St. Gall’s will start favourites but that won’t worry Glenravel

Antrim U20A Football Championship Final

St. Gall’s v Con Magee’s

Davitt’s Park 2.00pm

Referee: Eamon McAuley

The Antrim U20 A championship final is scheduled for Davitt’s Park tomorrow with the two form teams in the competition locking horns in what promises to be an interesting final.

The competition has been dogged throughout with postponements and the general feeling is that it was fixed at the wrong time of the year and it is something that the relevant body is likely to take a look at for next season.

Despite those postponements the competition did go ahead and tomorrow’s finalist, St. Gall’s and Glenravel have embraced it whole heartedly and no matter how it goes tomorrow both clubs are sure to have benefited from the competition.

St. Gall’s are likely to start as favourites tomorrow by virtue of their wins over Cargin in Toome in the opening day and against St. Brigid’s at Milltown. Cargin and St. Brigid’s contested the Minor final two years ago with the Toome side winning that final and they were favourites going into this year’s U20 championship

 In a game played with real championship fervour it was the home side who led 0-7 to 0-6 at the break but that was to change shortly into the second half.

Niall Burns grabbed a superb 36th minute goal to see the Milltown Blues hit the front with Paudie McLaughlin replying almost immediately with a goal at the other end for Cargin.

At this stage it looked anybody’s game but the home side were reduced in number when mid fielder Benen Kelly was shown red at the end of the third quarter and shortly after the impressive Niall Burns got in for the visitors second goal.

St. Gall’s had certainly seized the initiative and they went on to add a further three goals as their busy corner forward Niall Fallon added a couple with Dara Delaney adding the third to put the game out of reach of the home side.

St. Gall’s took another step in the direction of the U20 FC title when they defeated Naomh Bríd at Milltown. The home side looked home and dry at the halfway stage when they led 1-8 to 0-2 at half time as they controlled the opening half but Naomh Bríd showed considerable improvement after the break without ever looking like getting anything from the game.

They matched St. Gall’s score for score in the third quarter with the difference between the sides still nine going into the final quarter and the visitors kept going to the end despite the inevitable outcome.

Naomh Brid outscored St. Gall’s 0-5 to 0-2 during the closing quarter but by that stage the damage had already been done and the Milltown Row side moved top of Group1 with three wins from three starts.

St. Gall’s completed their programme unbeaten with wins over All Saints and Aldergrove and will go into tomorrow’s final full of confidence. Aidan OMaolin in goals, Dultach Johnston, Conor Reagan, Niall Burns, Niall Fallon, Conal McCabe and Barry McCaffery are all top performers with Burns and McCaffery in particular a serious threat in attack.

It’s been a while since the Milltown side saw any action in the competition while Sunday’s opponents, Glenravel played their final game in Group 2 more recently and have been very impressive as they have moved through their group unbeaten.

Con Magees Glenravel qualified for the final of the U20 football Championship when they beat Creggan in their final round robin game in Creggan.

Their ability to score goals at vital times throughout the game gave the Glenravel side the edge and they led by 2-2 to 0-4 at half time, the major scores coming from Callum Higgins and Ryan McQuillan.

Eoin Hynds made his mark in the second quarter with two goals, the second coming just before the half time whistle to give his team a 4-4 to 0-6 lead at the break. A Sean McKay goal early in the second half stretched the Con Magees lead, but Creggan hit back with one from Dominic McAteer. However Glenravel maintained the upper hand and a second goal from Ryan McQuillan sealed their place in tomorrow’s final.

Wins over Tir na nOg earlier in the competition in Glenravel by 2-9 to 1-7 and a Sean McKay hat-trick at the same venue helped Con Magees Glenravel to a narrow victory over St Enda’s. and the Glenravel men have been able to come up with goals throughout this year’s competition.

Goals have played an important part in the Con Magee’s run to Saturday’s final with McKay leading the way and the Glenravel men will be hoping to add further majors as they attempt to overcome the challenge of St. Gall’s.

Callum Higgins, Ryan McQuillan, Rian Lemon with Cathal and Eoin Hynds and Sean McKay are the men who can swing this one Glenravel’s way against a St. Gall’s side who will start as favourites but will need to be at their best to overcome the Glen’s men.

