Ardoyne bridge eight-year gap to lift junior crown

Gymco Antrim Junior Football Championship Final

Ardoyne 3-06-0-12 St Comgall’s

Kevin Herron reports from Hightown

Ardoyne regained the initiative late-on and survived the dismissal of Conor McLaughlin early in the second-half as they ran out 3-06-0-12 winners over St Comgall’s to claim the Gymco Antrim Junior Football Championship at Hightown on Saturday afternoon.

The North Belfast side were hard to stop early on and hit St Comgall’s with three goals inside the first quarter of the game thanks to Cormac Mullan, Conor McLaughlin and Aidan McNeill.

But early in the second-half McLaughlin was shown a straight red-card and St Comgall’s made the most of their numerical advantage and overturned a nine-point deficit to level the scores at 3-02-0-11.

The Antrim outfit couldn’t get their noses in front however and were forced to chase the game after Mullan ended a 40-minute scoreless period for Ardoyne who ran out 3-point winners at the conclusion to lift the junior title for the first time in eight years.

Cormac Mullan (10) turns away after getting his team off to the perfect start with a goal in the opening minute.

Ardoyne laid down a marker early on and made the perfect start to proceedings, hitting the net inside of the first 30-seconds at Hightown.

Joe McNeill played an early ball into Conor McLaughlin who slipped in Cormac Mullan and Mullan rounded Ben Johnston and slotted into the empty net.

St Comgall’s got off the mark through a converted Miles Devine free but their defence was carved open for the second time on 6  minutes with a similar outcome.

Conor McLaughlin played a one-two with Declan McCormick and applied a palmed finish to the net to ensure the North Belfast outfit were firmly in the driving seat.

Miles Devine was again on hand to respond through the placed ball- although Ardoyne struck their third goal with little over 10 minutes on the clock.

For the third time Conor McLaughlin was involved as his cross-field pass was inch perfect and gathered by Aidan McNeill who picked his spot and gave his side a 3-00-0-02 lead.

St Comgall’s James McCabe in action against Ardoyne’s Sean Joe Rooney as the men from Antrim town battle their way back into the game.

St Comgall’s were facing an uphill task and that task was made a little harder as referee Sean Laverty gave Patrick O’Connor a black-card for a cynical foul off the ball.

Ardoyne made the most of their numerical advantage and extended their lead through a converted Cormac Mullan free and a Aidan McNeill point to ensure that three-goals separated the sides at the first-half water break.

St Comgall’s came out with renewed  vigour in the remaining minutes of the first-half and tagged on three successive scores.

Joseph Webb guided the ball over the bar after back to back wides from his side, Miles Devine added his third point of the half and first from play with a curling effort and a second point from Webb ensured that the Antrim outfit trailed 3-02-0-05 at the interval.

Ardoyne almost made an identical start to the second period as Declan McCormick claimed an advanced mark- but his low shot was smothered by Ben Johnston in the St Comgall’s goal.

Two minutes later Ardoyne were reduced to 14-men as Conor McLaughlin was adjudged to have kicked-out off the ball at Ruairi Griffin and although his side were in the box-seat they were without a score since the 19th minute and were now a man light.

St Comgall’s were the side in the ascendancy and began to make the most of their numerical advantage.

Dylan Murdock swept the ball between the posts, followed by a third point from Joseph Webb.

A sixth score on the trot followed courtesy of Peter McAuley after a knock-down from Darryl McNeill and just three-points separated the sides.

A short free from Miles Devine was thundered over the bar by Dylan Murdock and back to back points from Devine levelled proceedings at 3-02-0-11 as St Comgall’s looked the likeliest victors.

Ardoyne manager Ross Carr looks on anxiously as St Comgalls eat into the Kickham’s lead.

Ardoyne were still without a score since the 19th minute and ended their scoreless run of little less than 40 minutes with Cormac Mullan converting his second free of the afternoon.

Scores were like buses for the North Belfast outfit, they waited so long on one and second arrived in quick succession as Ben Johnston’s kick-out was gobbled up and midfielder Kevin McLaughlin profited with a point.

Miles Devine converted his third free of the afternoon to half the deficit going into additional time.

But Ardoyne restored their two-point advantage thanks to an angled Joe McNeill point with Mullan sealing victory – courtesy of a converted free to ensure his side ran out 3-06-0-12 winners to claim the Junior football crown for the first time since 2012.

Things were up in the air for Ardoyne for a while in the second half but the man who hit the first and the last scores of the game Cormac Mullan had things in hand.

Ardoyne: P Fisher, N Bradley, G og McFarlane, SJ Rooney, K Lynch, P Lynch, C Carter, J McNeill (0-01), K McLaughlin (0-01), C Mullan (1-03, 0-02f), G McKernan, D McCormick, A McNeill (1-01), C McDowell, C McLaughlin (1-00). Subs: K McCallan for P Lynch (41), J Gibson for SJ Rooney (48), F Campbell for C Carter (50), F Marley for G McKernan (60).

