Tir na nOg can overcome Carrickcruppen challenge

Ulster Intermediate club football championship quarter-final

Tir na nOg (Antrim) v Carrickcruppen (Armagh)

Ahoghill 2.30pm

By Paddy McIlwaine

Antrim Intermediate champions, Tir na nOg, Randalstown face a stiff Ulster opener when they take on Carrickcruppen of Armagh in this weekend’s quarter final in Ahoghill but it is a challenge they are capable of overcoming.

The Randalstown side have been the outstanding team in Intermediate championship and division 2 of the league this season and after going through division 2 unbeaten they went on to defeat All Saints in the Antrim Intermediate championship final and were good value for that win.

It has been another fine season for the men from Whitehill and after claiming the Intermediate hurling title for the first time last year they added the division 2 football title and Intermediate football championship this term and will play their football in division 1 and senior championship next season.

Tir na nOg qualified for the semi-final of the Antrim championship from Group 1 where they suffered their only defeat of the season when they lost on day two to All Saints in Ballymena, having won their opening game to St. Teresa’s.

In what was regarded as the tougher of the two qualifying groups, Tir na nOg went on to record wins over Con Magee’s, Davitt’s and Ardoyne to finish in second place to the Ballymena men and qualify for a semi-final meeting with Sarsfields.

Tír na nÓg 1-14 Sarsfield’s 0-9

Tir na nOg proved too good for Sarsfield’s in this OB Construction IFC semi-final at Davitt Park to set up an all South West final against All Saints. The Whitehill side was solid at the back and much more fluid in attack as they led throughout this semi-final and were full value for their win in the end.

In a fairly even first half Tir na nOg just edged the exchanges to lead 0-6 to 0-4 at the interval. The South West side pushed on at the start of the second half as they added five points in the opening nine minutes to give themselves a lead that looked fairly comfortable even at this early juncture.

It took just 18 seconds for Ciaran O’Neill to thump over another from range, with Aaron McNeilly adding one from the left and then Ciaran McKeown fisted over when through as the Randalstown side dominated the early second half exchanges.

Tir na nOg had matters well in control when they went on to lead 0-13 to 0-5 at the second water break and while Sarsfields closed the gap in the final quarter a late goal from keeper, Sean Paul McAtamney from the penalty spot ensured there would be no way back for the Stewartstown Road side.

Meanwhile All Saints had advanced from the same group as winners and when they overcame Dunloy in the semi-final to set up a third meeting of the season with Tir na nOg in the final the scene looked set for a classic decider.

Tír Na nÓg Randalstown 2-14 All Saints Ballymena 1-10

Played under floodlights at Kelly Park in Portglenone, Tír Na nÓg Randalstown deservedly claimed this year’s Intermediate Championship title after seeing off All Saints with seven points to spare.

 After claiming the Division Two title earlier in the season, Michael O’Kane’s side had too much for their neighbours and bar a five minute spell in the third quarter, the Ógs were more than comfortable with anything that the All Saints threw at them.

An early Daniel Martin goal helped them to settle quicker into the contest and in half forward Darragh Fagan, they had the games stand out player. Fagan contributed seven points to his cause, but the Randalstown bench also made a telling contribution.

Ciaran Dobbin was introduced after 41 minutes. His goal six minutes after being introduced put paid to any idea of an All Saints comeback after the Slemish Park side cut the arrears from seven to just two.

Dobbin also added a point as the Randalstown men saw the game out in convincing fashion to book an Ulster championship date with Saturday’s opponents, Carrickcruppen.

Tir na nOg are a solid outfit right through from goalkeeper, Sean Paul McAtamney to Kevin Sheerin on the edge of the square and have serious performers all over the field. Barry McCormick at centre-half-back captains the side and leads by example while Ciaran O’Neill and Caoimhin Duffin flank him in a strong unit.

McCormick’s brother Darren and Ryan O’Neill are likely to line out at mid-field and in the previously mentioned Darragh Fagan, Aaron McNeilly, Daniel Martin and Ciaran Dobbin they have a serious scoring threat.

