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.

Antrim’s ‘old hands’ save the Saffrons as they let an eleven point lead slip away

As the Tailteann Cup gets underway this weekend with the meeting of Leitrim and Antrim in Carrick on Shannon the Saffron Gael takes a look back at the last time these sides met. It was in Belfast back in May 2021 in the Allianz NFL Division 4 North and the Saffron looked to be on their way to an easy win when they led by 11 points at one stage but were thankful for a late Tomas McCann point to get them over the line

Allianz National Football League Division Four North

                                             Antrim 2-17-1-19 Leitrim

                                 Kevin Herron reports from Corrigan Park

Antrim topped the Division Four North section of the Allianz National Football League with a slender 2-17-1-19 win over Leitrim – but were perhaps fortunate after seeing an eleven-point second half lead wilt on a blazing hot day afternoon in Corrigan Park.  

The Saffrons were in control through Conor Stewart’s first half goal and Conor Murray added a second after the break.

But Leitrim substitute Evan Sweeney landed three points on the spin and then found the net to give his side renewed hope.

Terry Hyland’s side would restore parity twice late-on and it took the trusted boots of veterans Paddy Cunningham and Tomas McCann to seal a late win for the hosts, and in the process protect their winning League run.

Antrim debuatant Luke Mulholland goes high to challenge a Leitrim forward for the dropping ball during Sunday’s National Football League game at Corrigan Park.

Antrim boss Enda McGinley made a couple of alterations to his side following last weekend’s dramatic victory over Sligo.

Luke Mulholland occupied the goalkeeping position and James McAuley and Patrick McBride also came into the starting fifteen.

Leitrim were off the mark first through a Keith Beirne free inside the opening sixty seconds, though Antrim responded through Odhran Eastwood who took a defensive mark and pointed.

Beirne and Mark Plunkett would give the visitors a two-point lead, but Ryan Murray hit back with a fine point from play.

Scores were traded between Plunkett and Ryan Murray (free) before Keith Beirne steered over his third free inside of ten minutes.

Odhran Eastwood cut the lead to one with his second placed ball of the half and the sides would trade further scores through Dean McGovern and Patrick McBride- whose goal bound effort was turned over for a point.

Antrim hit the front just before the first half water break, Patrick McBride and Odhran Eastwood switched the play and they slipped Conor Stewart through on goal with the All-Saint’s midfielder powerfully guiding his shot to the net past Brendan Flynn to give his side a 1-05-0-06 lead.

Conor Stewart punches the air in celebration after scoring his team’s opening goal in Sunday’s win over Leitrim.

Antrim were firmly in their flow and further scores followed through Ruairi McCann and Patrick McBride- who combined excellently with Marc Jordan.

Odhran Eastwood then slipped Conor Murray in for a point before Eastwood himself conjured up the next after claiming an attacking mark and popping the ball between the posts.

The St Enda’s forward was hard to keep tabs on and took his tally for four with a fine point that was his sides sixth without reply.

Keith Beirne would break that momentum- kicking his fourth free of the afternoon, but Paddy McBride would reply before the break for the Saffrons who were 1-11-0-07 to the good- despite losing Dermot McAleese to a black card in first half injury time.

Leitrim were first off the mark in the second half through a Keith Beirne free but Antrim responded through the same scenario after Conor Murray was felled and Odhran Eastwood converted.

Odhran Eastwood gets his shot despited the close attentions of Leitrims’ Gilheaney and Reynolds.

Six minutes after the restart the Saffrons stretched their advantage with their second goal of the afternoon.

Conor Murray was slipped through and bore down on goal- his initial shot was saved by Brendan Flynn however Murray rose to palm the rebound to the net and give the hosts a 2-12-0-08 lead.

Tom Prior steered over a reply for Leitrim, but Antrim would pull eleven points clear with twenty minutes remaining thanks to Odhran Eastwood’s sixth of the afternoon and a point from substitute Conor Small, after Conor Stewart broke a hop ball.

It would appear as though Antrim had sown things up and that was the felling throughout the Whiterock Road venue- but Terry Hyland’s charges weren’t about to go out with a whimper.

Evan Sweeney’s 51st minute introduction sparked a revival with the corner-forward slotting over three points on the bounce before coming up with a 57th minute goal.

Conor Dwyer slipped in Sweeney who swept a low shot beyond the reach of Luke Mulholland and into the net to make it a five-point game (2-14-1-12).

Frustration was beginning to creep into the Saffrons play and they were reduced to 14-men for the second time in proceedings when Marc Jordan was black carded for dissent towards whistler Kevin Faloon.

Keith Beirne kicked his sixth of the afternoon before Antrim would break their 13 minute scoreless period.

Substitute Paddy Cunningham switched a side-line ball to Conor Small who was felled and Odhran Eastwood was on hand to send the resulting free between the posts.

A second point of the half from Tom Prior kept Leitrim in touch and the visitors would storm back onto level terms with four quick points in a row as regulation time was about to elapse.

Beirne would score his seventh free of the afternoon and that was quickly followed by a Mark Plunkett score after Faloon had hoped the ball.

Antrim’s Conor Murray rises highest to palm the ball to the Leitrim net for his team’s second goal early in the second half

Under extreme pressure Luke Mulholland was adjudged to have wasted too much time over a kick out and the ball was hopped again with Leitrim winning the break and Evan Sweeney was on hand to turn the ball over.

A minute into injury time and Leitrim had pulled level through a terrific point from Niall McGovern.

Antrim appeared to have given themselves the winning chance when the won a free out on the left and Paddy Cunningham dully converted to edge his side back into the lead, but talisman Keith Beirne struck for the eighth time to restore parity once again.

It looked as though the sides would share the spoils, but the last attack of the game yielded the winner, and it was one that was scripted in Toomebridge.

Justin Crozier guided the ball into the path of Tomas McCann who steered his shot between the posts to claim a third successive one-point win for the Saffrons after another afternoon of high drama involving Enda McGinley’s troops.

A two-week break lies in store for the Division Four North table toppers- who face Waterford in the League semi-final in two weeks’ time.

Tómas ‘Mossy’ McCann is congratualted by sub goalkeeper Michael Byrne after the final whistle

Antrim: L Mulholland, J McAuley, R Johnston, P Healy, M Jordan, J Laverty, E Walsh, C Stewart (1-00), N McKeever, D McAleese, C Murray (1-01), P McBride (0-03), O Eastwood (0-07, 0-06f), R McCann (0-01), R Murray (0-02, 0-01f). Subs: K Small for R Murray (13), J Crozier for R Johnston (HT), D Lynch for J Laverty (HT), C Small (0-01) for C Murray (43), T McCann (0-01) for D McAleese (43), P Cunningham (0-01f) for N McKeever (47), N Delgary for E Walsh (53).

Leitrim: B Flynn, C Reynolds, P Maguire, S Moran, O Madden, J Gilheaney, A Flynn, D McGovern (0-01), D Wrynn, S Quinn, M Plunkett (0-03), P Dolan, J Mitchell, K Beirne (0-08, 0-07f), T Prior (0-02). Subs: M Diffley for A Flynn (HT), K Keegan for S Moran (HT), N McGovern (0-01) for D Wrynn (51), E Sweeney (1-04) form D McGovern (51), D Bruen for S Quinn (55), N Brady for P Dolan (58).

Referee: Kevin Faloon (Armagh)