Trip to Longford not a dead rubber-McEntee

Longford v Antrim

Allianz NFL Division 3

Glennon Bros Pearse Park Sunday 2.00pm

Antrim’s spectacular win over league toppers, Cavan at Corrigan Park last Saturday earned them a place in division 3 for the 2024 season and removed he pressure of travelling to Pearse Park in Longford needing a win to preserve their division 3 status

However when I spoke to manager, Andy McEntee after the Cavan game he told me that he didn’t regard Sunday’s visit to Longford as a dead rubber but rather as an opportunity to build momentum as they prepare for their Ulster championship opener against Armagh in a couple of weeks-time.

Antrim were forced to make a number of changes for the Cavan game because of injuries to key players with Jack Dowling and Patrick McCormick coming into the starting line-up and Paddy McBride returning after a lengthy layoff because of a finger injury and McEntee hinted that these players deserve another chance, given the Cavan result.

Declan Lynch was another who returned to the Antrim side and had an excellent game at full-back while Peter Healey and Seamus McGarry saw some late action and Pat Shivers, Ryan Murray and Conor Stewart will be amongst those hoping to get some game time in Longford.

The sides last met on March 12th 2022 when Antrim were still pushing for a promotion place and Antrim recorded a good win that day at Corrigan Park but in the end missed out on promotion.

Five years earlier the sides met at the same venue with division 3 survival the prize and on that occasion with Longford emerging as winners by a single point.

Today we look back at those two games and the reports that appeared in the Saffron Gael as we look forward to the trip to Pearse Park and hopefully another win to build on the Cavan result.

Longford are already relegated but put up a mighty fight against Down in Newry last time out and will be playing for pride and Antrim should not take them lightly but I feel the Saffrons can build on last week’s win and finish their campaign on a high

Antrim v Longford

April 2017

Antrim and Longford met in the National League back in April 2017 with division 3 survival very much the prize for both sides.

Both teams were sitting on four points with Laois and Offaly who met on the same weekend in Tullamore but Antrim had an inferior scoring difference so only a win would do for the Saffrons if they were to avoid the drop.

The Frank Fitzsimmons-Gearoid Adams managed side went into the game on the back of an encouraging display against Armagh the previous Saturday evening. They were well organised and showed impressive reserves of spirit and commitment, but two red cards late on meant they would be without midfielder Stephen Beatty and experienced forward Conor Murray for the Longford game.

Ryan Murray was also out injured but Niall Delargy and Sean McVeigh were expected to start after coming on against the Orchard men while rookies Sean Pat Donnelly, Conor Donnelly and Seamus McGarry were also pushing for places.

The game came too soon for county captain James Lavery but his Cargin club mates Kevin O’Boyle and Tomas McCann had returned to the fold and were expected to make a contribution in the crucial encounter.

Longford headed north on the back of a three-point loss to a Laois side Antrim defeated in the preceding round of fixtures. Gearoid Adams said at the time “there’ll be a change of tactics from the defensive set-up against Armagh. I think we need to go for it,” he said.

For the record CJ McGourty scored 0-5 and Mickey Pollock added 0-3 but significantly CJ was off target from a late free that would have earned Antrim a draw.

Allianz National Football League Division Three 

Antrim 1-19-0-12 Longford 

Kevin Herron reports from Corrigan Park 

March 12th 2022

Antrim ensured Division Three survival but more importantly- boosted their hopes of a top-two finish and promotion to the second tier with a 1-19-0-12 win over Longford at Corrigan Park this afternoon. 

An early Tomas McCann goal from a penalty had the hosts in the driving seat early-on with Conor Murray chipping in with four of his sides nine first half scores, though at the other end, a vital save from Oisin Kerr afforded the Saffrons plenty of breathing space at the interval. 

Although Longford did improve after the break, they couldn’t find a way past Kerr with Peter Healy making a goal-line clearance in the visitors most promising moment in the second period and Antrim saw the game out to make it three wins from five and ensure they will be up amongst the contenders for promotion at the league’s conclusion in two-week’s time. 

Enda McGinley was forced into pre-game alterations to his starting fifteen as Dermot McAleese and Martin Johnston were promoted from the bench in place of Kevin Small and Jamie Gribbon. 

The hosts made the ideal start on the Whiterock and within the first 30-seconds had a glorious opening when Tomas McCann fed Odhran Eastwood for an early goal opportunity, though his attack was halted abruptly by Patrick Collum in the Longford goal and referee Niall Cullen signalled for a penalty. 

