Sunny Saturday as Saffrons make no mistake this time

LGA All Ireland JFC Final Replay

Antrim 3-15 Fermanagh 0-11

It was Sunny Saturday as Antrim made no mistake at the second time of asking when they recorded a resounding victory over Fermanagh in this All Ireland JFC replay at the Athletic Grounds today. The Saffrons were forced to come from behind with a late point to earn a replay two weeks ago but never looked in trouble at any time in Saturday’s replay

The Saffrons celebrate their All Ireland success with some special fans

Antrim made a bright opening today and looked in a strong position when they led by 2-5 to 0-6 at half time with goals from Laura Dahunsi and another from a Cathy Carey penalty left them in pole position going into the second half

There was more than a touch of fortune about both goals with the superb Dahunsi sending a looping shot over the head of Fermanagh keeper Gleeson and Cathy Carey converting a rather soft penalty after 8 minutes to put the Saffron’s 2-1 to 0-2 ahead.

Fermanagh were almost totally reliant on their full-forward, Eamer Smyth for their first half scores with the flying number 14 providing 0-5 of her side’s first half total and substitute Erin Tierney getting the other.

Dahunsi was superb around midfield section for the Saffrons and turned over a lot of ball with her energy driving her side forward and Antrim’s more direct approach provided dividends with Grainne McLaughlin 0-3, Orla Prenter, Catherine Taggart and Bronagh Devlin all on target as they led 2-5 to 0-6 at the break.

Grainne McLaughlin, who ended with 0-8 to her name, swings over a second half point despite the close attentions of a Fermanagh defender

If Fermanagh were to get back into the game they needed to make a good start to the second half but it never looked like materialising as the Antrim defence, superbly marshalled by Tennyson shut up shop.

Dahunsi continued to give them a strong foothold at midfield as the Antrim attack began to apply the afterburners with team captain Cathy Carey leading the way and Grainne McLaughlin making a sizeable contribution both from frees and from play.

In hindsight it wasn’t going to be Fermanagh’s day when an Eamer Smyth free came back of an upright and into the hands of an Antrim defender after 30 seconds of the second half and Antrim responded through Grainne McLaughlin, Mulholland, Cathy Carey and McLaughlin again to move 2-9 to 0-6 ahead after 10 minutes.

The Erne Counties first score of the half arrived from the boot of Smyth in the 13th minute but Antrim replied immediately though Marie Mulholland and Fermanagh would only register two further points through Bogue.

A young Antrim fans watches the action from the shade of the terraces.

Grainne McLaughlin 0-4 and Orla Prenter hit fine points for the Saffrons and when Cathy Carey fielded a tantalising delivery before turning in one sweet movement and rifling to the net in the 24th minute it was well and truly over.

Team captain Carey, who was playing in a final for the sixth time (counting Saturday’s replay) won the T naG player of the match award with Laura Dahunsi not far behind her in the race for the honour and Grainne McLaughlin is another who deserves special mention in an Antrim team who were superb all over the field.

Carey refered to it being Sunny Saturday in her match interview after the game before receiving the trophy and there is likely to be a lengthy celebration in the towns and villages of Antrim tonight as they celebrate this excellent victory which will do wonders for ladies football in the county.

Lara Dahunsi who had another excellent game at midfield for Antrim

ANTRIM: A McCann; D Coleman, A McFarland, N McIntosh; M Mulholland, S Tennyson, S O’Neill; L Dahunsi (1-0), A Tubridy; C Taggart (0-3), C Carey (2-1, 1-0 pen), M O’Neill; B Devlin (0-1), O Prenter (0-2, 1f), G McLaughlin (0-8, 3f)
Subs: T Mellon for M O’Neill (45), O Corr for D Coleman (47), C Emerson for C Taggart (51), M McGarry for S O’Neill (55), E Murphy for B Devlin (57)
Blood sub: T Mellon for B Devlin (40-44)