St Comgall’s: B Johnston, C McAuley, R Griffin, P Cooke, M Devine (0-06, 0-03f), R McAuley, P O’Connor, C McKeown, L Higgins, D Murdock (0-02), J Webb (0-03), J McCabe, P McAuley (0-01), T Patchett, K Walker. Subs: D McNeill for L Higgins (HT), P Quinn jnr for R McAuley (45).

Referee: Sean Laverty (St Ergnat’s, Moneyglass)

Ardoyne firm favourites but St. Commgall’s won’t be far away

GYMCO Junior Football Championship final

(4-00) St. Enda’s

Kickham’s Ardoyne v St. Comgall’s Antrim

Kickham’s Ardoyne will start tomorrow’s Junior Football Championship final against St. Comgall’s as hot favourites but they would do well not to underestimate the Antrim Town side. The North Belfast side have been going well this year under the leadership of former Down star, Ross Carr and topped a complicated Group 2 on score difference after they, O’Donnell’s and St. Comgall’s all finished with six points from four games.

Ardoyne earned themselves the favourites tag after an early 2-16 to 2-5 win over St. Comgall’s at Fennell Park after the Antrim Town side had defeated O’Donnell’s at Dunsilly in round 2, winning that one 4-6 to 1-5.

St. Comgall’s recovered from that defeat to Ardoyne to hammer Eire Og, 3-19 to1-5 in round 4 but Ardoyne suffered a surprise defeat to O’Donnell’s in the same round, losing by 0-10 to 1-6 to the MacCrory Park side.

That left O’Donnell’s and St. Comgall’s on four points each going into the final round with O’Donnell’s beating Eire Og 4-11 to 1-7 and St. Comgall’s hammering Mitchell’s. That victory appeared to have sent St. Comgall’s through but O’Donnell’s launched a protest which was eventually turned down with St. Comgall’s awarded the second qualifying spot in the group.

Ardoyne qualified for the final of the Antrim Junior Football Championship when they beat McQuillan’s Ballycastle in the semi-final at Dunsilly. A closely contested game in the first half saw the side’s level on three points apiece at the first half water break, scores for Ardoyne from Cormac Mullan from two placed balls and danger man Conor McLaughlin from play. 

The North Belfast side went on to pull away in the second half and goals from Conor McLaughlin and Aidan McNeill saw them push on to win 2-12 to 0-7 and earn them a place in Saturday’s final.

In the other semi-final St. Comgall’s were drawn against Group 1 winners, Pearses in Ballymena. Pearses had topped Group 1 and represented a serious challenge for the Antrim men but Aidan Dougan’s side came out tops with seven points to spare.

St. Comhghall’s hit 1-2 late in the opening half after Na Piarsaigh had Tom McFarlane Black carded and those scores were to prove decisive despite their opponents fight to the final whistle. Peter McAuley got the St. Comgall’s goal as they pushed on to win 1-12 to 0-8.

Miles Devine weighed in with 0-4 (0-3 frees) with Patrick O’Connor, Joe Webb, Ruairi Griffin, Dylan Murdock, James McCabe and Tom Patchett all on target and they will need that spread of scores if they are to overcome the challenge of the Ardoyne men.

The McNeill’s, Joe and Aidan, Gerard Og McFarlane, Patrick Lynch, Kevin McLaughlin, Gary McKernan, Cormac Mullan and Conor McLaughlin will spearhead the challenge of last year’s beaten finalists and they will fancy their chances of going all the way this time but if St. Comgall’s can produce their best form then they won’t be too far away.

Naomh Comhghall advance to meet Ardoyne in the final

Antrim Junior Football Championship, semi-final

St Comgall’s 1-12 Pearse’s 0-8

St. Comgall’s Antrim advanced to the final of the Antrim Junior Football championship when they defeated Pearses in the semi-final in Ballymena today. Both sides had been halted in their progress following a protest by O’Donnell’s but today matters were settled on the playing field with the Antrim town side running out seven point winners.

St. Comhghall’s hit 1-2 late in the opening half after Na Piarsaigh had Tom McFarlane Black carded and those scores were to prove decisive despite their opponents fight to the final whistle.

The New Lodge Road side gave it everything but just couldn’t find the goal that might have given them a lifeline as the Antrim Town side ran out winners to set up a meeting with Ardoyne next week.

Pearses will reflect on a number of missed opportunities that would have brought them closer and whilst St Comgall’s were just that bit more clinical in front of the posts, they too spurned a number of chances that could have made victory more decisive.

