Naomh Comhghall make step into unknown

Ulster Junior club Football Championship quarter-final

Naomh Comhghall (Antrim) v Denn (Cavan)

Breffni Park Saturday 6-00pm

By Paddy McIlwaine

St. Comhghall’s, Antrim make a step into the unknown this Saturday evening when they take on Denn GAC of Cavan at Breffni Park in the quarter final of the Ulster Junior Club football championship.

Naomh Comhghall won the Antrim JFC this year for the first time since 1998 when they beat St. Mary’s Rasharkin in an excellent final in Ahoghill that needed penalties to decide to qualify for this weekend’s Ulster quarter-final against the Cavan champions and it will be the Antrim town side’s first appearance on the Ulster stage.

There was no Ulster Junior club competition back in 98 when Naomh Comhghall previously won the Antrim championship so Saturday’s meeting with Denn will be a first game at Ulster level for the men from ‘The Town’

St. Comgall’s stalwart, Paddy Quinn was in the team who defeated St. John’s in the decider back in 1995 and managed the side who beat Ballycastle in the 1998 final at Casement Park.

Paddy is now chairman of Naomh Comhghall and is still a major driving force behind the club. Adrian Dougan is the man in charge of St. Comhghall’s and the Creggan native has done a fine job in bringing his side to Saturday’s Ulster debut. Dougan has a strong panel to select from but instilling belief that they can carry this year’s form into Ulster will be key if they are to progress.

Tom Patchett and Miles Devine who will be vital to the Naomh Comhghall challenge against Denn of Cavan on Saturday

Anto Watson in goals, Caolan O’Loan, Ryan McAuley, Dylan Murdock, Danaan O’Hara, James McCabe, Tom Patchett, Patrick O’Connor, Joseph Webb and Paddy Quinn are some of the players that Dougan has at his disposal with goalkeeper Watson the Naomh Comhghall hero when he saved the penalty that saw them win the Antrim final.

While Naomh Comhghall lack experience at this level, Cavan champions Denn find themselves in a similar position. Denn’s only other success at county level came back in 1984 so like Saturday’s opponents, they will be making their Ulster debut.

Denn claimed the Junior Championship title for the second time in the club’s history as they ran out seven-point winners over Drung in this year’s Cavan final.

Denn came into this match as favourites, having turned in a scintillating performance against Knockbride in the semi-final and they lived up to their billing, although they only pulled away in the final quarter against a Drung side who performed well for most of the game.

Denn were not to be denied, however, and some super performances all over the pitch helped them over the line. Thomas Edward Donohue was key; he dropped back in a deeper role than usual and was involved in most of what was good about the Crosskeys-based side’s performance as well as scoring from placed balls and open play.

Denn pushed on to win fairly convincingly in the end with Thomas Edward Donoghue leading the way and scoring 1-5, (3frees, 1 mark) and will need close attention from the Antrim champion’s defence with Ben Conaty another who was fluent in attack against Drung and scored 1-2 from play.

The Cavan champions deserve respect from Naomh Comhghall but should not be feared and if Adrian Dougan’s men can produce the level of performance they have displayed consistently this year then they have what it takes to win this one.

Against Rasharkin in the Antrim final they came out on top in a titanic battle where they showed deep resolve and abundant character to get over the line against a strong and determined St. Mary’s side.

It was an epic final between two evenly matched sides with momentum swinging like the proverbial gate and both sides looking like they had it won at the end of the hour.  The sides were tied incredibly on 10 occasions over the 80 minutes with two points the biggest lead either side held at any stage.  The fate of the junior championship was decided by the lottery of penalties but that will matter little to the St Comgall’s.

Miles Devine was superb for Naomh Comhghall and directed matters from mid-field and top scored with 0-9 while Dylan Murdock 0-2, Conor McAuley 0-2, Tom Patchett 0-2, James McCabe and Patrick O’Connor provided the scores that saw St. Comgall’s through.

McAuley and Murdock’s contribution of two points each from defence was key and the Antrim town side have the capability to produce scores from all over the pitch and that could be important in a tight game.

Much will depend on how the Antrim champions start the game but if they can get a few early scores to settle them down and, if they can reproduce the free flowing football that has marked their game this year then I believe they have the players and the ability to overcome the Denn challenge.