FERMANAGH: R Gleeson; E Keenan, M McGloin, S McQuade; N McManus, S McCarville, C Bogue (0-1); B Bannon, A O’Brien; E Tierney (0-1), B Bogue (0-2, 1f), S Britton; C McElroy, E Smyth (0-7, 2f), L Grew
Subs: N Curran for L Grew (ht), E Maguire for E Tierney (40), E Douglas for A O’Brien (43), A Gordon for B Bannon (51), K Elliott for C Bogue (55)

REFEREE: Lorraine O’Sullivan (Donegal)

Lara Dahunsi with her niece Ainhrí during the celebrations

McEntee appointed Antrim football manager

Former Meath boss Andy McEntee has been appointed the new Antrim senior football manager after being ratified by the clubs this evening.

McEntee managed Meath to the final of the 2012 All Ireland Minor Football Championship and steered Dublin cub Ballyboden St Enda’s to the 2016 All Ireland Club Football title. Later that year he was appointed as manager of his native Meath and after three seasons in charge the Royal county won promotion back to Division 1 of the National Football League for the first time since 2006.

However he stepped down from the Meath post a a few weeks ago after his team’s defeat to Clare in the All Ireland SFC Quaifiers.

Jerome Quinn interviewed the new boss earlier this evening

Enda McGinley steps down

The Antrim County Board announced today that Enda McGinley has stepped down as manager of our Senior Football team.

During Enda’s tenure Antrim Senior footballers won division 4 of the NFL and have retained their Division 3 status this year. Indeed they were in the running for a promotion to division 2 going into the later stages of the season but lost to Westmeath in their final league game.

Losses to Cavan in the Ulster championship and yesterday’s defeat to Leitrim in the Tailteann Cup opener in Carrick on Shannon may have influenced the former Tyrone All Ireland winner’s decision.

We at the Saffron Gael would like to sincerely thank Enda for his contribution to Antrim football over the past two years and his cooperation and prompt reply to our website when asked to make contributions. We extend our best wishes to Stephen O’Neill, Sean Kelly, Stephen Quinn and all the backroom team for their efforts and we wish them all the best of luck for the future.

John & Paddy McIlwaine (Saffron Gael)

Saffrons second half improvement isn’t enough

Tailteann Cup North- Round 1 

Leitrim 2-14-1-12 Antrim 

Kevin Herron reports from Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada 

Despite an improved second half showing, Antrim exited the newly formed Tailteann Cup at the first time of asking after a 2-14-1-12 defeat to Leitrim at Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada this afternoon. 

The Saffrons were subdued in the opening half and trailed to a number of Keith Beirne points and a goal from Shane Moran. 

Jack Heslin punched in the home sides second and Conor Stewart’s black card in the aftermath rubbed salt into the wounds. 

However, Enda McGinley’s men hit a purple patch in the aftermath of Jordan Reynolds giving Leitrim a 2-12-0-07 lead in the 51st minute. 

Peter Healy sent a low shot to the net in the midst of his side hitting 1-04 without reply, but in the end it was too little too late as the visitors came out on the wrong end of the score line and were reduced to 14-men after Pat Shivers picked up a second yellow-card deep into injury-time. 

Both sides entered the newly formed second tier competition looking to bounce back from respective provincial quarter-final defeats to Mayo and Cavan respectively. 

Antrim were first off the mark on a glorious afternoon as Ryan Murray swung a high ball into the path of Odran Eastwood- who fisted over the bar. 

Keith Beirne replied at the other end and Leitrim hit the front when Jack Heslin got on the end of a fantastic Brendan Flynn kick-out and got his side on the front foot, he worked the ball into the path of David Bruen to kick a fine score. 

Beirne had the game’s first goal opportunity- though he snatched at the opportunity and shot wide of the post, but he atoned for that miss minutes later with his second point of the half. 

Antrim hit back from an outstanding point from Jamie Gribbin, however Jack Heslin sent a stinging effort over the bar in response. 

Leitrim extended their lead through a Keith Beirne shot that dropped over the bar and squandered a further goal sighting. 

Evan Sweeney’s high ball drifted to the right of the post and Mick Byrne’s attempted clearance fell invitingly to Riordan O’Rourke whose goal shot was scrambled off the line by Peter Healy. 

