Dunloy and St. Brigid’s looks a hard one to call

Under-21 Football Championship(final) Sat 13th Dec

St Brigid’s v Cuchullian’s Dunloy (Woodlands 4-30)

All roads lead to Woodlands on Saturday evening as St Brigid’s and Cuchullian’s Dunloy meet at the West Belfast venue to decide the destination of the under-21 A football championship 2018.

Dunloy and St. Brigid’s looks a hard one to call and it could well take a moment of genius or a slip from either side to seperate two evenly balanced and talented sides

Both were equally impressive en route to the decider and have a wealth of talent at their disposal and both will line out unbeaten in the competition to date.

Dunloy started with a win over a fancied Aghagallon in the league phase of the competition and although held to a draw by Moneyglass they made no mistake in the replay before concluding with a convincing victory over All Saint’s.

The Cuchullian’s made a first appearance on the all-weather surface at Woodlands in the quarter final, a winning debut when proving too good for a fancied St Gall’s to ensure a semi-final place on a 3-14 to 0-13 scoreline to set up a semi-final meeting with reigning champions Rossa.

St Brigid’s completed the opening phase unbeaten and in impressive fashion with back to back wins over St John’s and Gort na Mona scoring an eye catching 9-37 in the process to ease into the last eight.

Having proved too strong for the Johnnies in the opening round the South Belfast men continued in such dominance against the same opposition in the quarter finals before establishing a date with Creggan in the semis which looked by far their toughest assignment to date.

The Kickham’s enjoyed ground advantage for that one and indeed the South west side, having remained unbeaten on their way into the last four, looked on their way to the decider when Conor Small’s opening minute strike saw them a goal in front.

St Brigid’s were not to be denied however and taking firm hold of the baton they quickly recovered to move into an interval lead at 1-11 to 1-05, and despite the sterling efforts of the home side in the second period the city lads strode over the winning line and into the final. 

Dunloy having collected minor football titles in 2016 and again this term are certainly not lacking in talent, and indeed the Cuchullian’s took the under-18 title in 2016 at the expense of St Brigid’s in the final.

They have impressed from the outset in the competition and a back from the brink recovery from ten points in arrears to earn a draw and a second chance against Moneyglass underlines their character.

They are strong at the back with Conor Kinsella and Ryan Elliot solid and Deaglan Smith and Callum Scullion strong at mid-field. In a potent and fleet footed attack Keelan Molloy, Seaan Elliot and Conal Cunning carry a real threat with Molloy in electrifying form throughout the competition.

Indeed the Cuchullain’s carry a scoring threat all over the field with Smith scoring 1-03 from mid-field in their semi-final victory over Rossa.

St Brigid’s, like Cuchullain’s caught the eye from early in the competition and the South Belfast side have continued that form on their way to the final.

They are also strong at the back with central defenders Conor King and Odhran Boyle giving nothing away, and in mid field they have more than useful performers in Peter King and Patrick Finnegan.

Up front the Biddies have talent aplenty with centre forward Peter Webb a young man with huge potential and James Smith an excellent target man while corner forward Ethan Carleton certainly has an eye for goal, finding the net twice at Creggan.

St Brigid’s, having impressed in their semi-final win in Creggan will start as slight favourites but this Dunloy side has impressed throughout and they may well collect another title.

St Bendedict’s win Corn Cúchullainn

Danske Bank Corn Cúchulainn final

St Benedict’s, Randalstown 5-10 De La Salle Downpatrick 3-8

Although St Benedict’s Randalstown led this Danske Bank Corn Cúchulainn final yesterday in Coláiste Feirste by 2-5 to 0-5 at the break, it was the direct switch of centre-half back Sean McAlister and free-taker Aidan McErlain that helped them nail the vital scores to keep well in front of a strong comeback from De La Salle Downpatrick.
McAlister had scored the second Randalstown goal just coming into the break but his switch to full-forward for the second half didn’t pay off immediately and a goal from De La Salle captain Cillian Burns had narrowed the gap between the sides to 2-6 to 1-7 with 16 minutes remaining.
That was when McAlister stepped on the gas. Helped by the long direct ball in, he picked up possession time and again and fired home goals in the 45th and 48th minutes to push his side into a comfortable 4-8 to 1-7 lead.
Lee Murphy responded with a Downpatrick goal, but McAlister wasn’t finished and he crashed home a fourth goal to bring his personal tally to 4-2 and St Benedict’s up to 5-8, too far ahead to be troubled by a late Cillian Burns’ consolation goal for De La Salle.
Overall this was a good game of football with both McAlister and Burns the key men for their respective teams, but there were other strong performances from Aidan McErlain and Odhran Molloy for St Benedict’s and James Crangle, Harry O’Bank and sweeper James McConkey in the De La Salle colours.

