Management appointments in Antrim Division 1 for 2019

By Geordie McGuckin

A new year, and with a noticeable lengthening of the day most clubs are looking forward to the challenges of 2019 and making appointments as to management.

The resumption of the leagues is only a matter of weeks ahead and most have made appointments as to those who hold the reins in charge of their senior teams.

Erin’s Own Cargin having secured the senior championship for the third time in the past four seasons have secured the same management again for the season ahead with Damien Cassidy returning to the top job.

The Erin’s Own side were involved in possibly one of the best games seen last year when a late, late Tomas McCann goals saw them come from behind to gain access over intense rivals St Gall’s in the championship semi- final before edging out near neighbours Creggan in a dour county decider.

The Bellaghy man, who also enjoyed success with the Wolfe Tones minor team both in gaining county and provincial will again be assisted in his duties at Toome by Ronan Devlin and Kevin Doyle, and they may well prove contenders again as they are about to kick start another season.

Kickham’s Creggan, although denied in their attempts to secure the county title had a great season nonetheless bringing home the Division One league title and  have installed the same management structure for another term with Kevin Madden, Gerard Mc Nulty, and Odhran McCann back in charge.

The Kickham’s club enjoyed an excellent season with victory in both the O’Cahan cup and the Reserve Cup accompanying the Eddie Fitzsimmons Cup in residence at the Staffordstown road venue.

Creggan have showed a steady improvement during Madden’s tenure and may well be offering strong challenge again this term.

St John’s have also retained the same management structure with Gearoid Adams, and John Kelly in charge again at Corrigan.

The Whiterock road side, having endured defeat in the 2017 senior decider, losing out to the Hannahstown men on the Glenavy sod, endured the same fate in the semis last term when they were beaten by Creggan.

The Corrigan side is usually up there in the mix and although their dual nature which ensures ambition in both hurling and football may not be ideal the Johnnies may well be contenders.

They contested both football and hurling semis last term and came mighty close in both only bowing out in the former following a replay with the eventual winners and are likely to be in there with a shout again in 2019.

St Gall’s were back in the groove again last term after a couple of seasons when they were not at their best, and the Milltown men came within a few seconds of making another senior championship decider until Tomas Mc Cann’s late wonder goal dashed their hopes.

The former provincial and national champs will look to retain such regained positivity again this term and Sean Kelly will again assume control to lead the Milltown Blues on another offensive, assisted by Paul Mellon, Paul Pollock, and Paul Walsh.

The Lower Fall’s residents will most certainly be well prepared for action again in 2019 and they will again be contenders.

Lamh Dhearg come up short in their quest to retain the title hard earned in 2017 when losing to champions Cargin in a replay last term.

The Hannahstown men did look on their way to another semi-final appearance when they came from behind to lead Cargin in the quarters but the Toome men added a couple of late points to earn a second chance and proved six points superior in the replay.

Lamh Dearg have installed Mairtin Lynch and Terry Mc Crudden for another season in the management roles, and with Conor Murray and Declan Lynch set to return to duty after long term injuries they the Red Hand side may well fancy their chances.

Casement’s Portglenone had a good 2019 season and although the Bannsider’s were put to the sword by a rejuvenated St Gall’s in their championship quarter final assignment they did lower the colours of the Milltown men in both their league meetings.

The Portglenone side have made new appointment in the managerial role with former Derry player Barry Dillon taking the reins at O’ Cahan Park.

The new man in charge will be assisted by Eoin Doherty, and although they will not be burdened by the favourites tag they have a strong talented squad and if they continue to show improvement in 2019 they may well be capable of making a challenge.

St Enda’s have been the real stars of 2018, and now into 2019 and after booking a place in a Croke Park final in three weeks’ time the buzz continues.

Frank Fitzsimmons and his second in command Pat Hughes have led the Glengormley men to County and Provincial success thus far and it would come as a huge surprise if they are not to be reinstated.

St. Enda’s had a useful first season back  in division 1 which included a win over Erin’s Own Cargin and creditable performances against all the top sides and will be hoping to push on in the league in 2019 and a first tilt at the Senior Championship.

St Enda’s will move into another category in the season ahead as they will enter the draw for the senior championship and on evidence produced in a youth based squad they are more than well enough equipped to take the uplift in their stride.

St Mary’s Aghagallon struggled to make impact last term but with a strong youth based panel at disposal the men from the Antrim-Armagh border are certainly capable of better.

