a leader.

Conor McCann kept his goal run going in the win over Kerry last time out, netting two against the Kingdom.

Meath have made a return to the McDonagh Cup after winning the Christy Ring last year.  Their campaign thus far has been fruitless but their last two outings against Carlow and Westmeath show they are a side who shouldn’t be taken lightly.  After a disappointing opening day 10 point defeat to Kerry, they pushed Carlow to the pin of their collar while it took a late goal from Luke Loughlin to give Westmeath a four point win last weekend.

The Saffrons have played Meath numerous times in the last few years.  Some good memories, some not so good and some that would scare the life out of you.  Those who were ‘lucky’ enough to have witnessed the Christy Ring final of 2016, both of them, will know exactly what I’m talking about.   Scoreboardgate.  I’ll say no more.

The other standout memory from clashes against Meath comes from Antrim’s first match in the McDonagh Cup, three years ago.  Pairc Tailteann again and a dodgy start.  Nigel Elliott attempting to score at the wrong posts is something you are likely to see in 2020 but it happened in 2017.  The Cuchullain, now in Australia, would go on and redeem himself with 3-2 in a man of the match performance and a brilliant overall display from the Saffrons. 

Something akin to that performance will do nicely on Saturday.  Something akin to how the Saffrons have been playing for the vast majority of 2020 will also do nicely.  Croke Park beckons, but there’s a job to do in Pairc Tailteann. 

The story so far….

Sun Oct 25

Kerry 1-20 Meath 0-13

Antrim 4-25 Westmeath 1-5

Sat Oct 31

Carlow 2-25 Antrim 5-16

Sat Nov 7

Carlow 1-22 Meath 1-21

Sat Nov 14

Antrim 3-18 Kerry 2-14

Sat Nov 21

Meath 1-19 Westmeath 2-20

When they last met….

Allianz Hurling League 

Division 2a 

Antrim 5-27 Meath 1-15 Sunday February 23, 2020

Saffrons Stroll to comfortable win 

Brendan McTaggart reports from Páirc  Cheallaigh, Port Gleann Eoghan 

Job done and the perennial banana skin avoided.  Antrim made it three from three on Sunday afternoon as they swept aside the challenge of Meath in Portglenone.  The Saffrons had 24 points to spare in a performance that was every bit as comfortable as it sounds.  The Royals had two men sent off for double bookings at the end of the first half but Antrim were already in control with a first half where they dominated the visitors and laid the foundations for a resounding league win. 

Keelan Molloy in action during Antrim’s win over Meath in the NHL in Portglenone in February

Darren Gleeson’s men had big performances all over the field in a fine team display.  Matthew Donnelly at full back rarely put a foot wrong while Eoghan Campbell and Keelan Molloy’s partnership in midfield continues to grow.  The Saffrons star man however was a simple call however.  2-9 over his 70 minutes work, 2-5 from play and a lung busting performance, Neil McManus was in top form for Antrim. 

An early goal from Keelan Molloy set the tone for the Saffrons as the crowd gathered into a sun kissed but cold Páirc Uí Cheallaigh. Despite playing into a substantial wind, Antrim showed fluency and cohesion belittling the fact it was three weeks since their last outing. 

The second Antrim goal came 10 minutes in.  Eoghan Campbell applying the finish and Dan McCloskey with the assist as Antrim opened a five point lead.  Meath were reliant on the free taking of Padraig O’Hanrahan for the majority of the game and more so in the first half while Antrim waited until the 25th minute before scoring their first point from placed ball.   

Neil McManus who scored two goals in the win over Meath in Portglenone in February

The lead was nine points when Alan Douglas saw red for a second booking as Meath grew frustrated at Antrim’s dominance.  Both sides had goal chances in the moments that followed, James Toher bringing the best out of Conor McAlister while James McNaughton was denied at the other end of the pitch but an already difficult task for the Royal’s was made a mission impossible with Luke Moran seeing red for a second booking. 

