This is a photograph of an Antrim team who played Down in Newcastle in 1959, sent to us by one of our deicated photographers, Bert Trowlen. Bert has been informed that there were 4500 at the game and that Down won 4-9 to 1-3.
I’m giving away my age but I recognise Jim McCorry from Glenavy and Colum O’Loan and Liam Forde from my Glenravel days. How many can you recognise.
After the high of reaching the All Ireland final there was a great buzz about the North Antrim dinner in 1989. Jim Nelson and Peter Finn and hurling board chairman Fergus McNaughton were among the guests. Loughgiel had bridged a seven year gap to win back the Senior Championship and the Cushendall juvenile teams were going strong.
Just a few weeks ago Antrim supporters were looking forward to a trip to Wicklow for a National Football league game. Not a fixture that would normally have seen the Saffron followers travel in great numbers to the Garden County but this one was different.
The long suffering Antrim supporters had seen their dreams of promotion from division 4 shattered a number of times in recent years but a superb win on day five of this year’s league campaign brought about a confidence that this year we would get the job done.
There have been many false dawns before of course but that victory over previously unbeaten Limerick at Portglenone and more importantly, the manner of the victory was the reason for the new feel good factor.
A win away to Wicklow would have seen Lenny Harbinson’s side with one foot in division 3 and with just one more game after that, at home to Waterford it was looking good for the Saffrons.
Covid-19 put Antrim’s promotion hopes on temporary hold and what will happen if or when the leagues resume is open to much speculation and at present we have much more urgent and compelling matters to think about as we deal with this terrible pandemic.
Harbison and Frank Fitzsimmons before him, have done a good job in difficult circumstances in rebuilding an Antrim side who have been starved of success since those heady days of 2009 and 2010 where Antrim reached an Ulster Championship final and gained promotion to division 2.
Today we are going to look back at that memorable 2010 NFL campaign which saw ‘Baker’ Bradley’s side beat Sligo at Casement Park in their opening game and go on to top the division 3 table before losing to the Yates County in the league final at Croke Park.
Paddy Cunningham has been recalled to the Antrim panel this year as was Michael and Thomas McCann and all three were prominent in the 2010 campaign. Cunningham scored 1-5 in that opening game against Sligo on February 7th while Michael McCann weighed in with three points as the Saffrons prevailed 1-12 to 0-14 winners against a very good Sligo team.
Antrim Scorers v Sligo:
P Cunningham 1-5 (1-0 pen, 2f); M McCann 0-3 (1f); D O’Hagan, C Close, M Magill, G O’Boyle 0-1 each.
It was away to Breffni Park on day two and Antrim proved much too good for a Cavan side who had suffered defeat to them in the 2009 Ulster semi-final and this win proved even more emphatic than the championship win in Clones. Cunningham matched his 1-5 from day one with 0-8 while Thomas McCann impressed with 1-3 with his Cargin colleagues, Michael Magill 1-0, Michael McCann and Tony Scullion completing the scoring.
Antrim scorers v Cavan:
P Cunningham 0-8 (4f), T McCann 1-3, M Magill 1-0, M McCann, T Scullion 0-1 each
Antrim had certainly hit the ground running and when Fermanagh visited on March 6th they had no answer to a slick moving Saffron side who continued to impress as they remained top of the division, Paddy Cunningham continued to find the target, both from play and frees and added 0-7 to bring his tally to 1-20 in three games with the Cargin contingent again to the fore and James Loughery and Conor Murray getting their name on the score-sheet.
Antrim Scorers v Fermanagh:
P Cunningham 0-7 (0-4f), M Magill, T McCann 0-2 each, G O’Boyle, C Close, J Loughrey, K O’Boyle, C Murray 0-1 each
The Saffrons appeared to be facing their toughest test since round 1 when they made the long journey to Hyde Park to face Roscommon on day four of the league and so it proved to be but Baker’s men prevailed in a tight encounter running out 0-14 to 0-12 winners. Again the irrepressible Cunningham led the way with 0-9 as expectations of promotion to division 2 grew.
Antrim Scorers v Roscommon:
P Cunningham 0-9 (0-5f), M McCann, K Close 0-2 each, M Magill, J Crozier, J Loughery 0-1 each
Those promotion hopes took their first setback when they hit the road again for another away fixture against Offaly and despite a Paddy Cunningham goal from the penalty spot it was the Leinster side who prevailed by the narrowest of margins, 1-8 to 1-7.