St Benedict’s : R Gribbon, C Devine, C Logan, T McKinney, S Hinfey, S McAlister (4-2), C Donnelly, O Molloy (1-0), T Murray (0-2 frees), R McVeigh, C Hastings, C O’Kane, C McLarnon, A McErlain (0-6, 0-3 frees), C O’Loan capt.
Subs : M Hood for C Devine (46), E Campbell for C McLarnon (47)

De La Salle : A McEvoy, H O’Bank, L McEvoy, M McMullan, J Crangle (0-2), K Broggy, S Dorrian, N Kelly, C Burns capt. (2-2), J O’Shea, J McDerby (0-2), R Burns, D O’Shea, L Murphy (1-2, 0-2 frees), J McConkey
Subs : A McGrattan for M McMullan (49), O Murray for J O’Shea (52), J Brown for L Murphy (53), M Loudon for D O’Shea (57), J Byrne for L McEvoy (59), A O’Dwyer for R Burns (56)
Referee : B Toland (Lámh Dhearg)

St Benedict’s captain C O’Loan

Cuchullains cruise to U21 decider

Antrim U21 A Football Championship  Semi-Final
Dunloy 2-14 Rossa 0-7
Wednesday December 12th
Brendan McTaggart reports from Coláiste Feirste, Belfast
Dunloy saw off the challenge of Rossa on Wednesday evening to book their place in the U21 Final. 13 points separated the sides after the 60 minutes with the Cuchullains clinical and efficient laced with touches of brilliance throughout.
After a tense and tentative opening, the Cuchullains built a seven point lead by the short whistle while second half goals from Keelan Molloy and Deáglán Smith ensured a healthy score line in favour of the men from Pearse Park.
Rossa started the semi-final well with Eoghan McMenamin and Darren Grego lively in attack and Michael McGreevey busy at centre half but a scoring burst of four points in barely two minutes mid-way through the first half put the Cuchullains in control with Eoghan McGrath, Molloy and Deáglán Smith all catching the eye in the opening 30 minutes.
Rossa were more competitive after the restart and looked to pressurise a Dunloy defence who strolled their way through the first half but the wind was knocked out of their challenge with Molloy’s 45th minute goal while Deáglán Smith’s goal in the last minute of normal time added further gloss to the score line for the Cuchullains.

Rossa’s Cormac McGettigan in action against Dunloy’s Conal Cunning

Dunloy opened the scoring in the second minute with Seaan Elliott firing over for his first of three points over the hour. Eoghan McMenamin replied instantly for Rossa to draw the sides level but the Cuchullains looked to be more fluent in their play and were finding holes in the Rossa defence at will. A run of wides threatened to hurt any momentum they may have built but a brace of points from Molloy and Eoghan McGrath gave the Cuchullains a two point lead by the 10th minute.
Any Rossa attacks were fleeting in the opening exchanges but the Shaws Road side were back on terms by the 17th minute with McMenamin and Cormac Murphy splitting the uprights. The aerial ability of Murphy and Cormac McGettigan meant Rossa were winning the lions share of high ball. The Cuchullains looked to go short with their kick outs and build from the back and while Rossa were content to keep a man back, Dunloy began to take advantage of their possession. Points from Deáglán Smith, Eoghan McGrath (two) and Molloy gave the Cuchullains a four point lead in the space of just two minutes.
Dunloy were well on top and the movement of the attack was causing Rossa huge problems. The artificial surface allowed the Cuchullains to utilise their pace and the four point lead soon became six with Conal Cunning (free) and Deáglán Smith finding the target.
Seaan Elliott finished the scoring with a composed finish from distance in the last minute of the first half to give the Cuchullains a seven point lead.