Both dismissals changed the complex of the game there after but the visitors couldn’t argue with any of the cards given.  Antrim held a deserving 11 point lead at the interval and a firm grasp on the two league points available. 

TEAMS 

Antrim: Conor McAllister; Phelim Duffin, Matthew Donnelly, Stephen Rooney; Gerard Walsh, Paddy Burke, Joe Maskey; Eoghan Campbell, Keelan Molloy; James McNaughton, Neil McManus, Michael Bradley; Domhnall Nugent, Niall McKenna, Dan McCloskey 

Scorers: Neil McManus 2-9 (2 f’s 2 ‘65’s); Eoghan Campbell 1-2; James McNaughton 1-2; Keelan Molloy 1-2; Domhnall Nugent 0-2; Niall McKenna 0-2; Aodhan O’Brien 0-2; Ronan Molloy 0-2; Gerard Walsh 0-1; Joe Maskey 0-1; Michael Bradley 0-1; Nicky McKeague 0-1 

Meath: Charlie Ennis; Séan Geraghty, Shane Brennan, Stephen Morris; Keith Keoghan, James Toher, Luke Moran; Mikie Mullen, Patrick Potterton; Damien Healy, Padraig O’Hanrahan, Jack Regan; Michael Burke, Alan Douglas, Éamon Ó Donnchadha 

Scorers: Padraig O’Hanrahan 0-8 (6 f’s); Nicholas Potterton 1-1; James Toher 0-2; Alan Douglas 0-1; James Kelly 0-1; Stephen Morris 0-1; Keith Keoghan 0-1 

Referee: Sean Stack (Dublin) 

Allianz National Hurling League – Division 2February 3, 2019

James McNaughton who was the star of the show in Antrim’s win over Meath in the NHL in Trim in 2019

Meath 2-15 Antrim 3-13

McNaughton snatches victory with last gasp point

John McIlwaine reports from Trim


A brilliant point deep into injury time by star of the show James McNaughton gave Antrim hurlers their first win in Division 2A of the National Hurling League in Trim today. When Meath’s Jack Regan fired a 20m free to the Antrim net two minutes into added time to bring his team level it appeared as if Antrim were to endure heart-breaking slip-up. However there was enough time for Antrim to reply and when the ball came in to Eoin Neill on the 45 metre line his pass found McNaughton who sprinted through on the right to fire over the winning score.

Meath manager Nick Fitzgerald and his players were left fuming, claiming Tipperary referee Johnny Ryan had indicated that Regan’s free was the last poc of the game. Antrim on the other hand felt that time was up even before Meath got their free and that they should have had the game wrapped up long before the late drama. 

The Meath manager added that “maybe that’s fairly typical of how the GAA view counties like Meath.” 

To be honest Antrim fully deserved the win and it would have been an injustice if they had gone home with anything less than the two points. They held a one point lead at half time after facing a strong breeze and driving rain, three brilliantly taken goals giving them the edge. They controlled most of the second half and after being pegged back to level on a couple of occasions they went three clear ten minutes from time. They had a few good chances of hitting the insurance point but squandered them, and it looked like they were going to pay the price. However McNaughton, who had been brilliant throughout the game, sent the Saffron fans home happy after a score right out of the top drawer.

MEATH: S McGann; G Murphy, S Brennan, S Morris; K Keoghan, S Whitty, J Kelly; J Regan 1-4 (1-0f), S Quigley; D Healy 1-0, P O’Hanrahan 0-6 (0-4fs, 0-1 ’65), D Kelly 0-3; A Douglas, M O’Grady 0-1, K Keena 0-1. 

Subs: E Ó Donnchadha for O’Grady (53mins), J McGeown for Quigley (63mins). 

ANTRIM: R Elliott; S Rooney, J Dillion, P Duffin; R Molloy, M Donnelly 0-1, C McHugh; S Duffin, C Boyd; N Elliott 0-1, C McCann, J McNaughton 1-8 (0-5fs, 0-1 ’65); E O’Neill 1-2, K Molloy, C Clarke 1-1. 