Fagan finished with 0-7 against All Saints in the final while Dobbin added 1-1 when coming on from a strong bench which included Christy Sheerin and Eamon Og McAllister.

What of Carrickcruppen?

Armagh always produce strong contenders in this grade and Carrickcruppen will provide the Antrim champions with a firm test after a good win over Culloville in the county final.

Cruppen had their homework done, they marked Culloville’s key men out of the game and had the finishers at the other end of the pitch as well as a touch of luck for the all-important goal.

Oisin O’Hare and James Bennett were solid in the Carrickcruppen defence and O’Hare did a brilliant job on marking Culloville’s talisman Niall Rowland.

Blaine Hughes in goals is the Armagh county keeper and weighed in with four pointed frees against Cullovillle while Eoin Woods, Tiernan Kelly, Stephen Loughran and Cathal O’Grady were all on target against the ‘Blues’

It’s been 17 years since Carrickcruppen last won the Armagh Intermediate title and Carrickcruppen manager Barry Flynn, who manages alongside Paul Cunningham, was delighted with the win and the prospect of playing in Ulster was as far away as ever only three seasons ago.

Carricruppen were in Division 2B at that stage and struggling so this year’s success is all the more remarkable but never the less deserved and they will be hoping to keep that winning run going on Saturday.

It’s been a while since the either side has kicked a ball in earnest with Tir na nOgs win over All Saints coming on the 30th October and Carrickcruppen’s success coming in early November and just how these long lay-offs affect the competing sides remains to be seen.

Michael O’Kane and Seamus Hefferon will have the Whitehill side well prepared however and while they should respect the Armagh champions they have nothing to fear. Tir na nOg have been excellent all season and if they can build on their Antrim final performance then I would expect them to advance to the semi-final.

Tir na nÓg take the title with dominant display

OB Construction Intermediate Football Championship Final

Tír Na nÓg Randalstown 2-14 All Saints Ballymena 1-10

At a pristine Kelly Park in Portglenone, Tír Na nÓg Randalstown deservedly claimed this year’s Intermediate Championship title after seeing off All Saints Ballymena with seven points to spare.

 After claiming the Division Two title earlier in the season, Michael O’Kane’s side had too much for their neighbours and bar a five minute spell in the third quarter, the Ógs were more than comfortable with anything that the All Saints threw at them.

An early Daniel Martin goal helped favourites Randalstown settle quicker into the contest and in half forward Darragh Fagan, they had the games stand out player.

Fagan contributed seven points to his cause, but the Randalstown bench also made a telling contribution.

Ciaran Dobbin was introduced after 41 minutes. His goal six minutes after being introduced put paid to any idea of an All Saints comeback after the Slemish Park side cut the arrears from seven to just two.

Dobbin also added a point as the Randalstown men saw the game out in convincing fashion to book an Ulster championship date on the 5th December against the champions of Armagh.

Randalstown wasted no time in working the scoreboard operator.

Straight from the throw in Barry McCormick surged forward from half-back and he set up midfielder Darren McCormick for the opening point.

While All Saints were failing to find their way past a watertight Randalstown defence, Martin took advantage of some slack marking in the Ballymena defence to blast home from close range.

Michael McCarry eventually opened the All Saints account with a free on 15 minutes, and ten minutes later McCarry added a second after Fagan had kicked Randalstown into a four point lead.

ALl Saints looked to be in for a goal at this stage and wing half Ciaran McGarry got on the end of a good move and found himself on a one on one with Tir na nog keeper, Sean Paul McAtamney but ther big keeper got down to his left to deny McGarry the goal that migh have ignited the Ballymena challenge.

Two points in quick succession from Fagan opened up a five point lead before All Saints gave themselves a fighting chance as half-time approached.

Sean McVeigh’s long ball into the full forward line was misjudged by Brendan McLarnon, and Saints Brendan McDonnell took full advantage to fire a left foot shot high into the Randalstown net after cutting in along the end line.

