Creggan Kickham’s awards dinner

Creggan Kickhams held their annual awards dinner on Friday night in the Tullyglass Hotel where their football team received their O’Cahan Cup medals but the highlight of the night was the presentation to the Ladies team who won last year’s Junior Football Championship. There were also presentations to the team who were runners up in the Antrim Junior Camogie Championship plus special presentations to two members and a mentor who were members of the Antrim Under 21 Football Championship team of 1969. Saffron Gael went along to capture the action

Michelle Bradley and Tony McCollum presented a cheque on behalf of the Creggan club to John McIlwaine of the Saffron Gael at the club’s awards dinner in the Tullyglass Hotel

Humpy and Jingo lead Antrim camogs into new season

There is still an air of uncertainty about the fixture but if everything goes ahead this weekend two old soldiers will be back on the sideline together when Antrim camogs take on Laois in Division 2 of the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League in Abbeyleix, Co. Laois.

Its sixteen years since Paul ‘Humpy’ McKillen and Jim ‘Jingo’ McKernan were last together with an Antrim team, leading the senior hurlers to Christy Ring, Ulster Championship and Division 2 League honours before controversially being ask to step aside. They have remained firm friends ever since and when Paul’s daughter Selina got married just before Christmas Jim and his wife Kate were two of the first names on the guest list.

A few weeks after the wedding Humpy was approached by County Camogie chairman Vincent Boyle to if he would take charge of the Antrim Senior Camogs this season. The time of the wedding the former All Star had been telling everyone he was going to take a break this season, after having been involved with Rasharkin hurlers of the past couple of years. However when the call came the hurler and competitor in him couldn’t say no and after thinking about it for a few days he gave Jingo a call and the old team were back in the saddle again. Elaine Dowds was also approached but she had commitments for the early part of the season but the lads are hopeful she will be able to come on board when the championship starts later in the season.

When I spoke to Paul about how things were going so far he was full of enthusiasm saying that he and Jingo were happy with the commitment the girls have given so far. There have been a few of last year’s panel stepped aside but overall they have a squad of 22 committed to the cause and the boys are not ruling out a few others joining the group as the season progresses.

They have played a couple of challenge games and while it is not always the best way to judge, the girls have done very well with wins over Down and Slaughtneil and according to Humpy the spirit in the camp is good. When the league fixtures came out they were down to play Laois in this weekend’s opener. There was a bit of uncertainty over whether the O’Moore county girls were going to field a team but last week it was confirmed they had their squad together and it was all systems go.

Humpy and Jingo are raring to go and have named their team for the opening fixture in Abbeyleix. It will be tough going as it always is again any of the Laois teams but the boys are hoping they can get away to a good start.

Antrim likely line-up for Sunday is –

Antrim v Laois

1 – Emir Boyle (Loughgiel)

2 – Laoisa McKenna (Glenravel)

3 – Chloe Drain (Dunloy)

4 – Maria Lynn (Loughgiel)

5 – Naimh Donnelly (Ballycastle)

6 – Maeve Connolly (Loughgiel)

7 – Roisin Kelly (Portglenone)

8 – Amy Boyle (Loughgiel)

9 – Emma Laverty (Loughgiel)

10 – Maeve Kelly (Ballycastle)

11 – Anna Connolly (Loughgiel)

12 – Lucia McNaughton (Loughgiel)

13 – Roisin McCormick (Loughgiel)

14 – Katie Carey (Portglenone)

15 – Christine Laverty (Loughgiel)

Subs – Clare McKillop, Caoimhe Duffin , Emily Faloona, Aine Donnelly, Eilis Cairns, Aine Donnelly, Ciara Dobbin  

Phase One of Corrigan Park underway

Ulster GAA President Oliver Galligan and local MP Paul Maskey joined members of the Antrim county board, Club Aontroma, The Saffron Business Forum and members of the St John’s club at Monday’s cutting of the ceremonial sod to mark the start of the building of the new stand at Corrigan Park. Pic by John McIlwaine

Ulster GAA President Oliver Galligan, county chairman Ciaran McCavana and St John Chairman Gerry McCann were joined by representatives of the Saffron Business Forum, Club Aontroma and fellow supporters of Antrim GAA, at Monday morning’s ceremonial sod-cutting at Corrigan Park as Phase One of the project to build a new stand at the famous old ground got underway. Chairman of the project’s steering committee Collie Donnelly spoke about the pride he felt at finally seeing the venture get underway. Donnelly, a former St John’s and Antrim hurler, who was also chairman of the Antrim county board, was one of the leading lights in driving the project forward. The St John’s man was quick to point out that this was far from a one man campaign and had high praise for his former colleagues on the Antrim county board, the current board, the Ulster Council, fundraising groups within the county like the Saffron Business Forum and Club Aontroma. Collie also singled out former GAA Director General Páraic Duffy who he said had given great help and support during the venture.