Subs: D McKinley for S Duffin (34mins), C Patterson for Boyd (48mins)

REFEREE: J Ryan (Tipperary)

Kelly is loving the Saffrons’ season so far

Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship

By Seamus McAleenan

MAEVE KELLY is the youngest member of the Antrim team that brushed aside Laois in Saturday’s Liberty Insurance All-Ireland Intermediate semi-final with a 0-14 to 0-3 victory. But she has been their stand out player over their three games on the way to a final meeting with Down. On Saturday she was involved in most of what was good about the Antrim performance, posting three points from the right wing during the opening half and taking a brilliant save out of Aedin Lowry midway through the second half. “There were tough conditions out there, the game was really tough and physical. But we went out really, really determined and we got scores on the board in the first half,” the Ballycastle teenager told Seamus McAleenan immediately after the game.

Maeve Kelly in action during Antrim’s win over Laois

“We still had momentum during the second half but didn’t really add enough scores. Nicole (O’Neill) kept us going with frees there. “We had goal opportunities. Their goalkeeper was good and she was the main reason we didn’t get a goal. But when goals are on, we need to be taking them and that is something we can work on. “But we didn’t concede a goal either. Eimear (Boyle) made a great save near the end. She had another great save in the Meath game too. Our defence is doing very well.”

The student teacher at St Mary’s University feels that the panel has come together really well over the last few games. “I think that has come from there being a separate club season to the county one. Everything was finished with the club in September and it gave us time to get club rivalry out of the way and concentrate on the county. “There has also been a bigger buy-in to the county as a result and it is great to be playing alongside the best players in Antrim. I was only used to playing against some of them. “I am loving it at the minute. The girls are a great bunch and we have been training really hard as well. You can see team-work improving too.”

Although one of the youngest players on the team, Maeve already is one of the most experienced with back-to-back All-Ireland minor titles in 2017-18 and she has played in two All-Ireland senior Schools’ finals with Cross and Passion College. She also captained the Ulster schools’ team to inter-provincial success two years ago, a team that included some of the Down players Antrim will play in the All-Ireland final on December 5th. “Sorcha McCartan, Beth Fitzpatrick, Isabella O’Hare and Saoirse Sands were all on that Ulster team and I have come across some of them again since I started in St Mary’s. They are really good players and they will make it very tough for us.”

Antrim’s Maeve Kelly in action during the All Ireland Intermediate Camogie Championship quareter final win over Meath at Inniskeen. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine

Soddy hat-trick downed Dunloy in Countess final

DOWN MEMORY LANE

Back in 1989 Cushendun beat Dunloy B in the Countess of Antrim Cup Final (North Antrim Intermediate Championship) in Carey, a Dunloy team with a sprinkling of the team who would go on to make the breakthrough at senior the following season. On a wet and windy day ‘Soddy’ O’Hare danced his way around the Dunloy defenders to score a match winning hat-trick.

The Cushendun team who beat Dunloy B in final of the 1989 Countess of Antrim Cup. Hat trick hero Paddy ‘Soddy’ O’Hara is second from left on the front row.

Countess of Antrim final 1989

Cushendun 4-6 Dunloy B 1-9

Team captains Brendan Magee (Cushendun) and Malachy Elliott with match referee Tommy McIntrye before throw-in

A hat-trick of goals from corner-forward Paddy ‘Soddy’ O’Hara helped Cushendun to a Countess of Antrim Cup final win over Dunloy B in a game played in terrible weather conditions at St Patrick’s Park, Carey.

O’Hara found the net twice within thirty seconds in the first half to open up a ten point lead, and in the second half when Dunloy had reduced the deficit to just three he struck again to put the Emmet’s back in firm control.

On a damp, dark afternoon, with a diagonal wind making hurling difficult, both teams deserve great credit for serving up a really enjoyable game. The opening exchanges were scrappy, and at times heated, but when match referee Tommy McIntyre sent off two players (one from each side) after just ten minutes, the game settled into a well contested affair.