Dunloy’s Seaan Elliott in action against Rossa’s Manus Smyth.

The Cuchullains were more efficient in attack and the calibre of ball into the forward line allowed the Dunloy forwards to make hay. Rossa were struggling to penetrate the Dunloy defence in the opening half and the Cuchullains took advantage with a number of turnovers immediately resulting in scores during the opening half.
Rossa looked energised after the restart and began to pressure further up the pitch. Dunloy did open the scoring with Elliott splitting the posts in the 35th minute with his third point of the semi-final but Rossa were keeping a quartet of attackers up front and it was beginning to pay dividends. A free from Conall McDonnell gave Rossa their first score in 22 minutes and while Deáglán Smith landed a point from distance with the next attack, Rossa were beginning to turn the screw and looked like they could eat into the Dunloy lead. A brace of points from McMenamin and McDonnell (’45) reduced the deficit to six points once again by the 42nd minute but McDonnell’s point would be the last score Rossa would register.
The first Dunloy goal came from a counter and while hand bags were being thrown at one end of the pitch, Keelan Molloy went on a marauding run down the Rossa left leaving a trail of defenders in his wake before cutting inside and finishing smartly despite the best efforts of Michael Byrne in the Rossa goals.

Dunloy’s Deaghlan Smith in action against Rossa’s Tiernan Murphy

Molloy took his tally to 1-3 for the match with a 54th minute free and while Rossa began to have more possession as they tried to unlock a water tight Dunloy defence, the Cuchullains remained resolute with Conor Kinsella and Aaron Crawford excelling as the match progressed.
The second Dunloy goal came in the last minute of the hour with midfielder Deáglán Smith matching Molloy’s tally of 1-3. Eoin O’Neill providing the assist for the rampaging Smith and the talented midfielder finding the bottom corner with great aplomb to finish a comfortable nights work for the Cuchullains.
Dunloy will face St Brigid’s in the decider on Saturday at Woodlands in a repeat of the minor final from two years ago as they chase an U21 hurling and football double to match the minor double already achieved during 2018.

Bear hug! A nice light hearted moment near the end of the game as Rossa substitute Ryan Bear O’Neill and Dunloy’s Seaan Elliott have a laugh when Bear is sent on to mark the Dunloy flier.

Dunloy: Frankie Cochrane; Ciaran McQuillan, Conor Kinsella, Anton McGrath; Chrissy McMahon, Ryan Elliott, Aaron Crawford; Callum Scullion, Deáglán Smith; Eoghan McGrath, Keelan Molloy, Eoin O’Neill; Anthony Smith, Conal Cunning, Seaan Elliott.
Scorers: Deáglán Smith 1-3; Keelan Molloy 1-3 (1 f); Eoghan McGrath 0-4; Seaan Elliott 0-3; Conal Cunning 0-1 (1 f).
Rossa: Michael Byrne; Matthew Mallon, Gavin McGrath, Manus Smith; James Cooley, Michael McGreevey, Niall Crossan; Cormac Murphy, Cormac McGettigan; Tiarnan Murphy, Eoghan McMenamin, Conall McDonnell; Michael Close, Darren Grego, Daire Matthews.
Scorers: Eoghan McMenamin 0-3 (1 f); Conall McDonnell 0-2 (1 ’45, 1 f); Cormac Murphy 0-1; Darren Grego 0-1
Referee: Conal Roberts (St Johns)

Plastic the new grass as Dunloy face Rossa at Colaiste Feirste

U21 A semi-final

Dunloy v Rossa

Colaiste Feirste 8-00pm

The last of the U21 football semi-finals is scheduled for Colaiste Feirste tomorrow night where last year’s A champions, O’Donovan Rossa face the challenge of Cuchullain’s Dunloy in what looks to have all the ingredients to make it an excellent contest.

The trip into Belfast has become a familiar one for theNorth Antrim men in recent weeks as plastic has become the new grass as far asthe U21 football competition is concerned and while not ideal it is perhaps the best option given the time of year we are at.

