Gaels blow St. Gall’s away

Andersonstown SC IHC Semi-Final

Cloney Gaels 4-16 St. Gall’s 0-9

Photographs: Bert Trowlen

Cloney Gaels produced a performance of skill and intensity to blow away the challenge of St. Gall’s in this Andersonstown SC Intermediate Hurling Championship semi-final in the wind and rain at Dunsilly on Friday night.

The heavy rain which began just prior to throw in and increased throughout the opening half made conditions difficult but the Ahoghill men made light of those conditions to produce another high powered performance that the Milltown side just couldn’t live with.

The Milltown Row side led briefly when Mark Napier pointed them ahead in the 2nd minute but Cloney Gaels came back with points from Neil ‘Boris’ O’Connell, Patrick Graham and Eamonn Brady to lead 0-3 to 0-1 with only 8 minutes gone.

Jackson McGreevey closed the gap to one from a ‘65’ but Cloney Gaels were beginning to find their feet in the difficult conditions and Donal Graham with a fine point and James O’Connell moved hem three in front before McGreevy from a long range free scored his second and his sides third to leave it 0-6 to 0-3 at the end of the opening quarter.

At this stage the Belfast side were still hanging in there but the Ahoghill men suddenly found another gear and an astute pass from Ronan Graham placed PJ O’Connell who fired to the net from an acute angle.

Naomh Gall were still fighting hard for every ball and Marcus Donnelly and Jackson McGreevey replied with points but the Milltown men were having to work extremely hard for their scores so great was the intensity and closing down of the opposition.

And that intensity began to pay dividends as Fionnbar O’Neill sent a 60 meter free between the uprights before James O’Connell got in for their second goal with a simple tap in after Kurtis McGreevy in the St. Gall’s goal failed to deal with a speculative delivery.

Mark Napier briefly lifted the siege when he pointed a 30 meter free in the 25th minute but Boris O’Connell and James O’Connell replied with late point to see the South West side lead 2-8 to 0-6

If St. Gall’s were going to get back into this game then they needed a score and they finished the half on the offensive and looked in for a goal but Antoin McCaffery’s effort was blocked for a ‘65’ which came to nothing as Ciaran McCloskey sounded his half time whistle.

Patrick Graham extended the ‘Gaels’ lead at the start of the second half as Stephen O’Connell briefly replaced Bernard Graham who took a heavy knock as a few heavy challenges went in but the Ahoghill centre half back was able to resume after treatment.

The Ahoghill side continued to play with a great intensity as they moved the ball around accurately and were quick to close down the opposition when they gained possession and James O’Connell extended their lead from a 9th minute free.

St. Gall’s were living on scraps as Sean McAreavey replaced Gregory McGreevy and Mark Napier raised their first white flag of the half in the 10th minute but once again the Cloney side responded emphatically as Eamonn Brady and Patrick Graham combined in a sharp passing move to place Donal Graham for their third goal.

PJ O’Connell from play and James O’Connell from a free moved the Ahoghill side 12 ahead by the 14th minute as St. Gall’s range the changes but it had little or no affect and when an 80 meter free from Fionnbar O’Neill deceived Kurtis McGreevy in the St. Gall’s goals with Donal Graham possibly getting a touch, it was over.

It was the turn of Cloney Gaels to ring the changes as they gave game time to Stephen O’Connell, Eoin Graham, Owen Neeson, Colla McDonnell and Gerard Graham but it failed to disrupt their rhythm and PJ O’Connell added two points in the 25th minute.

Paddy Friel pulled one back for St. Gall’s but the game was long gone at this stage but Cloney Gaels kept the intensity going right to the end with Colla McDonnell seeing his first time ground shot come back of an upright before James O’Connell and Neill O’Connell concluded the scoring with late points.

I predicted in my preview during that Cloney Gaels would win this one but suggested that they would find it difficult to reproduce the high scoring totals that have been their trademark all season but despite the difficult conditions they proved me wrong.

The Ahoghill side took a time to get into their stride but when they did there was only going to be one winner. Their pace and movement coupled with some excellent scores was breath taking under difficult playing conditions and after a few celebration pints tonight I’d expect quite a few of them to be in Cushendall tomorrow to run the eye over Cushendun and Glenariffe who play in the second semi-final.