Former county chairman Colly Donnelly who is chairman of the Corrigan Park Development Steering Committee at Monday’s cutting of the ceremonial sod to mark the start of the building of the new stand at Corrigan Park. Pic by John McIlwaine

One of the project will see a covered seating area which will hold 500 people, with terracing for a further 2000 along the side of the pitch where the old stand once was. Phase Two will see terracing added on the other side of the ground which would raise the capacity of the ground to 5000. With Phase One underway it is hoped that the new facilities will be ready by time the Antrim championships get underway in August and it is likely that the county finals will be played there this year, that is of course provided St John’s are not one of the teams involved.

St John’s chairman Gerry McCann, Ulster GAA President Oliver Galligan (left) and Antrim county chairman Ciaran McCavana (right) at Monday’s cutting of the ceremonial sod to mark the start of the building of the new stand at Corrigan Park. Pic by John McIlwaine
The old stand at Corrigan Park forms the backdrop as Antrim and Galway parade before the 1946 All Ireland final which Antrim won by 4-2 to 2-3 to complete the second of their 3-in-a-row. That day 5000 people packed into the West Belfast venue to see the action

Corrigan Park was the main ground for Antrim GAA before the opening of Casement Park in 1953. It is named in honour of Sean Corrigan, mentor of the Brian Óg club who were Antrim‘s first hurling champions.

Corrigan Park was associated with the run of the Antrim hurling team to the final of the 1943 All Ireland championship, the Saffrons claiming the scalps of Galway in the semi-final and Kilkenny in the final

Corrigan Park staged the All Ireland Camogie finals of 1944, 1946 and 1947, two of which were won by the Antrim girls, It also staged several of Antrim’s semi-finals in that period and became known as the home of camogie during that golden era.

Among the major football championship matches it staged were the Cavan-Antrim Ulster championship semi-finals of 1930, 1931 and 1949. Its last major provincial football championship match was Antrim v Donegal in the Ulster championship of 1952.

Devlin hat-trick set Antrim up for win

Ulster Minor Championship semi-final : Antrim 5-12 Armagh 3-1
A semi-final in the Ulster championship to start February! This game in Ahoghill had all the hallmarks of a first game of the season, first touch a little off for half the players, more individual effort than team play and errors all over the pitch.

Nevertheless Antrim was the more assured team although they struggled at times for scores in the opening half despite dominating the play. Nuala Devlin however broke through from half-forward on several occasions and scored 3-1 so that the Saffrons led by 3-4 to 1-1 at the break.

Antrim had gifted Sinéad Quinn a goal in the 24th minute, but Devlin cancelled that out with her third goal a couple of minutes before half time.

Although Caitlin Heggarty and Aoife Delargy pointed on the resumption, goals from Katie Comiskey and Melissa Hughes pulled Armagh right back into contention at 3-6 to 3-1.

However the comeback quickly faded with Katie Laverty getting on top at midfield, sub Brid Magill making an immediate impact with a 46th minute goal and a string of points from Riana McBride putting Antrim out of sight.

Aoife Delargy scrambled a last minute goal to gloss the score-line from an Antrim perspective with Magill adding an excellent point in injury-time.

Brigid Delargy was sound at full-back, carrying her school form through the county, while Riana McBride did a lot of damage from placed balls and frees. Nuala Devlin in the first half was excellent but the Ballycastle forward had to retire just after the break with a back injury. Her replacement Brid Magill didn’t waste time in getting involved.

Meanwhile Derry overwhelmed visiting Down in Bellaghy with Caitriona Toner scoring five goals in the opening half alone as the home side led by 8-7 to 0-0 at the break.

Down scored three points in the second half, but they were well off the pace and couldn’t stop Derry from progressing to next week’s semi-final with Tyrone.

The final will take place on February 22nd and is likely to have Derry as Antrim’s opponents.

Before then Antrim will face Clare in the All-Ireland championship at a halfway venue on February 16th, just 24 hours after Cross and Passion play Loreto Kilkenny in the All-Ireland schools’ Junior semi-final in Kilkenny.