St. Comgall’s took an early lead when Miles Devine converted his first of the day from a free, with Pearses growing into the game thanks to excellent work around the middle third from McFarlane, but they just couldn’t make possession count as they missed several opportunities.

Devine doubled the St.Comgall’s lead on 10 minutes from another free and they got their first from play straight after as Tom Patchett fired over after Devine broke down Ryan McAuley’s long delivery into his path.

Pearse’s couldn’t find the target in the opening quarter despite Daniel Magee looking dangerous, but they were finally off the mark when Sean Moreland kicked a free on 16 minutes.

St Comgall’s hit back with a quick exchange of passes setting Patrick O’Connor in on the left to score, but Pearse’s were beginning to gain a foothold and Magee kicked a good score, but should have found the net on 25 minutes when through, but rolled his shot wide.

Moreland did convert a free to reduce the gap to one approaching the half way stage when Pearse’s were dealt a major blow as McFarlane was issued with a black card and 10 minutes in the sin-bin for trailing down James McCabe.

St Comgall’s took control with O’Connor immediately kicking a point and three minutes into stoppage time, substitute Peter McAuley took advantage of a slip as he got on the end of a long deliverer to finish low into the net.

There was still time for Ruairi Griffin to add another score and suddenly the ‘Town’ had moved six ahead, a lead that somewhat flattered the eventual winners.

Pearse’s needed a strong start to the second half and they opened strongly on the offensive and were rewarded with a free that Moreland converted and he followed with another straight after to leave four between the teams, but this was as close as the North Belfast men would get.

St Comgall’s hit back with Joe Webb splitting the posts off his left and this was followed by a brace from Miles Devine, (one a free) as they led 1-9 to 0-5 at the water break.

Goals were needed to get Pearse’s back into contention but they had to be settle for a couple of pointed frees from Liam Deegan and Aaron Callaghan to get to within five, but St Comgall’s were always able to find an answer to maintain a healthy gap as Dylan Murdock kicked a free in response.

Pearses pushed hard and were nearly in for a goal late on but play was brought back for a free that Callaghan tapped over and St Comgall’s had the final say with Webb and another Murdock free sending them through to a meeting with Ardoyne in next week’s final.

ST COMGALL’S: B Johnston; C McAuley, C McKeown, K Walker; P Cooke, R McAuley, D Murdock (0-2, both frees); A McGaw, L Higgins; P O’Connor (0-2), J Webb (0-2), R Griffin (0-1); J McCabe (0-1), M Devine (0-4, 3 frees), T Patchett (0-1). Subs: P McAuley (1-0) for A McGaw (15), P Quinn for C McKeown (HT), O Crilly for R McAuley (49), D O’Hara for K Walker (60+5).

PEARSE’S: E McKenna; T O’Neill, A Bannon, A McCavana; P Murray, P Nolan, D O’Neill; T McFarlane, C O’Neill; L Deegan (0-1 free), P Donaghy, F Grew; S Moreland (0-4, all frees), D Magee (0-1), L Giannetto. Subs: N Largey for F Grew (HT), A Callaghan (0-2, both frees) for S Moreland (49), C Magee for D O’Neill (49).

REFEREE: Kevin Parke (Naomh Éanna)

Naomh Comhghall may edge a close semi-final

GYMCO Junior Football Championship semi-final

(Ballymena 1-00)

Na Piarsaigh v Naomh Comhghall

After what seems like an eternity the Junior Football Championship gets under way again with the second semi-final scheduled for Slemish Park, Ballymena on Saturday. Kickham’s Ardoyne have already qualified for the final a number of weeks ago with a win over Ballycastle but Naomh Comhghall’s meeting with Na Piarsaigh was postponed following a protest from O’Donnell’s.

I’m not going to go into the details of that protest in this preview but it appears to have been resolved and so it is St. Comgall’s v Pearses this Saturday with a place against Ardoyne the prize for the eventual winners.

Na Piarsaigh topped a Group 1 which included McQuillan’s, Ballycastle, St. Agnes, Laochra Loch Lao and St. Malachy’s recording three wins from four starts to finish level with McQuillan’s but claimed top spot because of the head to head rule.

Naomh Comghgall enjoyed mixed fortunes in Group 2 beating O’Donnell’s in round 1 before suffering a heavy defeat to Ardoyne in round 2. They got back on track with a resounding win over Eire Og on day three of the qualifiers before a facile victory over Mitchells in round four.

Na Piarsaigh’s only defeat came to St. Agnes back on the 12th August but they have impressed in wins over McQuillan’s, St. Malachy’s and Laochra Loch Lao and will go into Saturday’s semi-final with confidence.