Tomas McCann took responsibility and confidently rifled high past Collum- who guessed the right way- and Antrim were off the mark. 

McCann notched up his first point of the afternoon a few minutes later after taking the ball from Ryan Murray and swinging a shot between the posts. 

Further scores arrived: Conor Murray claimed an advanced mark and converted from a routine position, Martin Johnston then had his run halted, and Ryan Murray swung over the resulting free and Ruairi McCann claimed a mark out wide and steered it between the posts to give his side a 1-04-0-00 lead. 

Longford kicked the opening point of the second period through first half substitute Oran Kenny, but Ryan Murray kicked his first point from play and Tomas McCann took an off the shoulder pass from Marc Jordan and shifted it high over the bar. 

Jack Duggan got his angles right and landed his first score of the afternoon and a few minutes later his side carved out another goal opportunity. 

Like the chance in the first half, it came after a pointed effort came off the large upright, this time an effort from Darren Gallagher, the loose ball fell to Daniel Reynolds- who only entered the fray 60-seconds before and despite Oisin Kerr narrowing the angle, Reynolds got a shot towards goal, which was cleared on the line by captain Peter Healy. 

Odhran Eastwood and Jayson Matthews traded scores from frees and Eastwood would double his account after a neat interchange with Michael McCann as Antrim were 1-15-0-06 to the good with a quarter of an hour remaining. 

Matthews would follow-up with his second point from a free and then substitute Mark Hughes popped over a second score in succession for the visitors. 

Enda McGinley began to run his bench and the introduction of Pat Shivers yielded two further scores. The Cargin forward carried on from his eight league points at Hannahstown last weekend with a score 60-seconds after his introduction. 

Cian Dooner produced a fantastic score in response, though the Saffrons hit three on the bounce- Conor Murray adding to his four first half points with another two from play with Shivers squeezing over his second in-between times. 

The visitors replied with three points of their own, Dooner conjuring up his second in quick succession with Oran Kenny and Jayson Matthews converting the last two from frees. 

Both sides would end the encounter a man light after Dermot McAleese was shown a black-card in injury-time and then Eoghan McCormack was given his marching orders for a second yellow-card offence. 

It mattered little in the grand scheme of things as Antrim were convincing 1-19-0-12 winners at the conclusion and keep alive their hopes of promotion going into the final two games of the campaign away to Louth and home to Westmeath. 

Antrim: O Kerr, E McCabe, R Johnston, P Healy, P McAleer, J Laverty, M Jordan (0-01), M McCann, D McAleese, R Murray (0-03, 0-02f), M Johnston, C Murray (0-06, 0-02m, 0-01f), T McCann (1-03, 1-00p), R McCann (0-02, 0-01m, 0-01f), O Eastwood (0-02, 0-01f). Subs:

J McCann for P McAleer (HT), B McCormick for M McCann (57), P Shivers (0-02) for M Johnston (60), P McCormick for R Murray (64), E Hynds for T McCann (69). 

Longford: P Collum, P Fox, A Farrell, B O’Farrell, J Moran, PJ Masterson, I O’Sullivan, R Moffett, D Gallagher (0-03f), J Hagan, J Duggan (0-01), D Farrell, E McCormack, J Matthews (0-03f), A McGuire. Subs: O Kenny (0-02, 0-01f) for D Farrell (32), D Reynolds for A McGuire (45), K Diffley for R Moffett (47), M Hughes (0-01) for J Hagan (51), C Dooner (0-02) for Duggan (57). 

Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh) 

The Saffron Gael speaks to Andy McEntee

After Saturday’s thrilling win over Cavan on Saturday I spoke to Antrim manager, Andy McEntee. The former Meath man was obviously delighted by his side’s performance and the result on the day and was only too willing to share his thoughts on the game, on the rest of the league campaign and just where he though Antrim football was at and is going after his first year in charge

Andy McEntee Interview

Saffron Gael: Andy thank you first of all for agreeing to speak to us and congratulations on securing division 3 status for next year with that splendid win over Cavan. What were your thoughts going into that game and your feelings after that win?

Andy McEntee: It was hard to know exactly where the lads were at after the heavy defeat to Westmeath last day out coupled with the large amount of injuries we had. I suppose we really tried to focus on getting a performance from the lads and let’s see where that gets us. We knew that the Westmeath game didn’t represent where we have been in the majority of games in the league to date and just tried to get back to doing the right thing and showing the right attitude. We were all delighted with the game but also with the way the lads played the game. They showed great character- especially when we conceded the second goal. I know everyone was thinking “here we go again” but to go up the field and get the last score was huge.

