‘Light Up the Pitch for Paul’ this Saturday

Nicola McKeever, wife of former Portglenone and Antrim footballer, Paul McKeever R.I.P. has called upon clubs across the North to light up their pitches this Saturday night in memory of her husband.

Paul’s local club, Casement’s Portglenone started the initiative a year ago and clubs across the country reacted to the call to ‘Light up the Pitch for Paul’ and Mrs. McKeever called on as many clubs as possible to take part this Saturday night.

Paul McKeever, a father of three died three months after being diagnose with a yolk sac tumour – a rare, malignant tumour of cells.

Mr McKeever represented Casement’s and Antrim during a successful playing career which saw him represent Antrim at both minor and under-21 level and was a member of the ground-breaking Sean Stinson’s minor team which won four Antrim minor championships between 1995-1998.

When Paul was forced to give up playing after sustaining a serious injury he took up a very successful career as a referee and became one of Antrim’s top whistlers, going on to referee at Ulster level and appeared to be heading for an inter-county career when his illness struck.

He remained deeply involved with Roger Casements GAC, where he served on the committee and coached underage teams.

A Gaelic football tournament will also be held to raise funds for charities that have helped the family since Mr McKeever’s death. Paul’s son Conor will be on one of the teams taking part in the youth tournament.

On Saturday, eight youth teams will participate in the tournament in his memory and at 7pm, two of Mr McKeever’s children will switch on the floodlights at the pitch.

Mrs McKeever said: “We hope that as many GAA clubs and other sports clubs get involved and light up their pitches, not just in memory of Paul, but for all those loved ones who have died.

“There’s been so many deaths and illness, especially over the last year, we want to remember all the loved ones lost.”

It is the second time a tournament has been organised in honour of Mr McKeever, with all proceeds raised going to Cancer Focus NI and S.T.E.P.S.

Reserve Football Cup and Shield final on Saturday

Both finals of the Reserve Football Cup and Reserve Football Shield are scheduled for this Saturday and both fixtures have the potential to provide excellent entertainment and close finishes.

St. Brigid’s face St. Gall’s in the Reserve Football final at Davitt’s while neighbours Aldergrove and Glenavy meet in what could be a tasty Shield finals at Dunsilly.

Reserve Cup Final

St. Brigid’s v St. Gall’s (Davitt’s Park 4-00pm Saturday)

Both St. Brigid’s and St. Gall’s were impressive in their semi-final wins over Creggan and Portglenone respectively and there are strong arguments in citing both as favourites for Saturday’s final at Davitt’s but I’m going to sit on the fence on that one.

An injury time goal from mid fielder Conor Slevin following a mistake in the Creggan defence saw St Brigid’s secure their place in Saturday’s final following an excellent semi-final at Dunsilly. Nothing separated the sides in the opening period but it was the South Belfast men who got away to a flyer with points from Peter Webb and Conor Slevin sandwiching a 3rd minute Damien Magee goal.

It was nip and tuck for most of the way but St. Brigid’s finished the stronger with Slevin’s goal and a late point from Peter Webb securing victory and were worthy winners in the end and will go into Saturday’s decider with confidence.

In the second semi-final at the same venue back to back goals from the impressive Brendan Bradley and Barry McCaffrey in the third quarter fired St. Gall’s to victory in their semi-final win over Casement’s

The lower Fall’s side gained an early numerical advantage when Casement’s had a man dismissed after only 12 minutes but the South West side remained very much in contention until that double strike just prior to the second water break.

St. Gall’s pushed on to finish well on top and a Barra McCaffrey point concluded the scoring and saw the Milltown men finish comfortable 2-10 to 0-7 winners.

Daniel Foster, Rueben Carelton, Conor Slevin, Cathal Conway, Peter Webb, Darragh Fox, Marcus Lunch and Toirleach Brolly are the men who will carry the St. Brigid’s challenge while Jack Hopkins, Ruairi Wilson, Conall McGirr, Caolan Chada, Brendan Bradley, Barra McCaffery and Niall Burns are the men who can clinch it for St. Gall’s.