Rossa were mighty impressive in claiming the A title last year but when they lost their opening game in this year’s campaign to St. Gall’s they didn’t appear to have the players to launch a serious threat in this year’s competition. Next time out they were defeated again by a strong St. Enda’s side at Woodlands but this time the Shaw’s Road side showed a marked improvement from their first outing before losing by three points at Woodlands.

St. Enda’s subsequent withdrawal from the competition saw the Rossa men claim second place in their section after a play-off with Lamh Dhearg who they had already defeated in the league section and this win saw them drawn against a strong Tir na nOg in the quarter-final at Cliftonville.

A point from their star performer Eoin McMenamin, two minutes into injury time sealed victory for Rossa over a Tir na nOg side who for long periods in the game appeared to be heading for a place in the semi-final in an excellent game of football. 

In a keenly contested battle Tír na nÓg started the stronger and put themselves in pole position by striking first with two goals but it was Rossa who gathered momentum in the second half and withheld a late Tír na nÓg come back to hold out for victory.

McMenamin, one of the star performers in last year’s Minorchampionship winning side kicked 0-7 from mid-field and with Gerard Walsh,Darren Grego, Michael McGreevey, Cormac Murray, Michael Byrne, Daire Matthews and Michael Close they have excellent performers.

Tir na nOg had a man sent off early on in that game and missed a late penalty but McMenamin kicked a late winner for the Rossa Park side and they will fancy their chances of accounting for Dunloy to earn a place in a second final in two years.

It’s been a busy season for Cuchullain’s Dunloy which has seen them battle on a number of fronts to collect both the Antrim Minor football and hurling titles and they will field a number of players from those successful minor teams as they aim to overcome the Rossa challenge.

That minor success saw them progress to the Ulster hurling championship where they lost to Dungiven in the final and, perhaps more significantly a heavy defeat to Bellaghy in the St. Paul’s Ulster minor football tournament on Sunday past.

How that is likely to affect them remains to be seen but their U21 campaign has been very impressive to date with wins over Aghagallon, Moneyglass and an impressive quarter-final win over a St. Gall’s side who topped the Rossa qualifying group.

The Cuchullain’s will look to their more experienced campaigners tomorrow night with the inform Keelan Molloy, Deaglan Smith, Frankie Cochrane, Conor Kinsella, Ryan Elliott, Conal Cunning and Eoin O’Neill supplementing the skills of Aaron Crawford, Callum Scullion, Anton McGrath and Seaan Elliott.

Molloy scored 1-6 in that quarter-final win over the Milltown side while Smith got 1-1 and Callum Scullion the other goal while Seaan Elliott hit 0-4 in a 3-14 to 0-13 win and Rossa may struggle to contain that fire power as they fight for a place in the final.

Goals see Lamh Dhearg into B decider

Antrim U-21 B Football Championship semi-final

Lamh Dhearg 3-07-1-09 Con Magee’s, Glenravel

By Kevin Herron at Crumlin Leisure Centre

Three goals was enough to edge Lamh Dhearg into the Antrim U-21 B Football final after a 3-07-1-09 win over Con Magee’s in this evenings semi-final at Crumlin Leisure Centre.

Cameron Flynn registered his sides first ten minutes into the game, but despite trailing to Flynn’s goal at the break, Con Magee’s hit back and led through a goal from Eoin McCusker.

The pendulum swung back into the Lamhs favour as Daire Larkin rifled home midway through the second period and a second goal from Cameron Flynn ten minutes from time ensured the Hannahstown men would join St Ergnat’s Moneyglass in this weekends decider.

Lamh Dhearg’s Eoin McKeown in action against Glenravel’s Aidan McKenna.
Pic by John McIlwaine

There was no overwhelming pre-match favourite in the lead up to this evenings encounter as both sides were evenly matched in quality.

Con Magee’s edged ahead with the first score inside of three minutes – a probing move forward saw the ball popped into the path of Christopher Conal Kerr who shot confidently between the posts.

Kerr should have registered the opening goal of the game after six minutes, however his double opportunity went abegging due to some brave last ditch defending in the Lamh Dhearg defence and a good stop by goalkeeper Morgan Pettigrew from the follow-up.

With little under ten minutes on the clock the opening goal did arrive, but fell to Lamh Dhearg.