They have retained the services of Hannahstown man Kevin Murray in the managerial role with John Devlin included in the hot seat positions.

Aghagallon will more than likely soon benefit from the large number from the club who were included on the St Ronan’s side which impressed on the college scene during 2017, and may well be up there offering stern challenge for senior honours sooner, rather than later.

St Teresa’s did seem to be occupied in a mainly rear guard action for most of last term but the Glen road men can mix it with the best when in the mood.

Sean Mc Goldrick has been appointed in the senior management role with further appointments to be made.

They had to dig deep in the latter stages of the 2018 league to retain their Division 1 status and may well be hampered by strength and depth.

St Teresa’s are more than capable of causing problems for the best but although it is more than evident that character is in abundance within it is difficult to envisage them in the role of strong challengers.

St Mary’s Ahoghill have secured former Cargin stalwart Dualtach Johnston to take the reins at Clooney.

Having gained experience aplenty in the green and white of the Erin’s Own men Johnston was part of the John Brennan back room staff which guided the Toome men to back to back senior titles is to be assisted in his new role by Noel Crossey.

Ahoghill appeared to be on the downward trail last term with relegation seemingly looming large on the horizon with only a couple of points secured in the league at the half way juncture. However a strong character laded finish saw them remain unbeaten in their last five assignments to secure their place in the top flight.

The St Mary’s men will not start 2019 cast as favourites to collect silverware but they are more than capable of ruffling a few feathers along the way.

St Brigid’s took the upward path last term and the South Antrim men ensured a return to the top grade following an excellent 2018 season in which they also captured the under-21 title.

Eunan Conway has been reappointed as manager with Andy Magill, Anthony Carleton, and Colly McGuckian assuming roles on the selection committee.

Conway has been involved with the Musgrave Park side for quite a number of years and the bursar at St. Mary’s Grammar School, Magherafelt brings a wealth of knowledge to the job.

Strength and depth is apparent within at St Brigid’s, and although the central ambition may well in consolidation in the short term it is more than likely that they will soon be up there making a challenge for honours.

Gort na Mona have returned to the top table again after more than twenty years. One of the youngest club in the Saffron county, founded early in the 70s made it to the first division in 2007, but such was a short flirtation for the dual club, but following a generation in exile they are back as division two league champions.

Sean Mc Kenna guided the Gorts back to the top with an excellent 2018 season ensuring progress to the intermediate championship decider, and although they were to be edged out by an excellent St Enda’s side in that one they gained fully merited compensation with promotion secured as league champs.

McKenna is back at the helm and although consolidation and the retention of their hard earned status will be their priority, Gort na Mona are more than capable of causing a few upsets.

Creggan wrap up league honours

O’Neill’s All County Football Leauge Division 1

Creggan 3-12 Portglenone 1-11

Creggan collected the Division 1 League trophy today after their win over Casements Portglenone in their final league game of the season. Still obviously disappointed after their defeat to Cargin in last week’s senior championship final the Kickhams dusted themselves down and knuckled down to the task in hand, and after dominating the first half they led by 1-8 to 1-1 at the break, the Creggan goal coming from Paddy Coey, while Niall McKeever got the Casement’s major.

x1County chairman Collie Donnelly presents the Eddie Fitzsimons Memorial Cup to Creggan captain Conor McCann

After the change of ends the visitors upped their scoring rate with a series of well taken points but Creggan always had the upper hand and further goals from Kevin Small and Fintan Burke they ran out winners by 3-12 to 1-11 to seal the club’s first league title since 1961.

After the game county chairman Collie Donnelly presented the magnificent Eddie Fitzsimons Memorial Cup to Creggan captain Conor McCann. The trophy caps off a very good season for the Kickhams after having already secured the Senior Reserve Cup and the O’Cahan Cup.

EA7I0805Before the game both teams stood for a minute’s silence in memory of recently deceased John Mackle, the man who sold the ground to the club for their new pitch and clubrooms.

Creggan – Oisin Kerr, Aidan Maguire, Richard Johnston, Conor McCann, Sam Maguire, Thomas McCann, Ruairi McCann, Conor McCann, Kevin Rice, Odhran McLarnon, Kevin Small, Fintan Burke, Liam Quinn, Conor Small, Matthew Rodgers.IMG_5996Cillian McIntyre with the Eddie Fitzsimons Cup

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Pics by Brona McIntyre and Colm McLarnon

Creggan keep league title hopes alive but result is unlikely to have any bearing on next week’s championship decider

Kickham’s Creggan 4-9 Erin’s Own Cargin 0-3

In a game that neither side really wanted next Sunday’s championship opponents, Kickham’s Creggan and Erin’s Own Cargin met today in the All County league in Creggan. The game was certainly more important to the Creggan men and they kept their hopes of a league and championship double alive but today’s result is unlikely to have any bearing on next week’s Championship decider.