St Brigid’s v Creggan: Kevin McGovern, Sean Mc Kernan, Daniel Foster, Joe Mc Carney, Thomas Mc Carney, Rueben Carelton, Peter Lundy, Conor Slevin, Cathal Conway, Niall Lundy, Peter Webb, Ben Doherty, Damien Magee, Darragh Fox, Marcus Lynch

Subs: Toirleach Brolly

Donal Bradley

Donal Harrison

Diarmuid Mc Laughlin

St Gall’s v Portglenone: Niall Mc Curdy, Fergus Donnelly, Jack Hopkins, Eoghan Mc Curdy, Dualtach Mac Liam (0-05), Ruairi Wilson, Conall Mc Girr, Conor Ryan, Caolan Chada (0-01),Michael Hopkins (0-010, Brendan Bradley (1-02), Dara Delaney, Barra Mc Caffrey (1-07), Conn Doherty (0-02), Niall Burns (0-01)

Subs

Oran Mc Ilhatton for Jack Hopkins

Matthew Mc Caffrey for Conor Ryan

Conaill Mc Cabe for F Donnelly

Kevin Bradley for B Bradley

Senior Reserve ‘Shield’ Final

St. Joseph’s Glenavy v St. James’ Aldergrove (Dunsilly 4-00pm)

A goal in the 61st minute by late replacement Fearghal Hanna ensured a place in the Senior Reserves Shield final for St James Aldergrove at the expense of Glenravel following an enthralling semi-final encounter at Dunsilly in the semi-final.

The Glensmen had nipped ahead through a 59th minute point from replacement Shanlee Kerr but the Crumlin men responded through Luke Sinclair and when Fearghal Hanna was sent clear by a Conor Morris cross to find the net the die was cast and a place in the decider the reward.

In the other semi-final St. Joseph’s Glenavy and Cuchullain’s Dunloy served up a real thriller at Saturday’s venue. In a game played with real championship intensity play swung from end to end with both sides enjoying periods of supremacy and referee Joe McCavana was kept buy keeping a lid on matters as things heated up in the second half.

David Nelson’s point for St. Joseph’s left the score 1-9 to 0-10 going into the final quarter and the momentum was still very much with the Chapel Hill side but they still had plenty of work to do.

Fergal Green pointed on the restart and when Pearse O’Neill got on the end of a sweet flowing move from deep in their own half to fire to the net in the 21st minute they looked to have taken command.

Holders Dunloy came back strongly however and a penalty goal from Karl Fitzpatrick stepped up to fire past Gareth Collins and leave just one between the sides.

It was to prove to be the game’s final score however and it is Glenavy who will meet neighbours Aldergrove in what is sure to be a tight final.

Oisin McGarry, Michael McCarthy, Chris Browning, Odhran Creaney, Declan Gough, Oisin Graham, Conor Morris and Sean Fay are the men who can lead St. James’ to victory while St. Joseph’s will pin their hopes on Gareth Collins, Tim Honeyford, Francis McMullan, Francis Corr, Dominic Gallagher and Fergus Cunningham to bring the Shield back to Glenavy.

Aldergrove v Glenravel: Oisin Mc Garry, Conor Totten (0-02), Michael Mc Carthy, David Aiken, Chris Browning (0-01), Odhran Creaney, Declan Gough (0-02), Danny Bell, Oisin Graham (0-01), Conleth O’ Toole, Conor Morris (0-05)), Michael Smart, Glen Dunham (0-01), Ryan Mc Carthy (0-01), Sean Fay(0-03)

Subs

Fionn Mc Donagh (1-01) for D Bell

Fearghal Hanna for D Gough

Aaron O’ Connor for S Fay

Luke Sinclair (0-03) for O Creaney

Glenavy v Dunloy: 1 Gareth Collins, 2 Conor Mulholland, 3 Tim Honeyford, 4 Oliver Brankin, 5 Matthew Magee, 6 Francis McMullan, 7 Michael Fox, 8 Michael Kane, 9 Francis Corr, 10 Pearse O’Neill, 11 Dominic Gallagher, 12 Sean Magill, 13 Fergus Cunningham, 14 Stephen Eastwood, 15 David Nelson Subs: 19 Darragh Doherty, 17 Fergal Green 18 Stephen Doone

Fitting send-off for a legend

 “Every day is a blessing,” he said. “Enjoy life. If you can do something to help someone else, then roll up your sleeves and do it.”