In the aftermath Paddy McBride guided a shot over the bar to narrow the deficit, but the goal that the hosts had threatened eventually arrived after 20 minutes at Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada. Domhnall Flynn sent a high ball into the square and Shane Moran directed the ball past Byrne to give his side a 1-05-0-03 lead. 

Fours scores in succession followed from Andy Moran’s outfit, Keith Beirne conjured up his fourth score of the half from a free and would add another from a converted mark in-between a Cillian McGloin point and another mark from Donal Wrynn. 

Dermot McAleese bore down on goal- though his shot rose over before the break but at the midway point it was one-way traffic and the Saffrons were staring an embarrassing exit in the face. 

Enda McGinley’s side began the second period on the front-foot with Odhran Eastwood popping off the shoulder to Peter Healy for the opening score of the half. 

But on 40 minutes the game appeared to be over when Shane Moran charged towards goal before squaring to Jack Heslin to punch home his sides second goal- things went from bad to worse when Conor Stewart was black-carded in the aftermath for an infringement in the build-up and Antrim were 2-09-0-05 behind and temporarily down to 14-men. 

The next four scores were traded between the sides, Leitrim twice extending their lead through Pearce Dolan and Evan Sweeney: with Pat Shivers and substitute Ruairi McCann (free) replying. 

With little under 20 minutes remaining Jordan Reynolds kicked his side into a 2-12-0-07 lead and things didn’t look to be improving for Antrim any time soon. 

Pat Shivers doubled his tally for the half on 56 minutes and sixty seconds later his side were offered a glimmer of hope when Peter Healy exchanged passes with Paddy McAleer and crashed a low shot off the post and in to make it 2-12-1-08. 

Shivers added his third point after doing enough to keep the ball in play at the side-line, moving in field and popping the ball high over the bar. 

Antrim were on a roll and Dermot McAleese added his second of the afternoon with McCann converting a second free to ensure that four-points separated the sides with three minutes remaining. 

The hosts needed a score to quell the Saffrons momentum and Mark Plunkett delivered with an angled point. 

Shivers replied in the first of five added minutes, but Antrim needed a goal and quickly if they were to have any chance to salvaging extra-time. 

It didn’t materialise however, and Keith Beirne converted a free deep into added time for his sixth score of the contest. 

Antrim’s frustrating afternoon was compounded when Pat Shivers was given a second yellow-card late-on and at the conclusion Leitrim ran out 2-14-1-12 winners to progress to the next round and ensure Antrim’s football for 2022 comes to an end. 

Leitrim: B Flynn, P Maguire, M Diffley, C Reynolds, J Heslin (1-01), D Bruen, J Rooney, P Dolan (0-01), D Wrynn (0-01m), C McGloin (0-01), K Beirne (0-06, 0-02f, 0-01m), S Moran (1-00), D Flynn, E Sweeney (0-01), R O’Rouke. Subs: J Reynolds (0-01) for C McGloin (38), E Mulligan for R O’Rourke (48), M Plunkett (0-01) for J Heslin (53), C Farrell for D Flynn (59), D Rooney for E Sweeney (67). 

Antrim: M Byrne, E McCabe, P Healy (1-01), P McCormick, M Jordan, D Lynch, D McAleese (0-02), K Small, C Stewart, P McBride (0-01), R Murray, P McAleer, J Gribbon (0-01), P Shivers (0-04), O Eastwood (0-01). Subs: R McCann (0-02f) for M Jordan (HT), J Laverty for K Small (HT), B McCormick for P McCormick (47), C Murray for J Gribbon (48), 

Referee: Barry Cassidy (Derry)

Antrim dip their toes in Tailteann waters in Carrick on Shannon

Tailteann Cup first round

Leitrim v Antrim

Carrick on Shannon-Saturday 2-00pm

Antrim dip their toes in the inaugural Tailteann Cup waters this Saturday when they travel to Carrick on Shannon to face a Leitrim team who are sure to provide a serious challenge in front of a strong home support at Sean MacDiarmada Park.