St Comgall’s celebrate thier JFC success

Players and officials of St Comgall’s GAC were joined by family and friends last weekend at the Dunadry Inn as they celebrated their successes during the past year, top of the list being thei Junior Football Championship final win over Rasharkin just five days earlier. Club photographer Eelco Westerhuis went along to capture the action.

For Naomh Comhghall the long wait is over

The long wait for Junior Football Championship success for Naomh Comhghall ended last Sunday in Ahoghill when they defeated St. Mary’s Rasharkin in the final. It took extra time and penalties to separate the protagonists after and epic struggle where the sides were tied 10 times during an exciting war of attrition.

Not the way that Paddy Quinn, Adrian Dougan and his team would have wanted to win it but after disappointment after disappointment in finals over the last decade the boys for the ‘Town’ deserved the wee bit of fortune that  fell their way when Anto Watson became the hero for the winners with a late penalty save.

One can’t help but feel sorry for the losers on an occasion such as this but Rasharkin have been excellent this year, winning promotion back to division 2 and when the disappointment of defeat subsides I’m sure they will wish Naomh Comhghall all the best in next year’s Intermediate championship.

On a great day for taking photographs I was only able to publish a selection of the many shots I took on the day so today I’m publishing some more from the game and I hope the men from the ‘Town’ will enjoy another trip down memory lane.

Drama as St Comgalls seal title after penalties

GYMCO Junior Football Championship

Final

St Comgalls, Antrim 018 Rasharkin 0-18 (aet)

St Comgalls win 3-2 on penalties

Sunday October 31

Brendan McTaggart reports from Ahoghill

St Comgall’s and Rasharkin played out a classic final on Sunday afternoon with the junior crown on the line. In the end, it was the men from Antrim town who held their nerve form the penalty spot, substitute Peter McAuley with the decisive spot kick.

It was an epic final between two evenly matched sides with momentum swinging like the proverbial gate and both sides looking like they had it won at the end of the hour.  The sides were tied incredibly on 10 occasions over the 80 minutes with two points the biggest lead either side held at any stage.  The fate of the junior championship was decided by the lottery of penalties but that will matter little to the St Comgall’s.

Dylan Murdock fired over the first of his two points for the opening score of the match after barely 30 seconds.  A delightful score with the outside of his boot to get the Antrim men up and running.  Rasharkin started the final brightly as well with Eamon McNeill’s instinctive point in the second minute opening the scoring for the men from Dreen.  Early ball into the Rasharkin marksman and a classy finish we’ve seen plenty of over the years. 

A free from Shane Hasson and point from Conor McFerran opened a two point lead for Rasharkin by the seventh minute.  St Comgall’s began to find their way into the final with Miles Devine the man with the answers as they turned a two point deficit into a two point lead in the space of 10 minutes.  A brace of frees from Devine preceded Murdock’s second score of the game and the score of the first half from Tom Pratchett.  The St Comgall’s centre half forward finishing off a fine move involving James McCabe and Joseph Webb.

St Comgalls had set up to stop Rasharkin from delivering quick ball into McNeill and Conor McFerran and a mix of patience and guile, they had the upperhand for most of the opening quarter.

A free from distance from Andrew Hasson and composed finish by Fearghal Kennedy restored parity to the score once more but Devine was punishing any discretions by the Rahsarkin defence with an exhibition of free taking to open a two point lead for his side once more.

Andrew Hasson’s second and third free’s of the game came either side of a score from Conor McAuley to give St Comgall’s a one point lead at the half time whistle.

Half time score, St Comgall’s 0-8 Rasharkin 0-7.

Like the start of the game, St Comgall’s opened the scoring after the restart with their first attack.  Patrick O’Connor with the finish but Rahsarkin began the second half with more urgency and noticeably delivering the ball into their forward line more quickly.

A trio of points from Andrew Hasson (one free) gave the men from Dreen a one point lead by the seventh minute of the second half before a superb score from Conor McAuley from wide on the left brought St Comgall’s level.  It was brief respite for the Antrim men however as Rasharkin were flying in the third quarter.  A fisted point from Gerard O’Hagan fired them into the lead once more before McNeill’s second of the match in the 42nd minute brought the Rasharkin crowd to life at Ahoghill.