But the goal only rallied Randalstown and three unanswered points from Ciaran O’Neill, Fagan and Darren McCormick helped the Whitehill side to a deserving five point half time lead, 1-7 to 1-2.

 Tír Na nÓg Randalstown picked up where they left off at the start of the second half.

Fagan from a free and a point from goal scorer Martin helped open up a seven point lead by the 34th minute.

Both sides lost a player each to black cards in separate incidents within a three minute spell.

First Ballymena’s Emmett Kilough went for a deliberate pull down, before Caoimhín Duffin was ordered off for a similar infringement at the other end.

But it was the All Saints who played the better a man down and five unanswered points saw their arrears cut to just two points, the pick of the scores being Kavan Keenan’s point from a tight angle from the right-hand side.

Michael O’Kane freshened up his attack and the introduction of Christy Sherrin and Ciaran Dobbin helped swing the momentum back in favour of the Ógs.

Cathal McOscar Photography

After Dobbin got in behind the All Saints defence to pounce for a second goal, Sherrin finished off a flowing move after some clever play from another replacement, Eamon Og McAlister.

McAlister’s first time flick taking out two All Saints defenders and from here on in, there was no way back for the Ballymena men.

Despite a gallant effort and a Trojan performance from Sean McVeigh, All Saints couldn’t find a way past a well drilled Tír na nÓg defence, a further free from Fagan and an effort from play from Dobbin sealed a deserved championship win for Randalstown as they added the football title to the hurling one they won last season.    

Teams & Scorers

Tír na nÓg: S.P. McAtamney, Brendan McLarnon, Ciaran McGrellis, Peter Cullen, Ciaran O’Neill (0-2), Barry McCormick, Caoimhín Duffin, Ryan O’Neill, Darren McCormick (0-2), Aaron McNeilly, Sean Duffin, Darragh Fagan (0-7 5f), Tiarnan McKeown, Kevin Sherrin, Daniel Martin (1-1).

Replacements: Ciaran Dobbin (1-1), Christy Sherrin (0-1), Eamon Óg McAlister, Kieran Logan.

All Saints: Conor Brennan, Matthew Downey, Peter McNicholl, James McDonnell, Conal Lennon, Emmett Kilough, Ciaran McGarry, Sean McVeigh, Conor Stewart (0-3 1f), Kavan Keenan (0-1), Michael McCarry (0-4 2f), Peter McReynolds, Ronan McKillop, Paddy McAleer (0-1), Brendan McDonnell (1-1).

Replacements: Joe Rafferty & Shea O’Brien.

Referee: Mr Kevin Parke. (Naomh Eanna)

Intermediate final looks a hard one to call

OB Construction IFC final

Tir na og v All Saints

Saturday 7-00pm Portglenone

Saturday evening’s OB Construction, Intermediate Football Championship final between Tir na nOg Randalstown and All Saints Ballymena looks a hard one to call. Saturday’s finalists can quite rightly be regarded as the top two side in division 2 this year and both hold similar records going into Saturday’s decider.

The sides met in the opening day of the league in Ballymena and it was to prove an important game for both sides for different reasons. Tir na nOg produced a superb second half comeback to beat All Saints at Quinn Park and the Whitehill side pushed on to collect the division 2 league title.

All Saints recovered from that opening day loss to go through the rest of the season unbeaten but the slipup that they needed the Randalstown side to have never materialised so Sean O’Brien’s side had to settle for second place and missed out on promotion.

Ironically both sides were drawn in Group 1 of the Intermediate football championship and as fate would have it, they were drawn against each other in the opening round of the group stages with All Saints again having home advantage.

There was little between the sides but All Saints gained some solace from their league defeat with victory over the Whitehill side to begin their championship campaign with a win. Both sides completed their championship group games unbeaten after that Slemish Park encounter with All Saints winning the group and Tir na nOg also qualifying for the semi-finals as runners up.

Both teams faced difficult opponents in their respective semi-finals and it was a mixture of apprehension and confidence that All Saints faced old adversaries Dunloy in last weekend’s semi-final in Glenravel.