Cloney Gaels: 1 Francis Neeson, 2 Harry O’Donnell, 3 James Magee, 4 Diarmaid Graham, 5 Fionnbar O’Neill, 6 Bernard Graham, 7 Dan O’Neill, 8 Eamonn Brady, 9 Neil O’Connell, 10 Ronan Graham, 11 Thomas McGlone, 12 Patrick Graham, 13 PJ O’Connell, 14 Donal Graham, 15 James O’Connell. Subs: Stephen O’Connell, Eoin Graham, Owen Neeson and Colla McDonnell

St. Gall’s: 1 Kurtis McGreevey, 2 Ewan Rush, 3 Ruairi Wilson, 4 Niall O’Neill, 5 Lorcan O’Ciarain, 6 Ryan Irvine, 7 Ciaran McCaffery, 8 Jack Hopkins, 9 Jackson McGreevy, 10 Tomas O’Ciaran, 11 Gregory McGreevy, 12 Aodhan Gallagher, 13 Marcus Donnelly, 14 Antoin McCaffery, 15 Mark Napier. Subs: Sean McAreavey, Paddy Friel, Connla McCarthy, Owen McIlhatton, Cormac Sheehan.

Referee: Ciaran McCloskey (Loughgiel)

Dunloy and Ruairi’s start semi’s as favourites

Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship Semi Finals

Brendan McTaggart looks ahead to Sunday’s semi finals of this years Bathshack Senior Hurling Championship.

Phoney wars and jostling for positions have come to an end.  One of the best days in the hurling calendar is upon us with the race for the Volunteer Cup reaching the semi-final stages.  Old rivalries renewed, hope rekindled and championship fever setting in.  Four clubs within a stones throw of making the decider.  

Lovely stuff, but the timing could be better.  We didn’t get a double header for the senior matches and we don’t have much time between the two games for travel.  If there’s extra-time in Ballycastle I know of at least one journo who will be hoping there’s no speed camera’s from the north coast to Antrim town!

2pm and 5pm throw in, not ideal.  A 11:30am throw in for the minor final is, well, it could have been kinder for the young lads.  It’s not all doom and gloom however.  It’s good to see the minor final being played as part of a doubleheader with the same pairing in both games at Ballycastle.

That first game is probably the most intriguing of the weekend.  Loughgiel buoyant from a quite brilliant display against Rossa in the quarter-final while Cushendall have been playing like a side with a point to prove.  The form team of this year’s championship and they’ll start this semi as favourites to progress.

When they played each other in the group stages, Cushendall weathered an early Shamrock storm to win comfortably at the end of the hour at Dunsilly.  Loughgiel started superbly with Dan McCloskey and Donal McKinley in the thick of the action while Paul Boyle was unplayable in the opening 20 minutes.  The Ruairi’s responded by switching Scott Walsh onto Boyle and the young Loughgiel flyer was grounded for the rest of the game.  Walsh playing at wing half has been superb this championship campaign for Cushendall and I’d expect him to pick up Boyle again on Sunday.

The Shamrocks stuttered through the group stages, sealing their quarter final place by defeating Naomh Eanna.  There was no such stuttering against Rossa.  Hurling with precision, incisiveness, wonderful vision and panache.  Hugh McCann and his backroom team have the Shamrock’s firing.

Cushendall’s progress to the last four has been more serene than previous years.  A flawless league campaign where they defeated Naomh Eanna handsomely and had a bit to spare over Loughgiel and St John’s.  Talisman Neil McManus missed out on the Johnnies match with an ankle injury but you’d imagine it would take more than that sort of injury to stop McManus from lining out on Sunday!

Where Cushendall have been most impressive is their midfield pairing of Aidan McNaughton and Alex Delargy.  A pairing that you just know will never stop working and who can be so dangerous when breaking from rucks.  

Christy McNaughton’s performance against St John’s was mindboggling.  16 points, plenty from play and it may not be enough to see him seal a place in the starting 15 for Sunday!  It looks like Brian McNaughton and his team like to go for either Christy of McManus, rarely both.  

Loughgiel have been bringing plenty of their talented minor winning squads of recent years through this year and the safety net of the group stages has allowed them to bring them through at their own pace.  Rian McMullan, Paul Boyle, Enda Og McGarry, Rory McCloskey and Christy McGarry all prominent this season while Maol Connolly’s return to a senior Loughgiel shirt has been most welcome for those around Fr Healy Park.