Antrim : Orla Donnelly, Katie Rose Bell, Brigid Delargy, Cara Shannon, Anna McNeill, Enya McShane, Riona Matthews, Katie Laverty, Roisin Ward, Aoife Delargy (1-1), Nuala Devlin (3-1), Caitlin Heggarty (0-2), Eimear Shannon, Riana McBride (0-7, 0-4 frees), Rachel Bonnes

Subs : Brid Magill (1-1) for N Devlin, Niamh Neeson for E Shannon.

Armagh : Maeve Callaghan, Aideen Carroll, Clodagh Gaffney, Maeve O’Hare, Kate Crilly, Anita McKearney, Clara O’Kane, Éabha Lennon, Katie Comiskey (1-1 frees), Shannon Morgan, Caoimhe Donnelly, Sinead Quinn (1-0), Aoife Forker, Hannah Duffy, Melissa Hughes (1-0).

Referee : Malachy McToal (Derry).

O’Donovan Rossa teams up with NUI Galway

PHOTOS BY BRENDAN DIGNEY

THE renewed partnership between O’Donovan Rossa GAC, Belfast and the National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) was launched at Belfast City Hall on Friday.Lord Mayor, Danny Baker invited Rossa members including chairperson Margaret Flynn and NUI Galway’s Registrar and Deputy President, Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh into his parlour to announce the extension of the deal that will see NUIG continue its sponsorship of Rossa’s U16 hurling, football, ladies football and camogie teams. Professor Ó Dochartaigh – a native of the Falls Road – said the tie-in with Rossa is beneficial for all parties as NUIG maintains its commitment to attract students from the north to third level education in the west of Ireland.Its link with the leading Belfast GAA club has already proven a success, with those who have decided to enrol in courses at the Galway university given the opportunity to attain a third level qualification in a region immersed in Gaelic Games.”We were approached four years ago by Hugh McGettigan, who is a teacher at St Mary’s and a coach at Rossa, about whether we’d be interested in sponsoring the club,” explained Professor Ó Dochartaigh.”Our marketing people could see they had a lot of success at underage and they’re in a huge population area.”From our perspective in Galway, we want to recruit more students from the north. Speaking as someone from the North who has moved to Galway, I see too many of our people moving across the water for university and then they don’t come back, so the more we can keep in Ireland the better and the more students we can attract to Galway the better, so it made sense.”This sponsorship was up for renewal and again, we did the analysis, so here we are to continue the sponsorship.”Of all the universities in the south, only UCD and Trinity recruit more northerners than we do, but we want to build on that.”You look at the strength of the GAA in Galway: they won the All-Ireland hurling in 2017; the minor hurling in ’17 and ’18; the camogie in ’19 and they were in the ladies football final in ’19. That’s the level of ambition in the county and the university has won all of the relevant competitions at different stages.”Youngsters coming to Galway are coming into a strong GAA environment in the county and college. We also believe a strong education is vital to a healthy and successful life, so we want to marry the two.”In October 2019, NUI Galway confirmed that in 2020 and beyond, students who have been resident in the North and have UK/EU/EEA/Swiss citizenship will be treated as EU students for the purposes of fees for the duration of their courses. The decision was taken by the University to provide certainty to A-Level students as they make their college choices over the coming months. The fee status decision also extends to postgraduate students enrolling in 2020. 

Professor Pól Ó Dochartaigh, Mayor of Belfast Daniel Baker, O’Donovan Rossa Chairwoman Margaret Flynn

This affords an element of certainty for students in the post-Brexit world who will benefit from lower fees than they would encounter at home or in Britain, so the decision to sponsor Rossa’s U16s who will be starting to think of university choices is apt.”We are very happy to host Pól Ó Dochartaigh who had announced the sponsorship of four teams: hurling, football, ladies football and camogie,” confirmed Rossa cair, Margaret Flynn.”We are hoping to forge a link so when our children are thinking of where they are going to go when doing their A-Levels is to think seriously about Galway. “We also have the opportunity to bring development squads from Rossa down to get elite coaching and play local teams, so this has the opportunity to be something good for the university and our club.”Our children will remember this, that somebody from here has come back to do something for them. It’s a start and something we want to develop.”Lord Mayor, Danny Baker said he was delighted to host this launch and with his own children members of Rossa, promoting opportunities for our brightest and best to continues their studies in Ireland and bringing those skills back to their home city and club is a huge plus for the local community and Belfast as a whole.”I’m delighted to host this today,” said Councillor Baker.”It’s a great opportunity for me, the First Citizen, to invite Rossa down. My children are part of the club and they have benefitted from being members.”It’s great to see these connections forged with universities throughout Ireland, because too many talented young people go off to university in England or further afield and don’t come home. We want to keep that talent at home in Belfast and whether it’s through sport or job opportunities through education, it’s very important to keep our best here.”