Can Creggan make successful Ulster debut?

Ulster SFC Club championship

Corrigan Park Sunday 1-30pm

Kickham’s Creggan (Antrim) v Clann Eireann (Armagh)

Antrim champions Kickham’s Creggan make a first step into the unknown when they take on Clann Eireann of Armagh in the Ulster club SFC quarter-final at Corrigan Park on Sunday.

Creggan bridged a 67-year gap, lifting the Padraig McNamee Cup for the first time since 1954 with a 1-12 to 0-07 win over Aghagallon in the Antrim final at the same venue back on the 14th November and put the disappointment of recent final defeats behind them to climb the winner’s rostrum.

 The Staffordstown Road side were in control at the break with Matthews Rodgers, Kevin Small, Ruairi and Jamie McCann all chipping in to see them 0-07-0-02 ahead. 

Aghagallon were always chasing, however, they did keep the game alive until second half injury-time when substitute, Sam Maguire, capped his introduction with a goal to end Creggan’s long wait for Championship glory.

Creggan’s two previous final defeats came at the hands of neighbours, Erin’s Own Cargin but Gerard McNulty’s side got that monkey off their back when they came from behind to defeat the reigning champions in the semi-final at St. Enda’s.

McNulty, who was assistant to Kevin Madden at Creggan for two years before taking over the managers role, has brought his own style of management to the side and they have developed into a more expansive outfit.

He has introduced a number of new faces to the side with Ethan Carey-Small and Jamie McCann cementing starting places in defence and McCann in particular has been phenomenal, weighing in with vital scores from half-back.

Indeed their half back line of Aidan Maguire, Marty Johnston and McCann have rightly received rave notices and have been instrumental in the side’s success this year.

Oisin Kerr, in goals and Ricki Johnston at full back bring vast experience to what has been a solid defence with Odhran McLarnon dropping deep at times in a sweeper role and they held Aghagallon scoreless from play until 10 minutes from time.

Kevin Small and Conor McCann have formed a strong and mobile mid-field partnership while Tiernan McAteer, Matthew Rodgers and Ruairi McCann are always a threat in attack.

What of Clann Éireann ?

In one of the most remarkable Armagh senior football championship finals for many years, Lurgan side Clann Éireann staged a stunning comeback from a seemingly hopeless position to squeeze out their more illustrious opponents Crossmaglen at the Athletic Grounds.

With the sides having been deadlocked at 0-5 each at half-time, it was Crossmaglen, inspired by the O’Neill brothers and Cian McConville, who seized the initiative after the break to glide into a seemingly unassailable 0-11 to 0-5 lead.

But with ace marksman Conor Turbitt leading a spectacular Clann Éireann revival – he landed eight points in all – Rangers were rocked back on their heels when substitute Ruairí McDonald thundered a great drive to their net in the 49th minute.

At 0-12 to 1-9 the match was back in the melting pot but the sporting gods were to smile on Clann Éireann when another substitute Jack Conlon saw his harmless-looking speculative effort in the 59th minute graze the post and trickle over the line for the most unlikely of goals.

At 2-10 to 0-15 Clann Éireann were back in business and a further brace of Turbitt points saw them snatch the title to set up Saturday’s clash with the Kickham’s. There are a couple of Antrim connections with the Armagh side. Barry McCambridge, who wore no 3 in the final win over Crossmaglen is a son of John McCambridge from Cushendall and a nephew of Monty, Gaza and Michael McCambrdge, all of whom played county hurling for Antrim, and a first cousin of Cushendall and Antrim senior hurler Ryan McCambridge. Another local connection is that Gerry Fagan, who captained Clann Eireann to their 1963 county title before going on to become a legendry Ulster GAA official, started his teaching career in Cargan Primary School in Glenravel in 1948.

Gerard McNulty will not be shouting it from the rooftops but I’m sure he would have been surprised but happy with the result at the Athletic Grounds but at the same time well aware of the serious challenge Clann Eireann will pose on Sunday.