A side that has the talents of Declan McCloskey, Tiarnan Coyle and Eddie McCloskey, not to mention James McNaughton will always be in with a chance but for me Cushendall will have enough in them to reach the decider.  They have been mighty impressive so far this year and while Loughgiel are certainly stepping in the right direction, it might be a year too soon for Shamrocks to add to their record tally of Antrim championships.

Dunsilly is the venue for the second semi final and a repeat pairing of 2021.  Dunloy defeated St John’s that day under a monsoon and Ciaran Johnston won’t want reminded of how that game transpired.  An early rush of blood and the Johnnies were down to 14 men and while the held onto the coat tails of the Cuchullains, a brilliant goal from Keelan Molloy midway through the second half put daylight between the sides.

The Johnnies started the championship with a brilliant win over Loughgiel on home turf before seeing off Naomh Eanna to set up a winner takes all match of sorts against Cushendall.  A sunny day on the north coast and St John’s found Christy McNaughton too hot to handle.  An exhibition from ‘Sambo’s youngest’ and St John’s had to settle for a quarter final spot and a tie against Ballycastle.  The Corrigan Park men were pushed all the way by The Town but their cause wasn’t helped by a 15 wides and passing up on a plethora of goal chances.

During that hour, Aaron Bradley and Oisin Donnelly caught the eye while Michail Dudley was everywhere and probably St John’s best player on the day, followed closely by Shea Shannon.

Playing Peter McCallin at wing back was always a bit of a strange one for me given how good he is on the inside forward line but he forms a half back with Padraig Nugent and Michael Bradley and it’s got the potential to win any game.

Dunloy’s championship campaign has been more of the same serenity the Cuchullains have come accustomed to in recent years.  Their defeat to Loughgiel in the 2018 semi-final remains the last time Gregory O’Kane’s side tasted defeat in the chase for the Volunteer Cup.

The Cuchullains started with a superb display against Ballycastle at Pairc Mac Uilin.  Missing more than a few from the championship 15 from last year, Dunloy were breath taking throughout.  A solid if not spectacular performance followed against a spirited Carey side at Loughgiel before sealing their place in the last four with a win against Rossa on home turf.

Gregory O’Kane’s men have had to manage a run with the big ball within the club this season with Dunloy also in the Intermediate football decider next weekend.  11 dual players in Dunloy’s starting 15 for their football semi final last Sunday against Davitt’s.  A game that saw Seaan Elliott and Chrissy McMahon having to leave the field carrying injuries while Deaglan Smith didn’t look 100% by the full time whistle.  The joys of dual clubs, eh?

Dunloy will start this one as favourites and while I would tend to agree with that favourites tag, St John’s have the ability to cause Dunloy problems.  They too have a host of injury concerns and players unavailable but they showed in biblical like rain that they can stop the Cuchullains and stay with them with 14 men.  If they keep their discipline on Sunday they have every chance.  I expect them to slow the game as much as possible and stopping the Cuchullains from gaining any sort of momentum, just like 12 months ago but Dunloy should have enough to make it a Dunloy and Cushendall decider in two weeks time.

Con Magees ‘Healthy Club Group’ welcomed Oisin McConville

Pics by Dylan McIlwaine

The newly formed Healthy Club Group in Con Magees were delighted to welcome Oisin McConville to our Club this week to kick off their Autumn catalogue of events. Our Healthy Club Group are focussing on the wider social needs in society beyond playing our national games and have some great initiatives in the pipeline.

Maire O’Loan presents a copy of the Glenravel Centenary book to Oisin McConville

The first of these was to invite Oisin along to share his life’s challenges with gambling addiction. McConville has 7 Ulster Championship medals, 6 All Ireland Club medals, 1 All Ireland Senior Football medal and 2 All Star awards but the focus of his talk on Wednesday night was his addiction to gambling and his recovery. Oisin spoke about growing up in Crossmaglen and how an innocent 50p bet on The Grand National in the local bookies at the age of eleven transformed his life into a spiralling decline of gambling addiction. He gave a frank and honest account of how he handled the decline and subsequent recovery and highlighted what to look out for and how best to handle addictive tendencies. Oisin stayed on well after his presentation concluded to take Q&A from the floor. 