Antrim Scorers v Offaly:
P Cunningham 1-6 (1-0 pen, 0-3f), B Herron, C Close 0-1 each
It was back to Casement on day six with Antrim determined to get back to winning was following their setback against Offaly when the ‘Wee’ county visited. Louth had been going well in the league and a win in Belfast would have kept them very much in the promotion race but they came up against an Antrim side who’s pride had been wounded in Offaly.
Cunningham’s fine vein of scoring continued with another 1-6 and a goal from Justin Crozier propelled Antrim to a convincing 2-14 to 2-6 win over a Louth side who battled hard but were well beaten in the end.
Antrim Scorers v Louth:
P Cunningham 1-6 (5f), M McCann 0-3, J Crozier 1-0, G O’Boyle, T McCann 0-2 each, K Niblock 0-1
Antrim’s final game in the 2010 saw them travel to Wexford with nothing less than a massive defeat guaranteeing them a place in the 2010 division 3 final. Despite a determined performance by a Ciaran Lyng led Wexford, the visitors kept in touch right to the final whistle before losing their second game of the campaign 1-11 to 0-12 but still topped the table on score difference to join Sligo in the league final.
Antrim Scorers v Wexford:
P Cunningham 0-4 (0-3f), M McCann, B Herron 0-2 each, T O’Neill, J Loughrey, G O’Boyle, T McCann 0-1 each
Sligo gained revenge for that opening day defeat in Belfast when they defeated Antrim in that 2010 league final in Croke Park but promotion to division 2 had been secured and the future of Antrim football looked bright.
Things have slipped since then with a lot of that very good Antrim side stepping away from duty and today the Saffrons play their football in division 4. Antrim have come close to a promotion place over the last number of years and hopefully when we get over the Coronavirus they can regain the momentum that was very much with them prior to the postponement of the leagues and gain that much needed promotion to division 3.
A COUPLE of weeks ago, the plans were falling into place for Chloe Drain to have a dream 2020.
The Dunloy stalwart had played a leading role at full-back on Sunday March 8th as Antrim beat 2019 Division Two league champions Tipperary by an impressive 5-13 to 1-6 to almost guarantee the Saffrons a league semi-final for the first time in quite a few years.
Her hen-party was set for the following weekend (just before St Patrick’s Day), and all left to do ahead of her Easter Monday wedding was to dot an “i” or two and cross a couple of “ts”.
Then Covid-19 entered the equation – resulting in a completely different hen-party, her wedding to Kevin McShane postponed and no camogie for the foreseeable future.
“It has just been surreal how everything has changed in such a short time. To be honest Kevin and l were a little worried about the wedding with Covid-19 spreading and talked about the what ifs. But we never imagined that the impact would be so big, nor that there would be a near-enough total lock-down.
“We had set our wedding date around camogie – and football – plans and probably were thinking that the worst that could happen was that a match-date would have to switch to Easter Monday because of the weather.”
Kevin is a member of the Cargin team that completed back to back Antrim championship titles under Damian Cassidy last year, while Chloe has seen Antrim camogie fortunes suddenly surge under the new management team of Paul McKillen and Jim McKernan.
“Everything was going great with Antrim. I think Humpy and Jingo have been such a breath of fresh air this year. Training had become so focussed, the atmosphere in the changing room was so good – just the right mix between craic, fun and focus. And all that was beginning to show in results on the pitch.”
Despite games being called off due to Storms Ciara and Dennis, the Saffrons had built on a strong showing in the opening game against Dublin, by picking up a surprisingly easy win over Tipperary.
“We still have Laois to play, but such is our score-difference, it will take a massive win for either Tipperary or Dublin and a bad defeat for us to deny us a semi-final spot. Little did we think that worse was around the corner. I doubt now the league will actually finish.”
Just four days after the Tipp game came the announcement that all games and training have been postponed until the end of March – but more than likely for the rest of the spring and into the summer.
Drain, a PE teacher in St Louis Grammar in Ballymena, has also seen the end of preparations to defend the Ulster under 14 schools’ crown.
“St Louis won the Ulster under 14 A title last year for the very first time and there was a great buzz about the school with training over the past month or more. We were due to play our first game last week.
“We beat St Patrick’s Maghera in the final last year, and that was a big breakthrough for the school.”