Saffron Gael: As a photographer-reporter and an ardent Antrim supporter I’ve been through the wide range of emotions that probably you and your backroom staff have experienced this year. There were the games where we played well in spells and actually outplayed Offaly for half a game, Down for 50 odd minutes and Fermanagh for a similar period of time and as I look this morning at this weekend’s fixtures and our trip to Longford I’m thinking we could have been aiming for promotion if things had went our way. What’s your thoughts?

Andy McEntee: Absolutely agree. The truth is we could very possibly be sitting on 8 points and even 10 points going into the last game where we would be playing for promotion. But that’s how tight the league is and the importance of playing to the final whistle. We need to get used to winning and a lot of the panel are relatively new to inter-county football. The lesson is plain and simple – you have to keep your focus and play to the end. Experience plays a big role and perhaps you need to go through those heart breaking losses to get hardened to the reality of sport at this level.

Saffron Gael: When I looked at Saturday’s starting line-up against Cavan the thought occurred to me that perhaps we were holding a few back with the thought that Longford was going to be a must win for us and to be honest I wasn’t looking forward to that trip if that had been the case. Having attended the Offaly, Down and Fermanagh games, and given the fact that we lost so heavily in Mullingar I had a feeling that we might come up against an over confident Cavan and that we could get a result. What’s your thoughts on it?

Andy McEntee: I can see where you were coming from but the truth is that any of the lads that were left out of starting line-up were left out for a reason, they were injured. I suppose there was always the possibility that Cavan might have underestimated us, which was understandable given the score-line v Westmeath but we could only control how we approached the game and as you would have seen, anyone who wore an Antrim jersey on Saturday went out to win the game.

Saffron Gael: The trip to Longford doesn’t have the same significance as what it would have had if we had lost to Cavan. Will you see it as an opportunity to give some of the fringe player’s game time or with the championship just a few weeks away or do you see it as an opportunity to build further confidence in the run up to that one?

Andy McEntee: It’s an important game for us in that we want to get used to winning. We haven’t decided on a line up yet but it would be harsh not to reward the lads who played so well on Saturday.

Saffron Gael: You came into the Antrim job not knowing too much about Antrim players and deprived of quite a few of the more experienced players from previous years. I know you carried out quite a few trials and training sessions and had a couple of run outs in the McKenna Cup in a relatively short time. I thought at the beginning of this year’s league campaign when I looked at the fixtures that division 3 survival would be success and we have achieved that and might have had much more. What do you think?

Andy McEntee: There is no doubt that survival was hugely important for the group and for Antrim football. However I would have to say that I fancied our chances of getting promoted at the start of the campaign and as the games have shown, it wouldn’t have taken an awful lot more for us to be in division 2 next year. Having said that, we still have a lot of football to play and a lot of work to do.

Saffron Gael: Finally Andy give us your thoughts on how the season has turned out to date and how you see Antrim football progressing in the coming season. Your thoughts on the forthcoming Ulster Championship game away to Armagh and your thoughts on the development of the side in your first year in charge?

Andy McEntee: They say that the tables don’t lie but I do feel that they don’t tell the full story either. There is no doubt that we let a couple of games slip that would have put a totally different look on the league campaign. We have been hit with a large number of injuries in the last month, at one stage we had 15 out of 37 players out injured, but as you have seen from the Cavan game it gave us the opportunity to look at players who might not have played otherwise.

That can only be of benefit to us in the long term. Looking forward to the Armagh game we would hope to have a full hand to play with and hopefully be in a position to put in the type of performance that we are capable of. I think the lads have put in a huge amount of work to date and they have developed physically as a result. However we are definitely playing catch up in this area and it will be vital that they continue this development throughout the rest of the year so that we can come back stronger next year. It will be vital to increase the quantum of players capable of playing at this standard.

Saffron Gael: We at the Saffron Gael thank Andy McEntee for taking the time to speak to us and wish our footballers all the best in Longford on Sunday and in their forthcoming championship game away to Armagh.

Despite finishing just clear of relegation it has been an exciting season for me personally, a season of what might have been rather than the one it is. It’s not over yet and I’m personally looking forward to the visit to Armagh where I know, we will be massive underdogs.