Oisin McConville with members of the Con Magees Healthy Club committee

Despite his fame, Oisin came across as a very down to earth guy who had faced down his demons,  beaten them and now wants to focus on sharing his experience in order to help others who may be affected directly or indirectly from addictions of all kinds. Indeed, when asked if he could arrive a little early and talk to some juveniles within our Club, Oisin welcomed the invitation with open arms and gave a compelling, age appropriate account of his life story.

Con Magees are deeply indebted to Oisin for the time he spent and would encourage anyone seeking help or advice on addictions, particularly gambling addictions to keep an eye open for future presentations given by Oisin. Everyone will come away energised and it may well be the turning point in someone’s lives.

Top 2 in Group 2 could meet again in the final

Andersonstown IHC Semi-Finals

The first of the Andersonstown SC Intermediate Hurling Championship semi-finals takes place on Friday night in Dunsilly where Group 2 winners, Cloney Gaels take on St. Gall’s while North Antrim rivals, Emmet’s Cushendun and Oisin Glenariffe meet in the second semi-final in Cushendall on Saturday.

On paper group 2 of the qualifiers looked the slightly stronger group and it was the Ahoghill men who set the pace in this group with a win over division 1 side Emmet’s on day one. Cloney Gaels won that one 3-18 to 1-17 in Cloney and went through the group unbeaten with big wins over Tir na nOg, Gort na Mona and St. Paul’s.

Emmet’s recovered from that opening day defeat with wins over St. Paul’s and Gort na Mona but a draw against Tir na nOg at Whitehill meant they had to rely on a big win on the final day at Enright Park to qualify ahead of the Randalstown side on score difference.

Oisins topped group 1 with an away win at St. Gall’s on day 3 and a resounding victory over Creggan on day four seeing them finish ahead of St. Gall’s but the Milltown side qualified in second place with three wins from four starts, the Glenariffe defeat their only loss.

Cloney Gaels v St. Gall’s  (Dunsilly 7.00pm Friday)

Cloney Gaels look the form team of the two going into this eagerly awaited semi-final and a strong league campaign saw them finish second to Cathaoir an Ri with 12 wins from 16 starts to finish just a point behind the Ballyvoy side.

The Ahoghill men have scored freely this season with their twin attacking threat of James and P.J. O’Connell proving a real handful for most defences and the Gaels finished the highest scorers in division 2.

They carried that high scoring into the championship, hitting 3-18 against Cushendun, 4-15 against Tir na nOg, 7-19 against Gort na Mona and 4-22 against St. Paul’s.

Their opponents on Friday night, St. Gall’s had an indifferent league campaign with only six wins from 16 starts but not too much should be read into that league form as they were competitive in most of their defeats and Chris Dornan’s side always reserve their best for the championship.

They started their group 1 campaign with a 0-14 to 0-7 win away to Glenravel and followed it up with a 2-17 to 2-14 win at home to Creggan. St. Gall’s looked favourites to win the group when they defeated Sarsfield’s 0-22 to 0-19 at the Bear Pit but lost out on the final day to eventual group winners, Oisin’s at Milltown.

Cloney Gaels will start Friday night’s game as favourites but this won’t unduly worry Chris Dornan or his side. St. Gall’s have been renowned championship challengers at this level over the years and in Joe McDaniel, Niall O’Neill, Jackson and Gregory McGreevey, Tomas O’Ciarnan and Mark Napier they have excellent performers.

Cloney Gaels are likely to line out along familiar lines and even a hat-trick from Colla McDonnell against St. Paul’s on the final day of the group games does not guarantee the youngster a start on Friday night so stiff is the competition for places.

James ‘Bobby’ Magee and Bernard Graham should anchor a solid defence where Diarmaid Graham and Fionnbar O’Neill are likely to get the nod for a starting place. Niall O’Connell and Eamonn Brady have formed a strong mid-field partnership this year while Thomas McGlone, Donal Graham and Dan O’Neill should accompany the O’Connell’s in a potent attack.

Others will be waiting anxiously for the nod for a starting place in a side finely tuned by Hugh Dobbin and Shea O’Hagan but I don’t expect the Gaels to find scoring as easy as in recent championship outings but they should have enough to get them through with a bit to spare.

