The Saffron Gael journey started three years ago today

The men of 1970. Tomorrow, May 29th, the Saffron Business Forum had planned to honour this great team at their annual Business Lunch at the Crown Plazza Hotel. Covid 19 has put paid to that but hopefully before this year is out they can be back together again to talk about their great campaign of 1970 when they won the Division 2 League title and the All Ireland Intermediate Championship

The journey started three years ago today with the announcement of the Saffron Gael website. The following evening we covered our first game, the Under 21 Hurling final between Dunloy and Loughgiel in Armoy. Since then we have published a further 4,298 stories, covering games in hurling and football, both male and female. The Covid 19 pandemic has affected all of our lives and has hit hit this season very hard, but we soldier on hoping some day in the not to distant future to get back out to a game…..any game. In the mean time we will continue to post stories from the past, not what we all want to see, but it is an opportunity to preserve our county’s history. Thank you all for your continued support so far an hopefully when this is all over we will meet again on the green fields of Antrim, and further afield and celebrate properly the game we all love. A special word of thanks to all our sponsors, without whom this would not be possible. I would also like to thank all the Saffron Gael team who have written reports, taken photos and tavelled the length and breadth of the country to keep this campaign going.

The Antrim team who played Tyrone in the 2009 Ulster Senior Football final in Clones
The men of ’89. The Antrim team who played Tippeary in the 1989 All Ireland final
The Antrim team celebrate on the steps of Croke Park as team captain Mairead McAtamney lifts the O’Duffy Cup after he team’s win over Tipperary in the 1979 All Ireland Senior Camogie final

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.

Ruairi Ogs Lift First Minor Title

Back in 2014 Cushendall caused a shock when they won the Minor Camogie Championship. They had beaten pre tournament favourites Loughiel in the opening round in Cushendall and went on to beat Dunloy in the semi-final in Ballycastle. Geralines Portglenone came through the other section during the opening half it appeared that they were in with a good chance of victory, but the Cushendall team (managed by Sean Pual McKillop, John Carson and Bill Cosgrove) really hit form in the second half to secure the club’s first title at this grade.


                                     Ruairi Og Cushendall 3-8

                                    Geraldine’s Portglenone 0-5

The first club championship title was decided on Easter Monday at a sun kissed All Saints Ballymena as Cushendall and Geraldines Portglenone contested the Minor A final.  A dominant second half ensured the Ruairi Og girls would see their name engraved on the Joe Herald Memorial Cup on Monday night.

The opening half was a very close affair and little was to separate both teams throughout.  Geraldines ‘keeper Aoibhin Agnew was called on early in the game as she had to make a double save in the second minute before Sinead Cosgrove registered the first score of the game and Niamh O’Neill followed this up a minute later with a fine point from play. Geraldines had the game level by the eight minute through Roisin Kelly and Emma McAleese.  A Jane McAleese free from the sideline found Roisin Kelly and the corner forward turned and pointed from play.  Niamh McKee was fouled three minutes later and Emma McAleese pointed the resultant free from an acute angle.  Geraldines then took the lead for the first time as the superb Aine Mulholland started the move in her own full back line.  Niamh McKee and Emma McAleese combined up front to set Jane McAleese up to point from twenty metres out.  Roisin Kelly was on hand again to extend the Geraldines lead half way through the first half as she was again on the receiving end of a long free from her defence, rounded her marker and pointed from play.  Just when Paul McKee’s side looked to be gaining a slight edge over Cushendall, they were dealt a harsh blow as a Niamh O’Neill’s 13th minute shot came off one of the Geraldines defenders hurls and slipped past Aoibhin Agnew.  This edged Cushendall back in front 1-2 to 0-4.  Sinead Cosgrove was quickest to react to a Dervla Cosgrove free as she collected possession and pointed from distance in the 16th minute.  This point was quickly cancelled out by Roisin Kelly who scored her third point from play to keep it a one point game.  Cushendall began to get on top in all areas of the pitch and Geraldines defence was under a lot of pressure.  A strong run from Tierna Carson five minutes before half time could have killed the game off but Una Doherty timed her tackle to perfection to block Tierna’s goal bound effort.  Cushendall did have the final say of the half as Sinead Cosgrove and Niamh O’Neill combined to turn over possession in the Geraldines back line and Niamh pointed her second point of the half which saw her side lead 1-4 to 0-5 at half time.

The second half belonged to Cushendall and they had tagged on another point courtesy of Tierna Carson as quickly as the 23rd second of the half as her side went on the attack straight from the throw in.  When Niamh O’Neill was fouled two minutes later, Dervla Cosgrove’s free opened up a four point gap between the teams.  Geraldines did have two goal chances in quick succession but Cushendall ‘keeper Sarah Kane did well to save from Kirsty McLeod and Roisin Kelly.  Geraldines needed a score at this stage but Cushendall gradually pulled away from their opponents.  Another Dervla Cosgrove free (35th minute) was quickly followed by a second Cushendall goal.  Aoibhin Angew reacted superbly to stop Tierna Carson’s shot but substitute Clodagh McAllister was on hand to push the ball to the net.  Cushendall now led 2-7 to 0-5 and despite having the majority of possession, they did not score for the next ten minutes of the game.  Geraldines defence was under a huge amount of pressure but Niamh Kelly, Aine Mulholland and Una Doherty worked tirelessly to deny the girls in maroon and white more scoring opportunities.    1-1 from play in the last two minutes of the game from Clodagh McAllister ensured the Minor championship title would be making its way to the Glens for the first time as Cushendall emerged victorious on a score line of 3-8 to 0-5. 