If we can put all the best phases of our play in games throughout the league together at the Athletic Grounds then we might not be too far away.

In the meantime we wish Andy and his backroom team all the best in the future. It seems to me that we are a project in progress and I’ve been impressed by the buy-in to that project and I believe the future can be bright for Antrim football if that buy-in continues.

Goals the difference as All Saints claim the points at the Bear Pit

ACFL Division 2

Sarsfields 0-7 All Saints 3-3

All Saints travelled to the Bear Pit on Sunday seeking to extend their unbeaten start to season.  Sarsfields are yet to register any points on board from their 2 previous outings with both teams missing key players at this early stage of the season. 

Sarsfields registered seven scores to the visitors six but three of the All Saints scores were goals and in the end that proved to be the difference. All Saints dominated the early exchanges but it took 12 minutes before a white flag was raised with Sarsfields registering the first score of the game. 

In an uninspiring 1st half, both teams struggled to get many scores on the board. All Saints scored the only goal of the first half in a low scoring encounter with youngster Darach Bradley finishing well midway through the first half.  Brendan McDonnell added their only point from a free in a low scoring drab encounter with the half time score 1-1 to 0-3 in favour of the visitors.

The second half continued in a similar pattern to the first with both teams struggling for scores though things improved as the half progressed.

Sarsfields enjoyed good spells of possession at times but struggled to create scoring opportunities to get through a resolute All Saints defence but managed to add four to their first half total.  

All Saints were always able to keep their noses in front however throughout the 2nd half with further scores coming from Benny McDonnell and goals apiece from James McDonnell and substitute Paul O Boyle ensuring them the victory.

Sarsfields have yet to register points on the league table and All Saints continue as one of the early front runners but will need to improve considerably if they are to maintain this position come the business end of season. 

All Saints:

Ryan Stewart

James McDonnell (1.0)

James Gillan

Cal O Brien

Pat Ferris

Sean McVeigh

Ciaran McGarry

Luke O Rawe

Emmet Killough

Matty Downey

Conal Lemon

Darach Bradley (1.0)

Brendan McDonnell (0.3)

Peter McReynolds

Shea O Brien


Eoin Campbell

Ronan McKillop

Paul O Boyle (1.0)

Conor Brennan 

Lámhs edge tight affair in Hannahstown

ACFL Division One 

Lámh Dhearg 1-08-0-10 Cargin 

Kevin Herron reports from Hannahstown 

Shaun McManus struck the winning point six-minutes from time as Lámh Dhearg claimed their first league win of the season with a hard fought 1-08-0-10 victory over Cargin at Hannahstown on Sunday morning. 

Both sides had early goal chances with Rhys Camlin make an outstanding acrobatic save to deny a certain goal. 

At the other end Michael Hynes saw his shot clip the base of the post and Adam Murray shot was parried by the foot of Shea Laverty. 

It was Cargin who would make the breakthrough on the scoreboard, Ciaran Bradley and Paudie McLaughlin curling over from play and Bradley adding another from a free. 

Terry McCrudden would get the hosts off the mark with a point from play a quarter of an hour in, though Bradley re-established his side’s three-point advantage, converting his second free of the half. 

The sides traded further scores with Declan Lynch claiming a mark and converting, Bradley replied with a sensational score with the outside of his boot to bring his personal tally to four points. 

An injury to Kieran Fay-Kelly saw responsibility for the placed ball passed to Adam Murray and the 18-year-old would close the deficit to a single point thanks to successive kicks. 

Just before the break talisman Bradley kicked his second free of the half to ensure that Cargin held a 0-06-0-04 lead at the midway point. 

The visitors increased their lead in the early stages of the second period, substitute John McNabb took control of a popped pass forward and guided his shot between the posts. 

However, the Lámhs pulled level in fortuitous circumstances. Terry McCrudden’s pass with the outside of the boot was taken down by Adam Murray and Ciaran Boyd tried his luck with a high shot that Declan Dunne tried to help goalward, only from Boyd’s shot to bounce over keeper Laverty and into the net to level the game at 1-04-0-07. 

Half-time substitute Dunne may have found a second moments later, though his quickly taken close-range free whistled past the post. 

A further goal opportunity went a begging when Niall McGarry fed Carl Maxwell and he immediately picked out the run of Declan Lynch who opted to pop the ball to Conor Murray whose fisted effort was blocked on the goal line. 

