After the high of reaching the All Ireland final there was a great buzz about the North Antrim dinner in 1989. Jim Nelson and Peter Finn and hurling board chairman Fergus McNaughton were among the guests. Loughgiel had bridged a seven year gap to win back the Senior Championship and the Cushendall juvenile teams were going strong.
Back in 1994 Dunloy camogs ended a 33 year wait when they won thier first senior championshiip title since 1961 by beating Cushendall in the final in Glenravel. They went on to collect the club’s first Ulster title by beating Down champions Leitrim Fontenoys in the final, the Antrim champions having home advantage on the day. This is the report and pictures I did at the time for the Ballymoney Times. Just a little note for the younger people reading this and looking at the photos. Camogie was played 12 a side in those days. John McIlwaine.
(Many thanks to Paul McLean and Jimmy Gaston for their assistance with this)
Dunloy come good in second half
Dunloy Cuchullian’s 3-11 Leitrim Fontenoy’s 0-12
Dunloy won their first Ulster Club Camogie title on Saturday when they came from behind to beat Down champions, Leitrim, in a thrilling final played in damp and difficult conditions at Pearse Park, Dunloy.
For 20 minutes of this fiercely contested game Dunloy played second fiddle to a very impressive Leitrim side who opened a 0-8 to 0-2 lead. Their chances of that first Ulster crown looked unlikely but they steadied to improve their position by half time before getting on top in the second half when a late scoring flurry saw them safely home.
Dunloy seemed taken aback by just how good their opponents were during the opening quarter as the Down girls played some great camogie. They opened their scoring in the third minute when Maureen O’Higgins sent over a free and though Dunloy levelled through Majella McMullan soon afterwards, they dominated the next 15 minutes when they hit five points without reply.
Maureen McAleenan, who had a brilliant game for the Down champions, restored Leitrim’s leads. Maureen O’Higgins knocked over two quick points before McAleenan added two more to put her team 0-06 to 0-01 ahead.
Elaine Dowds kept Dunloy in touch with a well struck point from play, but Leitrim regained the initiative with two more points from McAleenan, one a real beauty from beyond midfield.
Six points adrift Dunloy appeared to be in trouble. The fluency of which had been a trademark of their play the past season seemed to have deserted them but to their credit they dug seep to raise their game when it was really needed.
Two points form frees from Ann McKee brought them to within four points by the twenty-fifth minute. Oonagh Elliott appeared to have the breakthrough when she broke away to knock the ball into the net, but referee Margret Brolly had already blown for a free and the goal was cancelled.
Sinead McMullan pointed the resultant free to bring the Antrim champions to within three and though Monica McCartan made it back to four again Anne McKee hit an injury time point to leave Dunloy 0-09 to 0-06 in arrears at half time.
The determination shown by both teams in a fiercely contested second half had to be seen to be believed. The sluggishness that Dunloy had shown in the early stages of the first half was now gone and with the breeze behind them they made their bid for victory.
Anne McKee gave an early boost with a point, but Leitrim responded with two more points from the influential Maureen McAleenan.
Dunloy get the break
As with so many closely contested games the break of the ball can so often decide matters and in this case it was Dunloy who got the break when an Anne McKee side-line found its way through a crowded goal mouth into the net.
Majella McMullan brough Dunloy back on terms by the forty fifth minute with a well taken point from play but Leitrim retook the lead when Nuala Magee struck over a great free two minutes later.
That was to be the Down teams last score however as Dunloy’s greater all-round ability started to tell. Oonagh Elliott brought them level again ten minutes from time and less than a minute later Sinead McMullan put them front when she pointed a 30’.
A McMullan free was blocked down soon afterwards and Elaine Dowds reacted quickest to knock home Dunloy’s second goal and four minutes from time Brenda Kearns made it three when her well placed shot went under the crossbar.
It was all Dunloy now and Sinead McMullan ended the scoring in the final minute when she again from the target from a 30 to leave her team eight clear at the end.
Sally McGrath played well in nets while in defence Sinead McMullan, Joan Elliott and Donna Brogan were best.
After a slow start midfield settle down well to play well while in the forwards Majella McMullan, Elaine Dowds and Oonagh Elliot were best.
For Leitrim, Nuala Magee was outstanding in defence well supported by Donna Greenan and Monica McCartan. Bernie Kelly played well at midfield while Maureen McAleenan was superb up front. Full forward Maureen O’Higgins also played well.
Sally McGrath, Sinead McMullan (0-3), Joan Elliott, Deidre Cunning, Donna Brogan, Helen McMullan, Anne McKee (1-4), Christine McCamphill, Majella McMullan (0-2), Brenda Kearns (1-0), Elaine Dowds (1-1), Oonagh Elliott (0-1)
Lil Cunningham, Donna Greenan, Monica McCartan (0-1), Nuala Magee (0-1), Teresa Burns, Bernie Kelly, Monica Rooney, Majella Murray, Rosaleen Cunningham, Maureen McAleenan (0-7), Grainne McCrickard, Maureen O’Higgins (0-3). Subs – Bernie Gallagher for T Burns, Anne Marie Kennedy for R Cunningham
A COUPLE of weeks ago, the plans were falling into place for Chloe Drain to have a dream 2020.