Both sides fielded weakened sides with the visitors featuring only a handful of players who are likely to come into contention for a starting place next Sunday and while Creggan looked stronger on paper they too are likely to show quite a number of changes to next Sunday’s starting line out.

As was expected this was more like a reserve match. In a low scoring first half where both team’s defences came out on top, Oran McAuley got Cargin off the mark with a point from a 3rd minute free. Tiernan McAteer replied for the Kickham’s in the 6th minute and for the rest of the half it became the Paddy Coey show as he scored 2 points and a well taken goal.

The second half was the complete opposite of the first with Kickham’s getting 2 goals inside the first 5 minutes through Tiarnan McAteer and Mathew Rogers with Rogers adding a point. Jamie McCann, who was having a very strong game at centre half then came up the field to get on the score-sheet as the home side started to take control. Creggan’s greater senior experience began to tell as Kevin Small entered the contest and scored 1-02 in a 5 minute spell to move his side into a commanding position.

Cargin replied with points from Michael Clark and David Johnston as Marty Kane drove his team on and his performance would suggest he could be in contention for a place next week. The league leaders responded again and Tiernan McAteer kicked his side’s last 2 points as both teams emptied their benches.

An enjoyable game of football as both teams now set their sights on a much bigger target. Best for Cargin were Martin Kane, Michael Clark, John Carron, Oran McAuley and Peader McKeever with Jake McAteer, Eunan McAteer, Paddy McAuley, Kevin Rice & Paddy Coey best for Kickham’s.

The sides meet again next Sunday and Creggan are likely to face a much stiffer challenge from an Erin’s Own side seeking their third championship title in four years while Creggan will be happy to have got this one out of the way as they prepare for the most eagerly awaited final for some time.

 

Ahoghill on top in battle of St. Mary’s

ACFL Division 1B

St. Mary’s Ahoghill 1-12 St. Mary’s 2-6

St. Mary’s Ahoghill finished their division 1 football league campaign with a win over their namesakes, St. Mary’s Aghagallon at Clooney last night. The Clooney men had three points to spare over the visitors in an end of season game that had little more than pride at stake.

It was the visitors who got off to the better start and moved into a two point lead after five minutes through Ruairi Loughran and Ciaran Brady but Ahoghill were back on level terms by the 6th minute through two quick fire points from James O’Connell and Dan O‘Neill.

St. Mary’s Aghagallon moved ahead once more with a point from Loughran in the 9th minute but the Clooney side were beginning to get their game together and hit three point on the trot through Donal Graham 0-2 and Diarmuid Graham to lead 0-5 to 0-3 after 13 minutes.

Once again the visitors were able to respond and a good move finished with Ruairi McCann firing to the net to restore their lead as things began to warm up and play swung from end to end.

This goal brought an immediate response from the home side, obviously intent on continuing their recent good run of league results and they replied with points from James O’Connell, Donal Graham and Patrick Graham and again appeared to be taking control.

Once again they were opened up however by another slick Aghagallon counter which resulted in the visitor’s second goal from mid-fielder Eunan Walsh as they hit the front  once more and the brave souls who had turned up to support their sides on the night were being entertained to some fine passages of football.

Just when it seemed that Aghagallon would carry their lead into the half time break St. Mary’s Ahoghill put another good move together which ended with Patrick Graham firing to the visitors net and it was they who held a slender two point lead at the short whistle.

The second half didn’t quite live up to the excitement of the first with both defences well on top and scores at a premium  but it was Ahoghill who made the early running and points from Donal Graham and Owen Neeson saw them move four ahead with only a couple of minutes of the new half gone.

Seven minutes into the half the visitors closed the gap to three with a point from Ciaran Brady but two pointed frees from Donal Graham had the Clooney men in the driving seat with 12 minutes remaining as they moved five clear and seemingly in a place of safety.

Aghagallon made a late push but could only manage a couple of points from Eunan Walsh and his mid-field partner, Jack Lenehan for their efforts as the Ahoghill defence stood strong and this win leaves last night’s opponents on equal points at the top of division 1B with both side having already been assured of division 1 football next season.