Last year’s beaten finalists, Dunloy had proved a hurdle that the Ballymena side had failed to negotiate in recent years including a defeat to the Cuhullain’s in last year’s semi-final in Ahoghill but they produced a strong performance to beat Dunloy by 0-12 to 0-6 and earn a place in their first Intermediate decider for ten years.

At the same time the division 2 league winners were facing another potential banana skin when they took on Sarsfield’s at Davitt’s Partk. Tir na nOg proved too good for Sarsfield’s. The Whitehill side was solid at the back and much more fluid in attack as they led throughout this semi-final and were full value for their win in the end.

Perhaps it is destiny then that these two sides should meet in Saturday evening’s decider. Both sides have lost one game each this season and both have suffered that defeat to each other though All Saints loss to Tir na nOg in the league was the most costly.

A win on Saturday would give All Saints their fourth Intermediate championship title but it feels like a lifetime since that last success in 2011. Portglenone were their opponents that day and their previous wins came against Moneyglass at Casement Park back in 2008 and against St. Enda’s in 1986.

Tir na nOg 1st won the IFC in 1987 beating Davitt’s in the Final.  They were captained by Anthony McClenaghan that day and managed by Terry Robb and Eamon McCoy.  

The Randalstown side last won the Intermediate Football Championship in 2000 beating Gort na Mona in the final at Casement Park.  The captain that day was Jim McAleese and the manager was Anthony Brady

Saturday night’s opponents last met in the semi-final in Casement Park in 2008. Present Cargin keeper Michael Magill was in the Tir na nOg side that day and scored 1-07 from play but still ended up on the losing side. All Saints went on to beat Moneyglass in the final that year.

The following year 2009 Ahoghill defeated Tir na nOg in the Final at Creggan. Present chairman, Dessie O’Neill was manager in both 2008 and 2009 and his son Ciaran is an important player on the present side and he will be hoping for a change of fortunes for his club this time.

The man in charge of the present Tir na nOg team is Glenullan native Mick O’Kane. Mick is in his second spell in charge of the Whitehill side having taken over from Dessie O’Neill in 2010. He was in charge for two years in his first spell and led them to promotion from division 3 to division 2. O’Kane has an experienced back up team in Seamus Heffron and Gerard Martin with Eamon Hart and Stephen Higgins also involved.

Sean O’Brien is the man in charge at All Saints and was team manager when some of the present squad collected an All Ireland Feile title back in 2014. He is assisted by former Tyrone player, Damian Hagan and former player, Paul McCann. Hagan is credited for a much improved defensive performance by All Saints this year and has some inside knowledge of the Tir na nOg side having managed them for a spell before coming to All Saints.

Whether that knowledge will be of any benefit remains to be seen. These side know each other very well already having been involved in some tigh games over recent years and it could be performance rather than tactics that will decide Saturday’s final though in a tight game tactics could play a part.

Against Dunloy Sean McVeigh, Michael McCarry, Peter McNicholl, Emmet Killough, Peter McReynolds and Paddy McAleer were the survivors from that 2011 championship winning side who went on to reach an Ulster semi-final where they were beaten in extra time by Culloville of Armagh and it seemed only a matter of time until they would climb the winning podium again.

That hasn’t been the case although the Ballymena side did gain promotion in 2014 but made a quick return to division 2 after just one season in the top grade. The emergence of a number of talented youngsters in recent years has brought about improvement and there is a quiet optimism within the All Saints camp that this could be their year.

County player, Conor Stewart, Matty Downey, James and Brendan McDonnell, Kavan Keenan, Conall Lemon, Ciaran McGarry and Shea O’Brien have all contributed handsomely to the All Saints effort this year and will be hoping to collect their first IFC medal.

Standing in their way however is a very talented Tir na nOg side who will start Saturday evening’s final as favourites by virtue of their strong league campaign and their ability to recover from that one championship defeat to Saturday’s opponents to qualify for the final.