The astute McNulty will have done his homework on the Lurgan side with Turbitt marked down for special attention but most of his focus will have been on preparing his own side. The Kickham’s will have a big and noisy support behind them at Corrigan and if they can settle quickly into the game and produce anything near their best then there is no reason why they cannot win this one.

Ardoyne Kickham’s Award night for 2020 and 2021

Report and photos by Brian McKee

Ardoyne Kickhams members recently gathered in their newly renovated Flax Street clubrooms for their Senior Presentation Dinner. The event celebrated the achievements of the North Best club, both on and off the field, over the past two years. Both club chairman Philip McTaggart and club president Alex Trainor, spoke passionately about the proud tradition of Ardoyne Kickhams in keeping gaelic games and culture alive in the Ardoyne community in the face of the hardship and the conflict within this community, through which members of the Kickhams emerged with great pride and undaunted spirit. Philip was particularlypleased that Camogie, in which Ardoyne Kickhams has previously produced not only great players but also very successful teams, is once again being established in the Kickhams club.

The Kickhams had plenty of reason to celebrate given their progress over all codes in recent years. Senior football manager, Ross Carr, presented medals to members of the senior football team to mark their success in the 2020 Antrim Junior championship. Senior hurling manager, Ollie Bellew presented awards to members of the senior hurling team that has made great progress over the past few seasons.

Local MLAs Gerry Kelly and Minister Nichola Mallon presented team and individual awards on the evening. North Belfast MP, John Finucane, finally managed to get his hands on silverware this season as he joined Gerry Kelly in presenting the Martin Cup, won the previous evening to team captain Odran Mullan.

A special Community Spirit award was presented to Nichola Bradley of the North Belfast Community Foodbank for the magnificent work carried out by the Foodbank during the pandemic. It is a source of great pride that many members of the Kickhams continue to devote their time and resources to working in partnership with the Community Foodbank. A club truly at the heart of its community. The future looks bright for Ciceam Ard Eoin!

Tir na nOg can overcome Carrickcruppen challenge

Ulster Intermediate club football championship quarter-final

Tir na nOg (Antrim) v Carrickcruppen (Armagh)

Ahoghill 2.30pm

By Paddy McIlwaine

Antrim Intermediate champions, Tir na nOg, Randalstown face a stiff Ulster opener when they take on Carrickcruppen of Armagh in this weekend’s quarter final in Ahoghill but it is a challenge they are capable of overcoming.

The Randalstown side have been the outstanding team in Intermediate championship and division 2 of the league this season and after going through division 2 unbeaten they went on to defeat All Saints in the Antrim Intermediate championship final and were good value for that win.

It has been another fine season for the men from Whitehill and after claiming the Intermediate hurling title for the first time last year they added the division 2 football title and Intermediate football championship this term and will play their football in division 1 and senior championship next season.

Tir na nOg qualified for the semi-final of the Antrim championship from Group 1 where they suffered their only defeat of the season when they lost on day two to All Saints in Ballymena, having won their opening game to St. Teresa’s.

In what was regarded as the tougher of the two qualifying groups, Tir na nOg went on to record wins over Con Magee’s, Davitt’s and Ardoyne to finish in second place to the Ballymena men and qualify for a semi-final meeting with Sarsfields.

Tír na nÓg 1-14 Sarsfield’s 0-9

Tir na nOg proved too good for Sarsfield’s in this OB Construction IFC semi-final at Davitt Park to set up an all South West final against All Saints. The Whitehill side was solid at the back and much more fluid in attack as they led throughout this semi-final and were full value for their win in the end.

In a fairly even first half Tir na nOg just edged the exchanges to lead 0-6 to 0-4 at the interval. The South West side pushed on at the start of the second half as they added five points in the opening nine minutes to give themselves a lead that looked fairly comfortable even at this early juncture.

It took just 18 seconds for Ciaran O’Neill to thump over another from range, with Aaron McNeilly adding one from the left and then Ciaran McKeown fisted over when through as the Randalstown side dominated the early second half exchanges.