Oisin Glenariffe v Emmet’s Cushendun (Cushendall Saturday 3.00pm)

Saturday’s second semi-final brings together two sides who will need no introduction with a number of the Emmet’s panel, including the McSparran twins and John B Morgan having played at U17 level for the Oisin’s.

Emmet’s played their hurling in division 1 this year after moving up from division 2 last year but found the going extremely tuff in the higher grade. They opted to play Intermediate Championship and on reflection it has proved a wise decision though the readjustment hasn’t been easy.

The Cushendun side lost on day one of the group stages at Ahoghill and drew away to Tir na nOg but a superior score difference say them qualify in second place in the group to earn them a semi-final place against the Waterfoot side.

They hit 6-21 against Gort na Mona in their final game however which suggests they have plenty of fire-power with David Kilgore getting a hat-trick and Harry Kilgore 2-0 and Conor O’Hara all rippling the Gort na Mona net.

Gareth Magee in goals brings a wealth of experience to the side and Aidan Corbett, Donal O’Hara, Tom Scally and Conlaoth ‘Loaf’ McNeill are likely to carry the Emmet’s challenge on Saturday.

Oisin’s Glenariffe have been knocking at the Intermediate door for a while now and have always been tipped as potential winners and this could be the year to turn that potential into success but it won’t be easy.

Their win over St. Gall’s at Milltown and a great comeback to earn a draw against Sarsfield’s suggests that they certainly have the bottle for the big occasion and while nothing can be read into that final day mauling of a weakened Creggan, they certainly carry a scoring threat.

Paul McMullan, the Kearney’s, Daniel and Donal, Conor Patterson, Seanie McIntosh, David Kearney, Alex and Michael O’Boyle, Caolan O’Connor and Seamus McDonnell will carry the Oisins’ challenge in a game that could be very close with the possibility of extra time not to be ruled out but Emmet’s might just shade it in the end.

St Galls edge past St Pauls in thrilling Nipper Quinn decider

Nipper Quinn Cup Final 

St Pauls 4-05-1-15 St Galls 

By Kevin Herron 

Photos from Bert Trowlen

St Galls claimed the Nipper Quinn Cup on Sunday afternoon, coming out on the right side of a thrilling final 1-15-4-05 against a much-fancied St Pauls side. 

It was meeting of the top two sides in U-13 South-Antrim hurling this year- St Pauls began as favourites- having gone through the league campaign unbeaten and defeated St Galls along the way. 

The Shaws Road outfit opened the scoring through a Daire Thornbury point but were rocked as St Galls scrambled home the first goal of the game through Ruairi McIlhatton. 

A converted free followed from Odhran Bellew and Conall Dempsey provided a magnificent point from range before an own goal at the other end handed St Pauls a route back into proceedings. 

Finn Smyth and Padraig Kelly notched back-to-back points for the Milltown side before scores were traded between Eamonn Kearney and Kelly. 

St Galls were 1-05-1-02 ahead, but their lead soon diminished, Oisin McLaren converted a free and then a superb individual strike saw him find the net to edge his side 2-03-1-05 ahead for the first time in proceedings. 

Odhran Bellew restored parity with a long-range free and a further placed ball from Padraig Kelly saw St Galls reclaim the lead. 

Kelly added two further scores before the break with McLaren intervening between times as St Galls led 1-09-2-04 at the midway point. 

St Pauls hit the front upon the second half’s resumption through a scrappy- but nonetheless- vital goal from Sean McMullan that gave his side a 1-09-3-04 lead. 

Eamonn Kearney added a point shortly after, though their lead was extinguished through successive scores courtesy of Padraig Kelly and Ruairi McIlhatton (free) to restore parity again. 

A second Oisin McLaren goal nudged his side ahead again and frees were then traded between McLaren and Padraig Kelly. 

Successive frees from Kelly and Odhran Bellew ensured that the bare minimum separated the sides and talisman Kelly would land back-to-back scores to ensure his side were ahead for the final time. 

Thereafter the Milltown outfit saw the game out to clinch the Nipper Quinn Cup at the end of a breath-taking encounter. 

South Antrim Chairman Frank Caldwell presents the Nipper Quinn Cup to St Galls captain Cairbre Mac Adaimh
Cousins Tiernan McDonnell and Finn Smyth (part of the winning Rossa and St Galls teams) pictured with proud grandmother Margret McDonnell