Tir na nOg celebrated their centenary recently and collected their first Intermediate Hurling title last year when they defeated Cloney Gaels in the final at Dunsilly. They have followed that momentous achievement up with their best season on the football field since that famous victory over Davitt’s back in 1987.

Sean Paul McAtamney, Ciaran McGrellis, Ciaran O’Neill, Barry and Darren McCormick, Aaron McNeilly, Dara Fagan, Colum and Sean Duffin and Kevin and Christy Sheerin are some of the names who will be hoping to complete the season with a memorable league and championship double and on the excellent form they have shown this year they might just do it but it looks a hard one to call.

Saints go marching on

OB Construction Intermediate Football Championship semi-final

All Saints 0-12 Dunloy 0-6

All Saints qualified for the final of the Intermediate Football Championship when they beat Dunloy in Sunday’s semi-final at Fr Maginn Park, Glenravel. Over the past number of years the Ballymena side have had great difficulty against the Cuchullains in championship football but they got it right this time to win by double scores and secure a final place against Tir na nÓg next weekend.

Conor Stewart, who was one of the heroes of Antrim’s promotion bid at the start of the year, got All Saints off to a good start with a point from play on three minutes and full forward Paddy McAleer put them two ahead on five minutes with a well taken point. Keelan Molloy, who was Dunloy’s best player on the day, got his team on the scoresheet on seven minute, but a great solo effort from Kavan Keenan and another excellent score from Paddy McAleer put the Ballymena side 0-4 to 0-1 and in control.

However a Shane Dooey point just before the water break and one immediately afterwards from a Karl Fitizpatrick free cut the gap back to a single point by the seventeenth minute. Michael McCarry stretched the All Saints lead to two with a pointed free on 22 minutes, but Dunloy were now having more of the play at this stage and a great point from Keelan Molloy and one from Chrissty McMahon brought them level by the 27th minute. To their credit All Saints reacted well when challenged and a great long range point from Conor Stewart and another from Michael McCarry gave them a 0-7 to 0-5 advantage at the break.

A point from a 45 four minutes into the second half by Peter McReynolds and another from midfield stalwart Sean McVeigh stretched the All Saints lead to four but it was to be their only scores during a lack lustre third quarter, though Dunloy’s Keelan Molloy came close for the Cuchullains when his shot for goal zipped across the face of the goal and went narrowly wide.

Dunloy got their only score of the second half one 52 minutes when Molloy raced through and fisted over from close range, but All Saints finished strongly and injury time points from Ciaran McGarry and Conor Stewart sealed the win by double scores to set up a final meeting with Randalstown on Saturday next.

ALL SAINTS

Conor Brennan, Mathew Downey, Peter McNicholl, James McDonnell, Conal Lennon, Emmet Killough, Kiearn McGarry, Sean McVeigh, Conor Stewart, Kavan Keenan, Michael McCarry, Peter McReynolds, Ronan McKillop, Paddy McAleer, Brendan McDonnell.

DUNLOY

Conor McGilligan, Oran Quinn, Conor Kinsella, Eoin McFerran, Aaron Crawford, Callum Scullion, Kevin McQuillan, Ryan McGarry, Deaglan Smith, Keelan Molloy, Karl Fitzpatrick, Ryan McFarline, Chrissy McMahon, Shane Dooey, Seaan Elliott

Tir na nOg win sets up all South West final

OB Construction Antrim Intermediate Football Championship semi-final

Tír na nÓg 1-14 Sarsfield’s 0-9

Tir na nOg proved too good for Sarsfield’s in this OB Construction IFC semi-final at Davitt Park today to set up an all South West final against All Saints next Sunday. The Whitehill side was solid at the back and much more fluid in attack as they led throughout this semi-final and were full value for their win in the end.

Sarsfield’s were just two adrift at the break but Tír na nÓg stepped it up a notch in the second half and pushed on to win with something to spare in the end.

Sarsfield’s battled hard throughout but lacked the fluency of their opponents who finished the game with 10 different scorers with Aaron McNeilly finishing as their top scorer with 0-4. Niall McKenna was Sarsfield’s top man once again and contributed 0-5 over the hour but lacked support on the day.