Ahoghill win secures division 1 status and seals Glenavy’s fate

ACFL Division One (section B)

St Mary’s Ahoghill 3-19 St Joseph’s Glenavy 0-10

St Mary’s Ahoghill continued their late season dash on the positive as they secured their division 1 status for another year when they proved too strong for Glenavy under the floodlights at Clooney on Thursday evening.

The St Mary’s side, having looked in trouble at the start of the second phase of the league have underlined character within, not for the first time and this latest win ensures division 1 fare again in 2019.

In contrast the result means that after their return to the top table was well earned last year the St Joseph’s men will return to the second tier again in 2019.

Glenavy arrived at Ahoghill certain in the knowledge that if they were to have any chance of remaining in division 1 next year then it was vital that they win this one and a good start was needed.

In the event the St Joseph’s side was slow to get it together as the Clooney men powered out of the start blocks, and had raised five white flags in the opening ten minutes.

Patrick Graham opened account with a 3rd minute point and after the O’Connell brothers raised back to back white flags a brace from the ever accurate Donal Graham made it 0-05 to 0-00.

The Chapel Hill residents needed an opening score to gain composure but it was more than obvious that a well drilled Ahoghill rear guard in which Stephen O’ Connell, James Magee and Bernard Graham stood tall throughout had started as they meant to continue.

The Glenavy men had been thwarted in their early efforts to open account before Conor Hamill did plant the ball between the posts with a good 16th minute strike.

The home side was quick to return fire however and when a slick approach and a precision based PJ O’Connell delivery opened the way to the posts the advancing wing half back Eamon Brady finished to the net and Ahoghill had nipped into a 1-07 to 0-01 lead and were well in control.

Glenavy looked low in confidence as they struggled to get it together but the home side were not about to ease off the throttle as they continued to pile on the pressure.

Ahoghill continued to provide stern resistance to any Glenavy advances in search of much needed scores and a Stephen O’ Connell interception and clearance to his roving sibling PJ sent Danny O’ Neill in for another goal.

Ciaran Looney did add a second point to the Glenavy total when he split the posts in the 25th minute but the resultant kick out from net minder Francis Neeson set the wheels in motion for another well laid offensive.

James Connell and Donal Graham combined to send PJ O’Connell through to plant the leather in the back of the net and even at this early juncture it looked as good as over.

The St Mary’s men had dominated the opening period and were in complete control when the man in charge signalled the break, holding a 3-11 to 0-03 lead and the road to recovery seemed an impossible route for the visitors.

Glenavy showed some improvement in the second half with Conor Hamill and Patrick Gallagher working hard to set the St Joseph’s wheels in motion. The home side were now coming under pressure for the first time and net minder Frank Neeson was called on to make a smashing save to deny Patrick Gallagher.

Ryan Philips and Michael McCourt had combined in slick approach to send the mid fielder in on the target only to be denied by the keeper who went full length to his right to make an excellent save.

As the home side visibly eased off the accelerator but continued to hold sway Glenavy were finding the way to the posts a trifle easier but any time they did make a mark the home side were quick to reply in kind.

There was never going to be a way back for the St Joseph’s men despite honest endeavour and with the home side management taking opportunity to give game time to a full complement of replacements they had plenty in hand to cross the line with the precious points on board at 3-19 to 0-10.

Ahoghill: Francis Neeson, James Magee, Stephen O’ Connell, Bernard Graham, Eamon Brady (1-00), Patrick Graham, Martin Graham, Neil O’ Connell (0-04), Sean Mc Mahon, PJ O’ Connell (1-05), Danny O’ Neill (1-01), James O’ Connell (0-06), Donal Graham (0-03), Eoin Neeson

Subs:

Aodhan Graham (0-01) for Donal Graham

Diarmuid Graham for E Brady

Ronan Graham for E Neeson

Joey Hamill for S Mc Mahon

Noel Crossey for PJ O’ Connell

 

Glenavy: Fergal Graham, Martin Nelson, Sean Mc Girr, Ruairi Forrester, Matthew Hamill, Conor Hamill (0-02), Ryan Philips, Patrick Gallagher (0-01), Neil Scullion, Michael Mc Court (0-02), Peter Trainor (0-01), Alex Gallagher (0-01), Dominic Gallagher, Niall Mc Cann (0-01)

Subs

Fergas Mc Cann (0-02) for N Scullion

Ben McCambridge for P Trainor

Referee C Mc Dermott (Tir na Nog)