Antrim played their football in division 3 of the National League this year while Leitrim won four out of their seven starts in division 4 so that would suggest that the Saffron’s were playing at a higher level in the league and indeed they were still in the promotion shakeup for a place in division 2 going into the final round of games but failed to get over the line.

Leitrim finished fourth in division 4 but a closer look at their results in the 2022 league campaign would suggest they are a serious threat. They lost by four points to Cavan in the opening game of the league by 0-12 to 0-8 but recorded an excellent away win to Tipperary next day out, beating the eventual division 4 finalists by 8 points in Thurles.

A week later they lost at home to a London team who were going well at the time but recorded good wins away to Waterford and Carlow and a home win over Wexford before losing in their final game away to Sligo.

The last time these two teams met was back in May 2021 in the league in Division 4 North when Antrim led at one stage by 11 points but it took a late Tomas McCann point to get Antrim out of jail after the Connaught side staged a remarkable comeback.

During the week I spoke to Antrim manger Enda McGinley, now in his second season in charge of the Saffrons after leading them to promotion from division 4 in his first season and I asked him about his thoughts on the Tailteann Cup and on Saturday’s opponents, Leitrim and of Antrim’s championship defeat to Cavan.

“Looking ahead to the Leitrim game and obviously the first game in the Tailteann Cup there is the opportunity for the lads to not end the season on the bitterly disappointing performance of the Cavan game.  That was a day when, if there was a wrong note to be hit we managed to hit it.  Such days happen individuals and teams in sport – no matter what level they are at in their respective games.  It doesn’t make it any easier to take or lessen the sick feeling you are left with after such games but it does remind you that you have to be resilient against such blows if wanting to progress.  Then there is the reality of what Cavan produced and the work they have put in right from their dominant period at U21 level to get there.  It was a sobering reminder of the consistent work over multiple seasons and management setups required by any squad in trying to achieve significant progress”

“That sets the scene for the Tailteann cup, where like most teams in it we come in to it off the back of a disappointment.  It is a test of the ambition of the team to regroup and get back at training retaining belief in their own abilities and a hunger to rise to the challenge again.  To be honest we are delighted regarding the renewed effort we have seen from the group.  It took a bit of time to get going as you would expect but the last few weeks have been great.  It’s just up to us to try to make sure we get another few weeks by getting over Leitrim.  Taking them on down there, with the crowds they are getting out this year will be a big challenge.  They played a lot of good football and got some great results in the league.  They’ve got several key players back in who weren’t available last year and particularly up front with the likes of the O’Rourke’s, Ryan and Riordan, Darragh Rooney and Shane Moran to go alongside their two main threats from last year, Mark Plunkett and Keith Beirne they carry an increased threat under Andy Moran.  And of course they’ve still the likes of Evan Sweeney who came off the bench and done such damage last year and Emlyn Mulligan to call upon.”

“So it’s definitely a challenge but it’s one we are glad to have the opportunity to take on.  Squad wise, Ronan Boyle, Eunan Walsh, Tomas McCann and Marty Johnston have stepped away for various reasons while Mick McCann, James McAuley and Seamus McGarry won’t be available through injury.  Suppose that sounds like a lot and in many ways it is but the squad we have training there at the minute is very good and we’ve taken five U20s up onto the squad, Conall McGirr, Calum Higgins, Cathal Hynds, Sean O’Neill and Aidan McAleese who have proven a great addition as well which feels like a real bonus to be honest.  We’ll look to change the team a bit as there have been lads who have been pushing all year and are due more of a chance than maybe they have got up until now.  The Tailteann Cup is an opportunity.  It’s up to us to make the very most of it we can” the manager concluded.

So the Antrim management have embraced the Tailteann Cup and the opportunity it has provided for further football this year and will be keen to get a run in it but Leitrim will not provide them with an easy passage and the Saffrons will need to be at their best to advance.

The above mentioned absentees from their lineout provides an opportunity for those who have been on the fringe of the team during the league and if those players can step up to the plate on Saturday then Antrim can advance to the next round.