Con Magee’s goalkeeper Adam Neeson’s skied his kick-out which fell kindly for Eoin McKeown who demonstrated his lightning pace and burst forward before offloading into the path of Cameron Flynn – with Neeson in no mans land Flynn rifled into the empty net to give his side a 1-00-0-01 lead.

Daire Larkin almost claimed a second with a low driven shot that crashed off the post – though referee Paul Burns brought play back for a free which was converted by John Boyd.

Flynn’s goal separated the sides at the midway point in the opening half – but Con Magee’s reduced arrears to the minimum thanks to back to back scores from Conleth O’Loan.

The Glenravel number ten converted a free and then shook off pressure from Lamh Dhearg counterpart McKeown to land an outstanding point and make it 1-01-0-03 after twenty minutes.

With five minutes of the first-half remaining the Hannahstown side ended a scoreless fourteen minute spell as McKeown and Flynn interchanged with the later popping the ball over the bar.

John Boyd then converted his second free of the half after Jack Summersgill was brought to ground.

The sides traded scores before the interval, Conal Kerr shot high over the bar to narrow the deficit to two, though Lamh Dhearg substitute Adam Cunningham switched the play to Declan Smyth who conjured up a magnificent score to make it 1-04 to 0-04 at the halfway point in proceedings.

Conal Kerr who had a great game for Con Magees 

Like the opening half it was Con Magee’s who opened after the break – seven minutes after the restart Eoin Hynds confidently converted a free to make it a two-point game.

Within sixty seconds the Glenravel men edged ahead for the second time – in his last meaningful involvement before departing with an ankle knock; Conleth O’Loan slipped in Eoin McCusker and the number fourteen rifled low past Morgan Pettigrew to give his side a 1-05 to 1-04 lead.

John Boyd immediately restored parity with a simple turn and point but Hynds converted a second free to edge his side a point to the good with the midway point in the second-half fast approaching.

Bang on the midway point Lamh Dhearg regained the lead and it was one they would retain despite surviving heavy pressure at times.

Declan Smyth charged forward and went for an equalising point – the ball dropped however and was punched by Con Magee’s keeper Neeson, Daire Larkin picked up the loose ball and had the presence of mind to rifle low through a crowd and into the net to give the Lamhs a 2-05-1-06 advantage.

Eoin McKeown runs at the Con Magees defence.

Con Magee’s narrowed the deficit through a fabulous Hynds point – but after John Boyd tirelessly forced a turnover and Daire Larkin picked up the scraps a point arrived off the boot of Smyth to make it a two-point game with eleven minutes remaining (2-06-1-07).

The decisive score arrived sixty seconds later as Eoin McKeown burst forward and unselfishly slipped in Cameron Flynn and the full-forward made no mistake in front of the posts – firing low past Adam Neeson to make it 3-06-1-07.

Con Magee’s required a goal, and quickly, if they were to provide a grandstand finish – though Conal Kerr could only register successive frees in between a straightforward free from Declan Dunne for the Lamhs.

Both teams lost players in the dying minutes, Con Magees receiving red and Lamh Dhearg black, but it didn’t have any bearing on the final result as Lamh Dhearg ran out four-point winners on a score line of 3-07-1-09 to claim a place in the weekends B decider against St Ergnat’s Moneyglass.

Lamh Dhearg: M Pettigrew, R Murray, J Trainor, R Fegan, J Summersgill, E Matassa, N McParland, D Dunne (0-01f), D Larkin (1-00), E McKeown, R Diamond, JJ Hawkins, J Boyd (0-03, 0-02f), C Flynn (2-01), D Smyth (0-02). Subs: A Cunningham for JJ Hawkins (26 mins), D Murphy for E McKeown (62 mins – black card substitution).

Con Magee’s Glenravel: A Neeson, S Black, M Laverty, D McAuley, C Henry, R Lennon, A McKenna, N Swann, E Hynds (0-03, 0-02f), C O’Loan (0-02, 0-01f), C Carey, C Kerr (0-04, 0-02f), C Mullan, E McCusker (1-00), SP Mac Cionnaith. Subs: M McDonnell for C O’Loan (39 mins), O McAleenan for C Mullan (44 mins), J Brown for S Black (52 mins).

Referee: Paul Burns (St Comgalls).