Sean Duffin sends over Tir na nOg’s opening point

Sarsfield’s attempted to keep possession in the early stages but they lacked the knowhow to open up a disciplined Tir na nOg defence who coped with everything that came their way and broke to good effect when the opportunity presented itself.

The Randalstown side were much more direct with their attacks and it paid dividends as Ciaran O’Neill and Sean Duffin fired over from distance to settle the early nerves.

Niall McKenna opened up Sarsfield’s account from a free but Aaron McNeilly replied immediately at the other end to maintain the Randalstown men’s two point advantage.

The early exchanges in the contest were interrupted by a series of stoppages due to injury and this

didn’t help with the flow of the game, but it was Tír na nÓg who finally ended a barren nine minutes with Darren McCormick kicking them into a 0-4 to 0-1 lead at the water break.

Sarsfield’s were starting to enjoy a bit of success but their shooting didn’t match their approach play and  despite playing with the wind they were only able to add three points, all coming from placed balls with Niall McKenna kicking two and Niall McAlea adding his name to the scoresheet.

Sarsfields’s Niall McKenna makes a break

Tír na nÓg were much more efficient with Darren Fagan pointing a free and Kevin Sheerin added another after claiming a mark, to leave the Whitehill side 0-6 to 0-4 ahead at half time.

The South West side pushed on at the start of the second half as they added five points in the opening nine minutes to give themselves a lead that looked fairly comfortable even at this early juncture.

It took just 18 seconds for Ciaran O’Neill to thump over another from range, with Aaron McNeilly adding one from the left and then Ciaran McKeown fisted over when through as the Randalstown side dominated the early second half exchanges.

They looked in for a goal in the 35th minute as Kevin Sheerin gathered a broken ball but his punched effort came back off the post with Ciaran McGrellis following up to fist over and when McNeilly burst clear to add another, the league winners were on their way to the final.

Sarsfield’s were battling hard but just couldn’t get their game together but finally added to their tally with Rian McShane finishing a decent move, but a Darragh Fagan free and a point on the break from Eamonn Og McAllister left Tír na nÓg 0-13 to 0-5 ahead at the second water break.

Sarsfield’s chances looked to have improved when Ciaran O’Neill was black carded on 49 minutes but the South Antrim side failed to capitalise on the extra man and couldn’t produce the goal they badly needed to reignite their challenge.

Niall McKenna did add a couple of frees and Daniel McKernan pointed from play to bring them back to within six points but time was against therm.

Aaron McNeilly settled any Tír na nÓg nerves with a point with Sarsfield’s substitute Miceal Ferris sending a rasping drive over the bar but that was as close as they got.

The only goal of the game did arrive but it was at the other end when Tír na nÓg were awarded a penalty after McAllister was bundled over and goalkeeper Sean Paul McAtamney stepped up to tuck it away and seal Tír na nÓg’s place in the final.

TÍR NA nÓG: SP McAtamney (1-0 pen); B McLarnon, C McGrellis (0-1), P Cullan; C O’Neill (0-2), B McCormick, C Duffin; D McCormick (0-1), R O’Neill; A McNeilly (0-4, 1 free), S Duffin (0-1), D Fagan (0-2, both frees); C McKeown (0-1), K Sheerin (0-1 mark), D Martin.

Subs: E Og McAllister (0-1) for D Martin (42), C Sheerin for D Fagan (48), C Logan for K Sheerin (54)

SARSFIELD’S: M Brady; P McPeake, E Quinn, M Johnston; M McPolin, D McKernan (0-1), L Mitchell; C Murray, N McKenna (0-5, 3 frees); R McShane (0-1), G Lennon, C Laverty; T Skillen, N McAlea (0-1), K Floyd.

Subs: E Mervyn for C Laverty (20), D McGuinness for E Quinn (36), S Walsh for R McShane (42), M Ferris (0-1) for K Floyd (42), J McNally for T Skillen (46)

REFEREE: Darren McKeown (St Gall’s)