St Comgall’s threatened at the other end of the pitch and but for the brilliance of Tiernan O’Boyle, they could have scored the opening goal of the final.  Conor McAuley seeing his effort bravely saved from point blank range by the Rasharkin shot stopper.  Murdock fired over with the outside of his boot to leave the sides tied on 12 points each at the second half water break.

An instinctive finish from Tom Patchett gave St Comgall’s the lead once more but Andrew Hasson was proving any free inside of 50 yards was being punished as a further brace of frees gave Rasharkin a two point lead with five minutes of the hour remaining.

St Comgall’s and Devine hit back however with three points from their star player (one free) giving them a one point lead in the third minute of injury time.

Rasharkin pushed for another equaliser and St Comgall’s were reduced to 14 men when Conor McAuley saw red for an overzealous tackle on Pearce Kelly.  The men from Dreen rolled the dice and brought ‘keeper O’Boyle up to take a free from close to 55 yards only to see his effort dropping short and a goal bound effort was deflected wide.  Tiernan O’Boyle stood over the resulting ’45 in the sixth minute of injury time and celebrated as soon as he made contact with the ball.  The rest of the crowd watched on as the ball sailed over the bar with effectively the last touch of the hour with the sides tied on 15 points apiece.

With cramp hitting both teams in extra time and bodies falling everywhere, it was a survival of the fittest in the additional 20 minutes but again, neither side could pull away decisively.  James McCabe and Devine (free) fired over either side of Shane Hasson’s free for Rasharkin in the opening 10 minutes but the men from Dreen edged ahead with five minutes remaining once again.  Andrew Hasson and Fearghal Kennedy raising the white flag to give their side hope of taking the crown but St Comgall’s and Devine had other ideas.  His ninth point of the game, seventh free of the match from 45 yards out brought the sides level for the tenth time and neither side could find a winner in the time that remained.

Penalties to decide who would be junior champions and it was St Comgall’s who blinked first.  James McCabe’s penalty was saved superbly from Tiarnan O’Boyle after Andrew Hasson fired the opening penalty.  Ruairi O’Boyle’s penalty fired wide of the left post as Miles Devine’s penalty made sure it was ‘as you were’ on the score line after two penalties each.  Shane Hasson’s spot kick cannoned back off the cross bar before Caolan O’Loan’s converted his spot kick to make it advantage to St Comgall’s.  Tiarnan O’Boyle found the top corner with his spot kick before Tom Pratchett’s penalty sailed over the bar to leave the sides tied on two successful spot kicks each after four penalties.

Anto Watson saved Seamus Ellis’ diving to his right hand side paving the way for Peter McAuley to fire the winning spot kick and send the St Comgall’s faithful into delirium.  A cruel way to end a final but Rasharkin more than played their part in a hugely entertaining final.  Scant consolation for the men from Dreen who will ply their trade in Division 2 in 2022.  For St Comgall’s, the season rolls on with a journey in Ulster to look forward to.

TEAMS

St Comgalls: Anto Watson; Kian Walker, Ryan McAuley, Caolan O’Loan; Dylan Murdock, Michael McCabe, Ruairi Graffin; Danaan O’Hara, Miles Devine; James McCabe, Tom Patchett, Patrick O’Connor; Conor McAuley, Joseph Webb, Paddy Quinn

Subs: Louis Higgins for D O’Hara (41); Aaron McGaw for K Walker (48); Peter McAuley for J Webb (59); Rory McLarnon for R Graffin (ET 5)

Scorers: Miles Devine 0-9 (7 f’s); Dyland Murdock 0-2; Conor McAuley 0-2; Tom Patchett 0-2; James McCabe 0-1; Patrick O’Connor 0-1

Rasharkin: Tiernan O’Boyle; Pearce Kelly, Emmett McFerran, Conor Doherty; Gerard O’Hagan, Conor Hasson, Fearghal Kennedy; Jack Quinn, Ruairi O’Boyle; Andrew Hasson, Donagh Quigg, Seamus Ellis; Shane Hasson, Eamon McNeill, Conor McFerran

Subs: Odhran McGarrell for G O’Hagan (46); Oran McFerran for E McNeill (59); Callum Montgomery for C Doherty (ET 13)

Scorers: Andrew Hasson 0-9 (7 f’s); Eamon McNeill 0-2; Shane Hasson 0-2 (2 f’s); Gerard O’Hagan 0-1; Fearghal Kennedy 0-1; Conor McFerran 0-1; Tiernan O’Boyle 0-1 (’45); Odhran McGarrell 0-1

Referee: Brendan Toland (Lamh Dhearg)

South West rivals in JFC decider

GYMCO JFC Final

Ahoghill-Sunday 12-45pm

St. Mary’s Rasharkin v Naomh Comhghall Antrim

South west rivals Sr. Mary’s Rasharkin and Naomh Comhghall Antrim meet this Sunday in the final of the GYMCO JFC and it promises to be an interesting contest between two sides who have been to the fore in division 3 in recent times.