Ciaran Bradley restored his sides lead through a converted free- his third of the morning, but Ben Rice conjured a magnificent reply to restore parity. 

Lámh Dhearg hit the front for the first time in proceedings when Terry McCrudden picked out the run of Carl Maxwell and he shot over to give his side a 1-06-0-08 lead. 

James Lavery would tie things up though an impressive point at the other end and Ciaran Bradley then converted his fourth free, bringing his tally to seven in the process. 

It was level pegging again in Hannahstown after Conor Murray traded passes with Declan Lynch and then squeezed an angled effort between the posts. 

The winner would arrive with seven minutes remaining, Conor Murray combined with Niall McGarry, and he picked out Shaun McManus on the loop to swing over a magnificent point that edged the hosts 1-08-0-10 ahead. 

Cargin had the chance to salvage a share of the spoils, but John McNabb dropped a tricky free short against the wind. 

A further opportunity would present itself with the final kick of the game, though the ball tailed wide and Lámh Dhearg would survive to claim their first league victory of the season after three attempts. 

Lámh Dhearg: R Camlin, N McGarry, C Nolan, D Smith, D Martin, B Rice (0-01), M Hynes, S McManus (0-01), C Murray (0-01), A Byrne, K Fay-Kelly, C Maxwell (0-01), T McCrudden (0-01), D Lynch (0-01m), A Murray (0-02f). Subs: C Boyd for K Fay-Kelly (14), D Dunne for M Hynes (HT). 

Cargin: S Laverty, S Og Quinn, R Gribbin, H O’Donnell, B McLarnon, B Laverty, S Og O’Neill, O Molloy, G McCann, J Carron, J Laverty (0-01), C Bradley (0-07, 0-04f), E McGrogan, P McLaughlin (0-01), PJ Quinn. Subs: J McNabb (0-01). 

Referee: Kevin Parke (Naomh Eanna)

Quick return to Division 2 on course for Rasharkin

ACFL Division 3

Rasharkin 0-10 Na Piarsaigh 0-06

St. Mary’s Rasharkin have made a good start to life in division 3 following relegation from division 2 last year with their priority to make a quick return to the higher grade getting off to a positive start.

The visitors to Cliftonville started off brightly and within a minute Tiernan O’Boyle had slotted over but Pearses levelled on 6 minutes and last year’s Junior Champions clearly had promotion ambitions themselves.

The Dreen side were quickest to settle however and added points through James Higgins and a collector’s item from Thomas McMullan but Pearses were quick to react as they replied with two of their own to bring it all square for a second time.

At this stage St. Mary’s found another gear and in a good 5 minute period of dominance they raised the white flag 3 times through Shane Hasson, Eamonn McNeill and Oisin Casey before Tiernan O’Boyle  split the posts from a ‘45’ to edge his side three ahead.

Both sides registered points in the closing minutes of the half with Tiernan OBoyle on target for Rasharkin to leave three between the sides as the half time whistle sounded.

Half time: Rasharkin 0-07 pearses 0-04

Tiernan O’Boyle extended the Rasharkin lead to four on the restart but the North Belfast side then enjoyed a period of supremacy but found it difficult to penetrate a strong Rasharkin defence.

The Dreen side looked in a bit of trouble when they lost Daniel Doherty to a Red card in the 48th minute but they dug deep to contain a Pearses attack who were enjoying a good deal of possession at this stage.

That possession finally paid off when the Belfast side fired over to close the gap to three but St. Mary’s closed shop at this stage and Oisin Casey fired over the insurance point to ensure there would be no way back for Na Piarsaigh.

Rasharkin: 1 Andrew Hasson, 2 Daniel Doherty, 3 Emmett McFerran, 4 Conor Hasson, 5 Fearghal Kennedy, 6 Donagh Quigg, 7 Fergus Quigg, 8 Ruairi O’Boyle, 9 Thomas McMullan, 10 James Higgins, 11 Eamonn McNeill, 12 Oran McMullan, 13 Shane Hasson,

14 Tiernan O’Boyle, 15 Oisin Casey.

Subs used: Colm Kennedy for James Higgins

Subs not used: Conor Higgins, Pearse McTague, Cormac McMullan, Gerard O’Hagan

Rasharkin Scorer:

Tiernan O’Boyle 0-04

Oisin Casey 0-02

James Higgins 0-01

Thomas McMullan 0-01

Shane Hasson 0-01

Eamonn McNeill 0-01