The Dunloy stalwart had played a leading role at full-back on Sunday March 8th as Antrim beat 2019 Division Two league champions Tipperary by an impressive 5-13 to 1-6 to almost guarantee the Saffrons a league semi-final for the first time in quite a few years.
Her hen-party was set for the following weekend (just before St Patrick’s Day), and all left to do ahead of her Easter Monday wedding was to dot an “i” or two and cross a couple of “ts”.
Then Covid-19 entered the equation – resulting in a completely different hen-party, her wedding to Kevin McShane postponed and no camogie for the foreseeable future.
“It has just been surreal how everything has changed in such a short time. To be honest Kevin and l were a little worried about the wedding with Covid-19 spreading and talked about the what ifs. But we never imagined that the impact would be so big, nor that there would be a near-enough total lock-down.
“We had set our wedding date around camogie – and football – plans and probably were thinking that the worst that could happen was that a match-date would have to switch to Easter Monday because of the weather.”
Kevin is a member of the Cargin team that completed back to back Antrim championship titles under Damian Cassidy last year, while Chloe has seen Antrim camogie fortunes suddenly surge under the new management team of Paul McKillen and Jim McKernan.
“Everything was going great with Antrim. I think Humpy and Jingo have been such a breath of fresh air this year. Training had become so focussed, the atmosphere in the changing room was so good – just the right mix between craic, fun and focus. And all that was beginning to show in results on the pitch.”
Despite games being called off due to Storms Ciara and Dennis, the Saffrons had built on a strong showing in the opening game against Dublin, by picking up a surprisingly easy win over Tipperary.
“We still have Laois to play, but such is our score-difference, it will take a massive win for either Tipperary or Dublin and a bad defeat for us to deny us a semi-final spot. Little did we think that worse was around the corner. I doubt now the league will actually finish.”
Just four days after the Tipp game came the announcement that all games and training have been postponed until the end of March – but more than likely for the rest of the spring and into the summer.
Drain, a PE teacher in St Louis Grammar in Ballymena, has also seen the end of preparations to defend the Ulster under 14 schools’ crown.
“St Louis won the Ulster under 14 A title last year for the very first time and there was a great buzz about the school with training over the past month or more. We were due to play our first game last week.
“We beat St Patrick’s Maghera in the final last year, and that was a big breakthrough for the school.”
Coaching the Maghera team in that final last May was Chloe’s Antrim team-mate Niamh Donnelly who also happens to be her bridesmaid.
“Niamh had organised a great hen weekend for Kilkenny just before St Patrick’s Day and that had to be shelved with just a day’s notice. We ended up with a house party instead.
“Then there was the uncertainty about the wedding which we eventually got postponed until the middle of November. I would say there might still be a trip to Kilkenny, if this Covid-19 allows life to get back to normal.”
“To be honest, I am not sure whether I was more upset about the wedding or the camogie – but don’t tell anyone that!”
However Chloe and Kevin were not the only GAA couple whose wedding fell foul to Covid 19, three others in Antrim GAA, all of whom originally went for Easter Monday as their original date, were also affected.
Former Antrim camog and gaelic footballer Mairiosa McGourty from St Gall’s and her fiancée Christopher ‘Cricky’ McGuinness from Rossa had also planned to tie the knot on Easter Monday, with their reception in Ten Square in Belfast. Cricky, himself a former county hurler, and still a major cog in the Rossa senior team was obviously deeply disappointed at the postponement but was philosophical about the whole thing
“Its disappointing that we had to postpone the wedding at a late stage but in the context of the current climate it seems like a minor obstacle. Trying to put a positive spin on it, we now have a Christmas themed Wedding to look forward to…. however working from home feels like the marriage test has already started!!’’
Brona McIntyre and Peter McCollum had originally decided on the Easter Monday slot, but because of a clash they decided to go for the following weekend, with the reception planned for the Mill Park in Donegal town. Bróna is a dyed in the wool Shamrock and Pete is Creggan to the bone and their son Cillian is a confused young man, not knowing whether he will dress in the green and gold of Kickham’s or the red and white of Loughgiel when is sets out in the morning. That is usually determined by what grandparents he is going to visit on a particular day. It’s not good to turn up at Tony McCollum’s house wearing the Shamrocks kit, to pop over to Tommy McIntyre’s sporting the Creggan gear. Just like the other couples Bróna looked at the big picture
“It’s just annoying all the planning that had went into it for the last 2 years we were at the point where we were just double checking the last few things, everything was ready to go. Like Chloe and Kevin, Peter and I had planned the wedding round the GAA season so trying to find another date was difficult. We have ended up pushing it back by 8 months in the hope that everything Covid-19 has settled. We had to try and ensure everything we had booked was ok to go again in November and we were aware that was going to be difficult. Thankfully everybody apart from our band The Hype was available. Everyone was really understanding. Our reception is in The Mill Park in Donegal town so we only had 8 dates between now and the end of the year to choose from, but they were great and worked with us no problem.