Eamon McKenna has been solid in goals and Frankie Davison, Paddy Nolan and Luca Gianetto have been sound in defence for the Belfast men. Tom McFarlane and Cormac O’Neill form a strong mid-field while Piaras Donaghy, Sean Moreland, Liam Deegan and Oisin Grew can be relied on for scores.

Naomh Comghgall manager Adrian Dougan will look to the likes of Miles Devine, Paddy O’Connor, Ruairi Griffin, Dylan Murdock, Louis Higgins, Colm Griffin, Tom Patchett, Joe Webb, Caolan McKeown and Patrick Quinn and the Antrim town mentor will be hoping that the break from play will not have disrupted his side’s momentum.

Verdict: Both sides are capable of putting up big scores on their day but St. Comhghall’s have been knocking at the championship door for a while and may just edge a tight contest.

Na Piarsaigh advance to semi-final


Laochra Loch Lao  0-03 Na Piarsaigh 0-13

Na Piarasigh travelled to the west of the city last night in search of 2 points to secure their place in the GYMCO County Antrim junior football championship semi-final. Following last week’s narrow defeat to St Agnes this round robin game was a proper championship game with both teams having to win to qualify.

The Pearses management made 2 changes from the previous week with Aidan Bannon back at centre half forward and Stephen Fitzsimon returning to the half forward line in what was a truly miserable night for players and spectators alike as Storm Ellen started to blow in across Ireland. Laochra started the brighter in the gloomy conditions attacking right from the throw in and had registered their first wide of the game before a Pearses player had touched the ball. Both teams were cagey to begin with trying to work out the handling in the wet but Pearses started to grow into the game working the ball well in the hands before a fast attack was finished off by Sean Moreland for the opening score of the game. this was quickly followed by 2 scores from frees by Liam Deegan as Pearses kept up their possession game which at times this year has looked like the Gaelic football version of total football. Laochra then scored their first of the game after 2 more wides before Oisin Grew struck a fine score coming off the left wing.

After the first water break Laochra’s changed their tactics and each time Pearses had the ball they dropped 13 men behind the ball content to let the North Belfast men have the ball further up field, nullifying the threat of full forward Daniel Magee.  Unfortunately for the West Belfast men Pearses quickly worked out that if they couldn’t go through or round them they would just shoot over them, Piaras Donaghy scored 2 excellent long range efforts and Sean Moreland added another to leave the score at the break Lochra Loch Lao 0-03 Na Piarasigh 0-07

The 2nd half started much the same as the previous half ended with conditions continuing to be extremely difficult and the home side continuing to sit in to try and frustrate Pearses. The away team kept their heads and composure though and as frustrations started to show from the home team their yellow card count continued to rise at the same rate as the Pearses score. Daniel Magee added one and Liam Deegan added 2 more frees appearing to have found his scoring boots after the St Agnes match the previous week. Laochra then added their only score of the half before being reduced to 14 men when one of their midfielders managed to talk his way off the pitch.

Coming out after the 2nd water break Pearses made their only change as Phil Murray came on for Oisin Grew who had run and run all night. Sean Moreland added another fine point and Stephen Fitzsimons finally got himself on the score sheet with a drilled effort from the right. At this point Laochra started to go for goals and Eamon McKenna who had had little to do all night cleared one off his line and then showed great agility for a big man to get down to his post to push the ball round the corner. Another good looking attack was snuffed out by Aodhan McCavana with some tenacious tackling back.

The scoring ended for the night with an excellent long range point by captain Piaras Donaghy. Overall there were some excellent performances. The back lines looked composed throughout and Tom Macfarlane won nearly every ball in the middle of the park. The forwards worked hard all night against a 13 man defence with Stephen Fitzsimon shining on his return to the team with 5 assists. Focus now turns to the semi finals and 2 weeks of continued hard work for the full squad in preparation for what is sure to be a tough championship semi-final whoever they play.

Special mention on nights like tonight has to go to Michael O’Neill former player, manager, coach, secretary, PRO, chairman and everything else in the club who remains in hospital. There was a great show from all the lads turning up on the Falls Road outside his window on the way to the game to cheer him on. Mick remains the lad’s biggest supporter and our biggest inspiration.

Na Piarsaigh: Eamon McKenna, Darren O’Neill, Frankie Davison, Aodhan McCavana, Aodhan Bannon, Paddy Nolan, Luca Gianetto, Tom McFarlane, Cormac O’Neill, Piaras Donaghy (0-3) Oisin Grew (0-01) Stephen Fitzsimon (0-01) Sean Moreland (0-03) Daniel Magee (0-01) Liam Deegan (0-04 f) subs: Phil Murray for Oisin Grew; Michael Bannon, Aaron Callaghan, Phil Parker, Tiernan Johnston, Andrew Goodall, Fionn Grew, Frank McCallan, Tomas O’Neill, Conor Davison.