That is how Fr Brian McCann concluded his homily at the Requiem mass for former Antrim legend Anto Finnegan at Christ the Redeemer Parish Church in Lagmore on Wednesday. Fr McCann was quoting a line from a newspaper interview Anto had given following his diagnosis with Motor Neuron Disease back in 2012.

The line summed up the man perfectly, always willing to help and do whatever it took to help, in life and on the playing field, be it with Lamh Dhearg, St Paul’s or Antrim.

They came from far and near to say their farewells, ex team-mates and men who had played against him during a great career. GAA President Larry McCarthy, former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, and former Dublin manager Jim Gavin joined the hundreds of mourners as they offered their support and condolences to Anto’s wife Alison, daughter Ava and son Conall.

Former Antrim team mates carry Anto’s on his final journey

Former club and county colleagues carried his coffin, draped in the St Paul’s colours, and it made its way to his last resting place. A fitting farewell for a great man who gave us all so much during his lifetime.

Pics by Seamus Loughran

St Brigid’s edge thrilling league final

South Antrim U-13 Division 1 League Final 

St Brigid’s 3-09-2-08 St Pauls 

Kevin Herron reports from Musgrave Park 

St Brigid’s clinched the U-13 Division 1 football league title after coming out on top in a thrilling final with St Pauls at Musgrave Park on Monday evening. 

St Pauls drew first blood when Dylan Rogers-Duffy dropped in a free that was flicked onto the post and James McDonnell swooped to prod home and give his side the early advantage. 

Eamon Kearney added his sides first point and McDonnell swung over a fantastic score to further extend the visitors lead, with Michael McCann eventually getting St Brigid’s off the mark- converting a free. 

A fabulous Ben MacManus point from range restored St Paul’s five-point advantage and James McDonnell kicked his third score of the evening in the aftermath. 

Despite their slow start St Brigid’s moved up a gear and found the net through James Morrisey to make it 1-04-1-01 and Michael McCann followed up with his second point to make it a two-point game. 

A converted free from Dylan Rogers-Duffy put a brief end to the hosts momentum but Michael McCann converted his second free in response. 

St Brigid’s forged ahead for the first time in the final after scorer of the first goal- Morrisey, was sent through on goal and the corner-forward picked his spot low in the corner to give his side a 2-03-1-05 lead.

James Morrisey nets for the second time to give his side the lead for the first time

McCann would swing over a third free of the half before the interval as they led by two at the midway point. 

St Brigid’s increased their lead as McCann notched up his fourth free of the evening and fifth point overall. 

At the other end Dylan Rogers-Duffy converted a free and his side regained the lead shortly after. 

A well taken free from Rogers-Duffy was floated into the St Brigid’s area and James McDonnell was on-hand to fire to net and make it 2-06-2-05. 

The lead would change hands once more a few minutes later as St Brigid’s went route-one and Johnny Higgins latched onto a delightful through pass and powerfully picked his spot in the bottom corner to make it 3-05-2-06. 

Undeterred, St Paul’s restored parity through back-to-back Rogers-Duffy frees which left the game firmly balanced. 

But St Brigid’s finished the stronger – Michael McCann converted successive frees and James Morrisey sliced the ball between the posts to move his side three ahead. A late converted free was the insurance score as the Musgrave Park side ran out 3-09-2-08 winners to claim the Division 1 league title. 

Seventh heaven for Na Piarsaigh

GYMCO JFC Group 1

Na Piarsaigh 7-9 O’Donnell’s 0-3

Na Piarsaigh played host to Cairdineal Uí Dhomhnaill on a sunny Sunday afternoon at the Cricky with both teams needing to secure the win. Having lost their first two fixtures, O’Donnells arrived knowing only a victory would keep their hopes of extending the season alive; whilst Pearses currently topped Group 1 of the Junior Championship. Having beaten Na Piarsaigh by 10 points earlier in the season at the Cricky, a keenly-contested game was anticipated.

As with all games across the county, the two teams, officials and supporters all paid tribute to Antrim great Anto Finnegan who sadly passed away this week.