Coaching the Maghera team in that final last May was Chloe’s Antrim team-mate Niamh Donnelly who also happens to be her bridesmaid.
“Niamh had organised a great hen weekend for Kilkenny just before St Patrick’s Day and that had to be shelved with just a day’s notice. We ended up with a house party instead.
“Then there was the uncertainty about the wedding which we eventually got postponed until the middle of November. I would say there might still be a trip to Kilkenny, if this Covid-19 allows life to get back to normal.”
“To be honest, I am not sure whether I was more upset about the wedding or the camogie – but don’t tell anyone that!”
However Chloe and Kevin were not the only GAA couple whose wedding fell foul to Covid 19, three others in Antrim GAA, all of whom originally went for Easter Monday as their original date, were also affected.
Former Antrim camog and gaelic footballer Mairiosa McGourty from St Gall’s and her fiancée Christopher ‘Cricky’ McGuinness from Rossa had also planned to tie the knot on Easter Monday, with their reception in Ten Square in Belfast. Cricky, himself a former county hurler, and still a major cog in the Rossa senior team was obviously deeply disappointed at the postponement but was philosophical about the whole thing
“Its disappointing that we had to postpone the wedding at a late stage but in the context of the current climate it seems like a minor obstacle. Trying to put a positive spin on it, we now have a Christmas themed Wedding to look forward to…. however working from home feels like the marriage test has already started!!’’
Brona McIntyre and Peter McCollum had originally decided on the Easter Monday slot, but because of a clash they decided to go for the following weekend, with the reception planned for the Mill Park in Donegal town. Bróna is a dyed in the wool Shamrock and Pete is Creggan to the bone and their son Cillian is a confused young man, not knowing whether he will dress in the green and gold of Kickham’s or the red and white of Loughgiel when is sets out in the morning. That is usually determined by what grandparents he is going to visit on a particular day. It’s not good to turn up at Tony McCollum’s house wearing the Shamrocks kit, to pop over to Tommy McIntyre’s sporting the Creggan gear. Just like the other couples Bróna looked at the big picture
“It’s just annoying all the planning that had went into it for the last 2 years we were at the point where we were just double checking the last few things, everything was ready to go. Like Chloe and Kevin, Peter and I had planned the wedding round the GAA season so trying to find another date was difficult. We have ended up pushing it back by 8 months in the hope that everything Covid-19 has settled. We had to try and ensure everything we had booked was ok to go again in November and we were aware that was going to be difficult. Thankfully everybody apart from our band The Hype was available. Everyone was really understanding. Our reception is in The Mill Park in Donegal town so we only had 8 dates between now and the end of the year to choose from, but they were great and worked with us no problem.
We got another band booked thankfully, but they said they had been getting constant enquiries within the last week. We took the decision ourselves to postpone before it was enforced on us. That way it gave us a couple of extra days to help get organised”
At least Aimee McAtamney and Kevin Sheerin don’t have to worry about crossing clubs like the other three couples. Both of them are Tir na nOg Randalstown and have known each other since they were children playing at the club pitches at Whitehill. They were also Easter Monday and like Bróna and Pete they were heading to Donegal for the reception, the Clanree in Letterkenny the venue of their choice. Like Bróna the only thing they couldn’t re-book was the band and Aimee is equally disappointed about that
“I’m gutted to have to give up the Rare Auld Stuff but it is what it is.Taking the decision to reschedule before being forced to helped, as we were ahead of the game searching for a new date to match all of our bookings. Unfortunately we had to search for a new band. We hope that when the GAA season gets back up and going we will not run into any potential clashes. In the current pandemic, everyone’s health and well-being is much more important to us and we just hope this will pass as quickly as it came and we get to enjoy an end of summer wedding.”
Ten years ago I attended a ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ evening in Tullyglass. The event was a fund raiser for Erin’s Own Cargin and attracted a large crowd to the Ballymena venue and today we revisit the night with a pictorial of the evening.
There were many movers and shakers taking part in what was an excellent event with dancers going through an extensive period of coaching prior to the event and the dancing on the evening was of a very high standard.
Each dancing couple had their own team of supporters shouting their encouragement for their heroes and many of them carried banners supporting their respective dance teams.
Some of the dancing feet in action that night were playing their football with the Cargin club at the time and a good number of them are still strutting their stuff on the football field for the Toome club so sit back and take a look at some of the action on the evening in Tullyglass in 2010.