Credit to the Geraldines team who never gave up but were simply beaten by a stronger and more powerful Cushendall side.  Aine Mulholland was the stand out player for the Geraldines and was ably assisted by Una Doherty, Niamh Kelly and Jane McAleese throughout the game. Once the Ruairi Og’s got their hold on the game, they were dominant and denied Geraldines any scores in the second half.  They were very worthy winners.  Tara O’Neill was solid at the back and her defence was the catalyst for many Cushendall attacks from which Niamh O’Neill, Sinead Cosgrove and Tierna Carson caused Geraldines problems throughout the game. 

Geraldine’s team & scorers:  Aoibhin Agnew, Aine Mulholland, Una Doherty, Niamh Kelly, Sephora O’Connell, Kirsty McLeod, Jane McAleese (0-1), Geana Convery, Erin Henry, Emma McAleese (0-1 f), Roisin Kelly (0-3) & Niamh McKee.  Subs:  Lauren Craig for Sephora O’Connell, Rebecca Morrison  and Niamh Dobbin.

Cushendall team & scorers:  Sarah Kane, Clodagh McKillop, Tara O’Neill, Siobhan McKillop, Clare Kearney, Annie Leech, Dervla Cosgrove (0-2 f), Orla McNaughton, Niamh O’Neill (1-2), Tierna Carson (0-1), Molly McLaughlin, Sinead Cosgrove (0-2), Aimee McDonnell.  Subs:  Mary Kane, Sinead Convery, Clodagh McAllister (2-1), Orlaith McAllister, Cliodhna McManus, Fiona McDonnell & Leah Cosgrove. 

Referee:  Vincent Boyle (Dunloy)


Rossa making virtual tour of county grounds for St John Ambulance

WHETHER it will be possible to make the journey to various county grounds at all this year, members of O’Donovan Rossa are availing of their daily exercise time to do just that in a virtual sense and all for a good cause.The 32 County Challenge will see individual members and families collectively walk, run or cycle the approximate 2000 km distance as they visit each county ground in the country, adhering to social distancing with the St John Ambulance appeal benefiting from the venture.The challenge began at the gates of Rossa Park on Monday with Chairwoman Margaret Flynn the first of 270 participants who began to cover their miles either on foot or on the saddle as they began the club’s virtual tour of Ireland’s county grounds.Organisers and members of the club’s senior ladies football team, Claire Brammeld and MarieTherese Fleming, came up with the idea of helping bring people together while we remain apart, by creating a united cause all can get behind to boost physical and mental wellbeing during lock-down.“We really wanted the seniors to lead it because we’ve four codes and a lot of senior players,” said Claire, a member of Rossa’s Health and Wellbeing Committee.“People are sitting at home and maybe need the motivation to get out. Some are doing their 5k individually but this is a chance for everyone in the club to come together a bit and do something collectively for a good cause.“MarieTherese said her brothers Colm and Eoin would do it too so we were able to make the whole thing bigger rather than it just being the ladies team, so it’s great to get the support of the club and to have everyone on board.”St John Ambulance – a regular presence at GAA games – launched an appeal for vital funds last month, so it was a natural choice for Rossa members to raise funds to help its fight against Covid-19 alongside the NHS and NI Ambulance Service, while also helping to secure the charity’s future in these difficult times.

The venture is also going a long way to help club members feel connected at a time when we must stay apart, booting mental health and helping to motivate those who may have been spending the entire time at home.“Mental health is a huge thing at the minute with people unable to get out or feeling isolated but we can’t just start holding mental health seminars,” Claire added.“We needed to find a way to get people together to talk about something good and that unites them a bit.“Some people may not have moved in weeks, so this will help get them out to do some exercise and boost their mental health because we want out members to make sure they are feeling well and help them communicate with each other.“I’ve found from talking to a few people that they’ve been really looking forward to this as it gives them a bit of a purpose.”Many clubs and organisations have undertaken a variety of challenges that can be completed from home or when social distancing so Rossa felt theirs needed to be a little different.Therefore, in keeping with the GAA theme, they felt paying a virtual visit to each county ground in the country would be a fitting venture and on Monday, Armagh’s Athletic Grounds was the first stop on the virtual tour.Club members will send through the distance they have completed on a daily basis as the organisers calculate just how many grounds have been covered and how many are needed to go before they reach the finish line, back at Casement Park on Sunday – a nod to the club’s Croke to Casement Great Solo Run from 2017.“We calculated the total distance it will take to travel from Rossa Park to every county ground in the country and back again,” Claire explained.“It’s just over 2000 kilometres so what we’ve done is to get all the people who have signed up and divide the distances out between everyone. The seniors are all doing at least 10k each, but if a family is going out for a walk and there are four of them in total, they would multiply the distance they covered by four.“Whatever each person’s distance is, they will start it on Monday and have until Sunday to complete it. Every day, we’ll put up some updates on our social media to let people know what county ground we’ve arrived at.“We were going to do a circumference of the country, but it was Gavan Duffy who came up with the idea of doing the county grounds instead as it keeps that GAA link to the whole thing.“We know we’re missing out on our matches, so we thought it would be good, psychologically to walk, run, cycle, sole, skip or whatever to the county grounds.”If you would like to donate to Rossa’s 32 County Challenge and support the St John Ambulance appeal, you can do so through the JustGiving address below with links also available on the club’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Also, if you see a Rossa jersey out on the roads this week, give them a shout of encouragement as they take on the Rossa challenge for this great cause.