Tempers flare as both teams sort out a few early problems

Cushendun were first to score when Denis McHenry pointed from play in the fifth minute and they went two up soon afterwards when Gerard Scally sent over a 21 yard free. A flare-up in the tenth minute saw Cushendun’s Brendan Magee and Dunloy’s Michael Maguire make an early exit and when play resumed Dunloy hit back with points from Malachy Elliott and James McLean to level the scores at the end of the opening quarter.

The Emmet’s last line of defence is beaten as James McLean (out of picture) scores a Dunloy penalty

Soddy O’Hara first made his presence felt in the sixteenth minute when he pointed from play, a score that was to mark the start of a real ‘purple patch’ for Cushendun. Denis McHenry goaled with a great overhead strike minutes later, and though Eamon McKee temporarily stemmed the tide with a Dunloy point soon afterwards, the Emmets continued their onslaught with a McHenry point and two quick-fire goals from O’Hara. This put Cushendun ten clear with just ten minutes of the opening half remaining, and the game looked as good as over, but Dunloy battled back, and a goal and three points inside five minutes. Former Antrim and Ulster star James McLean was the man who did the damage when he rifled in a goal from a penalty, before adding two points from frees, and when Chris Kearns added a point just on half time there was just four between the teams at the short whistle.

Dunloy’s Damian McKee and Cushendun’s Brendan Magee battle for the ball.

On the restart Dunloy cut the deficit back to just two when Eamon McKee and Chris Kearns added points, but Gerard Scally eased the pressure on the Emmets when he pointed a free to put the lead out to three again. It was then that Soddy really proved his worth when popped up to complete his hat-trick as he fired home goal number three. Chris Kearns pulled one back for Dunloy but Gerard Scally replied with another pointed free in the 44th minute, which incredibly proved to be the last score of the game.

The remaining sixteen minutes produced plenty of action but in the worsening conditions neither team could raise a flag and Cushendun held on safely to collect the trophy.

Best for Cushendun were Dominic Magee, John McSparran, Eamon McKeegan, Laurence Magee, Emmet O’Hara, Dennis McHenry, Gerrard Scally and hat-trick hero Soddy O’Hara.

Dunloy were best served by Danny Quinn, Aidan McIlhatton, oe McAllister, Eamon McKee, Sean Mullan, Kames McLean and substitute Paul Duffin.

Cushendun scorers – Soddy O’Hara 3-1; Denis McHenry 1-2; Gerard Scally 0-2.

Dunloy scorers – James McLean (1-3); Chris Kearns 0-3; Eamon McKee 0-2; Malachy Elliott 0-1.

CUSHEDUN – D Magee, D McAlister, J McSparran, E McKeegan, D McKillen, L Magee, D McQuillan, L Woodburn, D Magee, E O’Hara, G Scally, B McKay, D McHenry, A Magee, P O’Hara.

DUNLOY – P Brogan, M McPoland, D Quinn, A McIhatton, J Cunning, J McAllister, D McKee, S Mullan, M Maguire, C Kearns, G Cunning, M Elliott, J McLean, J Dixon, E McKee.

Subs – P Cunning for Duffin

Referee – Tommy McIntrye (Loughgiel Shamrocks)

There will be much interest in new look county convention

Like so many other things in this Covid hit year the Antrim County Convention, which is to be held on Decemember 7th, will be conducted in a much different format.

Nominations for the various posts closed today at 12 noon, with club secretaries having to cast their club’s choice by a Delivered vote (i.e. A paper vote)

Full details on how to vote will be announced shortly.

Club chairman Ciaran McCavanna of Naomh Eanna and Vice-Chairman Brendan Toland of Lamh Dhearg have been returned unopposed, as have assistant secretary Sinead Mullan of St Gall’s, Treasurer Donal Murphy of Casement’s Portglenone and Assistant Treasurer Tyrone Eastwood of Glenavy.

Dan McConnell of St Agnes is the only nomination for PRO, after Sean Kelly’s five year term has come to an end.