We got another band booked thankfully, but they said they had been getting constant enquiries within the last week. We took the decision ourselves to postpone before it was enforced on us. That way it gave us a couple of extra days to help get organised”
At least Aimee McAtamney and Kevin Sheerin don’t have to worry about crossing clubs like the other three couples. Both of them are Tir na nOg Randalstown and have known each other since they were children playing at the club pitches at Whitehill. They were also Easter Monday and like Bróna and Pete they were heading to Donegal for the reception, the Clanree in Letterkenny the venue of their choice. Like Bróna the only thing they couldn’t re-book was the band and Aimee is equally disappointed about that
“I’m gutted to have to give up the Rare Auld Stuff but it is what it is.Taking the decision to reschedule before being forced to helped, as we were ahead of the game searching for a new date to match all of our bookings. Unfortunately we had to search for a new band. We hope that when the GAA season gets back up and going we will not run into any potential clashes. In the current pandemic, everyone’s health and well-being is much more important to us and we just hope this will pass as quickly as it came and we get to enjoy an end of summer wedding.”
Jim McKernan admits that what he and Paul McKillen is bringing to the Antrim camogie team this year is not new or revolutionary.
“We are into basic drills, nothing complicated. Just getting people to buy into what we have going”.
It seems to be a winning formula as Antrim won their opening two games in Division Two of the National League with resounding victories and were certain to win a semi-final spot before the coronavirus crisis closed the league down.
“At the moment what is happening all around us is much more important than camogie. However I am pretty confident that the girls we currently have in the Antrim county set-up will look after themselves and each other and will emerge from the crisis as a strong unit.
“I have been very impressed by the attitude of every single girl in the panel since we took over in January, how they carry themselves, the fun they have and how seriously they take their training and matches.”
Jingo (McKernan) was first involved with Antrim camogie away back in 2007 and later on in 2014 he and Humpy (McKillen) “answered an SOS”.
“Paul’s daughter Samantha was in the team around then and it was basically something short term to see the season out. There was no plan to take it forward.
“Then around Christmas past, Paul suggested that taking Antrim camogs might be something we would enjoy. We met up with the County Board chairman and secretary and got a really positive feeling that they wanted to make headway in 2020 and we felt that they would really support us.
“Sometimes you get handed the job of managing the senior team, be it club or county, and you quickly learn that the committee are not really behind you. This was different.”
A meeting with the players was called in mid-January but not many turned up.
“The meeting was at short notice in fairness and we did get quite a few messages to say that individuals couldn’t make it, but wanted to be involved. Then at the meeting itself there was a good interaction and it just took off from there.”
The Quality manager in Bombardier has been impressed since by the attitude of the players and each day they trained his admiration grew.
“As Paul said at the first meeting, they had come through underage and schools as winners. Our job was to help them realise that potential, continue that natural progress. Derry had done it in the past by building on underage and school potential. Now Antrim has that underage success and players and management together have to bring that potential forward.”
The Sarsfield’s club man admits that McKillen’s enthusiasm is infectious.
“Paul has taken the lead. He is buzzing about the potential there. He has brought a lot of energy to the set up and I, as much as the players, have fed off that energy.
“I have known Paul a long time now. We played together and then took Antrim and later Down hurlers together.”
The start of the season had already been stuttered with a league game against Laois postponed on two occasions. That game had been re-scheduled for Sunday past before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down all games and training.
“The postponements because of storm Ciara and Dennis didn’t knock us off course and the coronavirus won’t either. From a camogie perspective, we can’t control what is happening at the minute – we can only look after ourselves and those closest to us.
“We have to focus on controlling what we can control. There is no point in being frustrated about not getting to play camogie.
“We will get back playing camogie eventually. Every county has the same problem. It might be after Easter. Realistically it might be July or later and it might mean a radically different programme of games to what we have at the moment.
“When we do get back though we will pick up from where we left off with all the elements in place to move Antrim camogie forward.”
Pics from the North Antrim dinner in 1992 in the Thornlea Hotel in Cushendall. I know the most of the people in the pics, but not all, so I will wait to you message me the name on Facebook before finishing the captions
Ruairi Og were county champions and I assume Sambo was North Antrim Hurler of the Year. Is Grace getting the Senior Camogie Cup? Messrs Brogan and Blaney are receiveing cups for Cushendun, but althought the Emmets won the Intermediate Championship and Division 2 titles that year, they had not won them at that stage of the season?? A very poignant pic of Kathleen and Mally Darragh presenting the John Darragh Memorial Cup to North Antrim chairman Arthur Forsythe to be played for as a North Antrim Minor Hurling championship. What a success it turned out to be.