Tir na nOg had matters well in control when they went on to lead 0-13 to 0-5 at the second water break and while Sarsfields closed the gap in the final quarter a late goal from keeper, Sean Paul McAtamney from the penalty spot ensured there would be no way back for the Stewartstown Road side.

Meanwhile All Saints had advanced from the same group as winners and when they overcame Dunloy in the semi-final to set up a third meeting of the season with Tir na nOg in the final the scene looked set for a classic decider.

Tír Na nÓg Randalstown 2-14 All Saints Ballymena 1-10

Played under floodlights at Kelly Park in Portglenone, Tír Na nÓg Randalstown deservedly claimed this year’s Intermediate Championship title after seeing off All Saints with seven points to spare.

 After claiming the Division Two title earlier in the season, Michael O’Kane’s side had too much for their neighbours and bar a five minute spell in the third quarter, the Ógs were more than comfortable with anything that the All Saints threw at them.

An early Daniel Martin goal helped them to settle quicker into the contest and in half forward Darragh Fagan, they had the games stand out player. Fagan contributed seven points to his cause, but the Randalstown bench also made a telling contribution.

Ciaran Dobbin was introduced after 41 minutes. His goal six minutes after being introduced put paid to any idea of an All Saints comeback after the Slemish Park side cut the arrears from seven to just two.

Dobbin also added a point as the Randalstown men saw the game out in convincing fashion to book an Ulster championship date with Saturday’s opponents, Carrickcruppen.

Tir na nOg are a solid outfit right through from goalkeeper, Sean Paul McAtamney to Kevin Sheerin on the edge of the square and have serious performers all over the field. Barry McCormick at centre-half-back captains the side and leads by example while Ciaran O’Neill and Caoimhin Duffin flank him in a strong unit.

McCormick’s brother Darren and Ryan O’Neill are likely to line out at mid-field and in the previously mentioned Darragh Fagan, Aaron McNeilly, Daniel Martin and Ciaran Dobbin they have a serious scoring threat.

Fagan finished with 0-7 against All Saints in the final while Dobbin added 1-1 when coming on from a strong bench which included Christy Sheerin and Eamon Og McAllister.

What of Carrickcruppen?

Armagh always produce strong contenders in this grade and Carrickcruppen will provide the Antrim champions with a firm test after a good win over Culloville in the county final.

Cruppen had their homework done, they marked Culloville’s key men out of the game and had the finishers at the other end of the pitch as well as a touch of luck for the all-important goal.

Oisin O’Hare and James Bennett were solid in the Carrickcruppen defence and O’Hare did a brilliant job on marking Culloville’s talisman Niall Rowland.

Blaine Hughes in goals is the Armagh county keeper and weighed in with four pointed frees against Cullovillle while Eoin Woods, Tiernan Kelly, Stephen Loughran and Cathal O’Grady were all on target against the ‘Blues’

It’s been 17 years since Carrickcruppen last won the Armagh Intermediate title and Carrickcruppen manager Barry Flynn, who manages alongside Paul Cunningham, was delighted with the win and the prospect of playing in Ulster was as far away as ever only three seasons ago.

Carricruppen were in Division 2B at that stage and struggling so this year’s success is all the more remarkable but never the less deserved and they will be hoping to keep that winning run going on Saturday.

It’s been a while since the either side has kicked a ball in earnest with Tir na nOgs win over All Saints coming on the 30th October and Carrickcruppen’s success coming in early November and just how these long lay-offs affect the competing sides remains to be seen.

Michael O’Kane and Seamus Hefferon will have the Whitehill side well prepared however and while they should respect the Armagh champions they have nothing to fear. Tir na nOg have been excellent all season and if they can build on their Antrim final performance then I would expect them to advance to the semi-final.

Oisins Juvenile Awards night

Glenariffe Oisins juveniles celebrated what has been a terrific season when they held their annual awards evening in the Larragh Lodge Restaurant on Saturday. The Under 15 team who this season won all five competitions they entered were the stars of the evening, picking up the county Feile na nGael trophy, the All Ireland Feile, the McMullan Cup, the League and Under 15 Championship. The Under 12 girls were also collecting silverware with U12 captain Scarlet Kerr receiving the Scullion Cup.