Na Piarsaigh were without their 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice keepers with Aaron Callaghan making the short journey from the edge of the square to the goal line.  Liam Deegan returned to Pearses starting 15 since receiving a heavy late tackle in the league Semi-Final, as did Aidan Bannon making his first competitive start since his younger brother Ruairaí broke his arm in pre-season. The home team started brightly with Fionn Grew and Decky Hackett splitting the posts within the first 5 minutes. O’Donnells responded with a well-taken point of their own before Piaras Donaghy showed the first bit of real quality in the game. In a move initiated by Darren O’Neill at corner back, the Na Piarsaigh captain collected the ball around the middle of the pitch and slalomed through multiple tackles before finishing neatly in the back of the net. Na Piarsaigh 1-2 O’Donnells 0-1.

The visitors once again responded with a quick point with an inside forward collecting the ball neatly in space and slotting it over the ball. Gathering the ball short from the resulting kickout, a long ball then played into Oisín Grew saw him use his strength expertly to round his man and cutting across the pitch, set his younger brother Fionn straight in on goal with a low-placed finish. O’Donnells once again responded quickly, moving the ball up the pitch quickly and converting a free won in front of the posts.

1st Water Break Na Piarsaigh 2-2 O’Donnells 0-3.

The second quarter of the game saw Na Piarsaigh begin to dominate play as O’Donnells struggle to convert chances carved out in the opponents ’45. Fionn Grew converted a free won by Ethan Devine after a mazey run from midfield. Shortly after, Donaghy once again cut through the defence and rifled a shot into the roof of the net. Reacting quickly to a free on his own ’45, full back Thomas McFarlane collected the ball and sprinted the length of the pitch before Seán Mac Murlain capped the move off with a good point from wide on the left.

Half Time: Na Piarsaigh 3-4 O’Donnells 0-3

Piaras Donaghy who scored 2-1 in Pearses win over O’Donnell’s

Despite the distance between the teams and with some poor shot decisions and errant kicking, O’Donnells will have gone in knowing that they were creating opportunities to score. However, Na Piarsaigh emerged with renewed vigour and quickly dispelled any notions of a comeback. Gerard Campbell turned provider from midfield as Hackett and Mac Murlain pointed early in the half as the home side ran their opponents ragged on an increasingly warm day. Oisín Grew was rewarded for his efforts after finally getting onto the scoresheet with a well-taken goal after cutting in from the right. Mac Murlain then added another point to the board before Liam Deegan rode several tackles and managed to finish neatly in the bottom corner despite being clearly off balance. Hackett then palmed in a simple goal at the back post after more smart running from Oisín Grew.

2nd Water Break: Na Piarsaigh 6-7 O’Donnells 0-3

The last quarter finally saw Na Piarsaigh keeper Callaghan tested as O’Donnells carved out a great goal chance, however the stand-in keeper got down low and saved the initial shot. Cormac Ó Néill and Nathan Gorman then blocked follow-up shots on the line before Aidan Bannon managed to clear the ball out of the square. Donaghy soon added his first point of the day with a fine, floated point before Hackett once again was on hand at the back post to provide the easiest of finishes. Mac Murlain concluded the scoring with what was Pearse’s best team score of the day. Starting the playing from his own 45, Mac Murlain popped the ball into substitute Jack McKeown. After some crisp passes to O Grew and a clever cross-field run from Naoise Ó Cuilín, Mac Murlain finished off the move with aplomb. A complete performance from Na Piarsaigh across the pitch and with wides nearing the double figures, points to plenty of room for continued improvement ahead of their next outing. O’Donnells clearly struggled to replace unavailable players and the anticipated challenge never really materialized after the initial water break. Na Piarsaigh will now progress into the JFC Semi-Finals and will likely face Naomh Muire, Ros Earcáin in a repeat of the Division 3 League Final.

Oisín Grew turned in a man of the match performance for the North Belfast side. Despite scoring the least out of his fellow forwards, Grew’s contribution was fantastic throughout and he was central to many of his teams scores including directly assisting 3 goals.

FT: Na Piarsaigh 7-9 O’Donells 0-3

Na Piarsaigh: Aaron Callaghan, Darren O’Neill, Thomas McFarlane, Nathan Gorman, Cormac Ó Néill, Aidan Bannon, Ruairaí Bannon, Ethan Devine, Gerard Campbell, Piaras Donaghy (2-1), Liam Deegan (1-0), Seán Mac Murlain (0-4), Oisín Grew (1-0), Decky Hackett (2-2), Fionn Grew (1-2)