Former Intermediate championship winners, Rasharkin have been undergoing a rebuilding programme in recent years and following their relegation from division 2, a couple of years ago have rung the changes in management and personnel.

Stephen (Spanner) Hardy is the man in charge of the Dreen outfit this year and he has called on the services of Creggan man, Ciaran McCartney as trainer and it has proved a winning combination to date.

Rasharkin won division 3 of the ACFL this year, defeating a descent Na Piarsaigh side in the final and on Sunday past defeated the North Belfast side in a tight championship semi-final in Toome.

It’s been 11 years since St. Mary’s enjoyed championship success however but back in 2010 they defeated Dunloy in the Intermediate Championship final after a replay and they went on to reach the Ulster semi-final that year.

The Dreen side have failed to build on that success and in recent years they have battled to hold onto their division 2 status before suffering relegation a couple of years ago. A lot of the old guard have moved on but slowly but surely Stephen Hardy and his management team have introduced a number of new faces and this year the side has started to click.

Tiernan O’Boyle, Fearghal Kennedy and Ruairi O’Boyle are just some of the new faces making their mark with the Dreen side while former Donegal man Seamus Ellis has proved a useful addition to the side. The team retain quite a number of experienced players however with Andrew and Conor Hasson, Conor McFerran, Donagh Quigg and Gerard O’Hagan the men whom the team revolve around.

The side has been hampered by injuries to two of their top forwards in recent time with Ryan Lynch out for a lengthy period and Eamonn McNeill unable to start or indeed take any part in last week’s semi-final.

Rasharkin suffered a further injury blow just before throw-in last Sunday when their keeper, Ryan Doherty injured himself in the warm-up and had to be replaced by Tiernan O’Boyle in goals.

The best of enemies! Adrian Dougan the Naomh Comhghall manager and Ciaran McCartney the Rasharkin trainer will be in opposite corners this Sunday. The Creggan men are good friends but that friendship is likely to be put on hold until after Sunday’s final

Doherty is unlikely to make Sunday’s final and Lynch is a definite non-starter but whether McNeill will start or indeed be able to take any part remains to be seen. Pearse Kelly, the Quiggs, Ciaran, Liam and Donagh and Jack Quinn are all likely to join the previously mentioned in the starting line-up for Sunday’s final.

Their opponents on Sunday, Naomh Comhghall of Antrim have been knocking on the Junior Championship door for more years than they want to remember but will certainly provide Rasharkin with tough opposition in the Ahoghill showdown.

St. Comgall’s stalwart, Paddy Quinn was in the team who defeated St. John’s in the decider back in 1995 and managed the side who beat Ballycastle in the 1998 final at Casement Park. That was the last time the men from Antrim town lifted the trophy but they were beaten finalists against Ardoyne, Glenravel and St. Malachy’s in more recent times and they will be hoping to go one step further come Sunday.

Adrian Dougan is the man in charge at St. Comhghalls and he will renew acquaintances with his friend and Creggan Colleague, Ciaran McCartney, this Sunday though that friendship could be put on hold until after Sunday’s final.

Dougan has a strong panel to select from but instilling belief into his side will be key if they are to put the disappointment of recent championship defeats behind them.

Anto Watson in goals, Caolan O’Loan, Ryan McAuley, Dylan Murdock, Danaan O’Hara, James McCabe, Tom Patchett, Patrick O’Connor, Joseph Webb and Paddy Quinn are just some of the players that Dougan can call upon as Naomh Comhghall attempt to put a barren spell behind them.

Much will depend on whether the Antrim town side can learn the lessons from previous championship defeats but they certainly face a stiff test against a Rasharkin side who have potential match winners in Conor and Andrew Hasson, Seamus Ellis, Conor McFerran, Gerard O’Hagan and, if fit, Eamonn McNeill.