The Central Council delegate is a straight fight between Gerry McClory of St Teresa’s and Terry Reilly of Gort na Móna while there are five nominees for two positions as Ulster Council delegates.

The five are incumbent Joe Edwards of St Paul’s, Tyrone Eastwood, Danny McLernon of Rasharkin, Seamus McMullan of Con Magees Glenravel and Sean Kelly who has just ended his five year term as PRO

Cathaoirleach (Chairperson)  Ciaran Mc Cavana
Leas-Cathaoirleach (Vice Chairperson)Brendan Toland
Leas-Rúnaí (Asst Secretary)Sinead Mullan
Cisteoir (Treasurer)Donal Murphy
Leas-Cisteoir (Asst Treasurer)Tyrone Eastwood
Oifigeach Caidrim Poibli (PRO)Dan Mc Connell
Oifigeach Oiliuna (Coaching)?
Oifigeach Teanga & Cultur (Language & Culture)?
Teachta Ard Comhairle (Central Council)Gerry McClory / Terry Reilly
Teachta Comhairle Uladh (2) (Ulster Council)Joe Edwards, Tyrone Eastwood, Sean Kelly, Danny Mc Lernon, Seamus McMullan

McGinley appointment positive move by Antrim

By Patrick McIlwaine

The appointment of Enda McGinley as Antrim’s new football team manager looks like a major scoop for the Antrim county board and has been positively greeted by those I have spoken to over the past few days.

A former All Ireland winner with Tyrone, McGinley takes up his first county appointment and brings an experienced and exciting backroom team with him to the Antrim post. The Errigal Ciaran man is joined by former Tyrone colleague, Stephen O’Neill and St. Gall’s All Ireland club championship winner, Sean Kelly and highly regarded coach, Stephen Quinn.

Enda McGinley (right) during the 2005 All Ireland Final win over Kerry. Pic by John McIlwaine

McGinley is married to Geraldine McCann, sister of Michael and Tomas McCann and says the family connections was certainly a factor in his application for the Antrim job and it is hoped he will be able to keep both players on board as he attempts to get Antrim promoted from division 4 after the Saffrons came close in the previous three season but failed to get across the line.

The former Tyrone star cut his teeth in management at Swatragh last season while Stephen O’Neill was in charge of Dungiven and it is believed that O’Neill will continue as Dungiven manager for the coming season with McGinley indicating that the dual role should not be a problem given the new split season format.

Stephen O’Neill in action against Kerry in the 2005 All Ireland final.
Pic by John McIlwaine

Sean Kelly is another strong appointment to the Antrim setup with the St. Galls man being a former Antrim player and one of the Saffrons outstanding performers for more than a decade. Kelly has also served his club as player manager and then manager for several seasons and will bring a wide knowledge of the club scene in Antrim to the table.

Promotion from division 4 will surely be the new manager’s first priority but as previous Antrim managers have found to their cost this is easier said than done. Antrim have performed reasonably well under Sean Kelly’s former St. Gall’s colleague Lenny Harbison for the past few years but just missed out in promotion when one more win would have seen them over the line.

St Gall’s stalwart Sean Kelly who will assist Enda McGinley in his new role.

Enda McGinley inherits a fairly young and skilful panel but it was their experienced players like Michael McCann and Paddy Cunningham that brought a bit of knowhow to the Antrim side at the end of the season and both were prominent players when Antrim took on Cavan in the opening round of this year’s Ulster championship in Breffni Park.

Antrim lost that game after leading by two points at half time but missed enough chances early in the second half to have won it including an excellent goal opportunity that might have brought a different result had it gone in.

Cavan came back strongly in the final quarter to win that game and as we now know, went on to win Ulster yesterday so it puts the Antrim performance into some perspective.

Promotion from division 4 will not come easily for Antrim with Louth, Leitrim and Sligo amongst the sides who will be vying for the two promotion spots but it is well within their reach. The new man in charge will undoubtedly be running his eye over additions to the Antrim panel during the club season and we at the Saffron Gael wish Enda and his backroom team all the best in 2021 and look forward to bringing you coverage of their games.