A bit of history revisited-can you help us?

Yesterday I posted an article on the Dunloy footballers who enjoyed great success during the 20’s and 30’s, collecting six senior championships. Some of those victories were achieved against teams who no longer exist in Antrim football but who were very prominent at that time and it would be great to hear about them and bring Antrim Gaels a little bit of their history.

James Stephens immediately comes to mind and they were a real force in Antrim at the time, winning championships in 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919 and 1922 which included six in a row, a wonderful achievement by anybody’s standards.

Going back to the start of the last century a team called Seagan An Diomais won five Senior Championships in 1903, 1906, 1908, 1909 and 1910 and I have to be honest, I hadn’t heard of them but my curiosity was immediately heightened.

O’Connell’s, (3) Gaelhil Uladh (3) and Otlamh Fodhla (2) Tir na nOg, Belfast (1) were other names who came jumping out at me from the statistics page and it would be great to hear about their history and get reports and photographs of those finals if there are any about.

O’Neill Crowleys won a senior championship in 1905 but no longer exist and I was surprised to find that clubs like Eire Og (1948), Pearses (1968), Ardoyne (1932 &37), Mitchells (1911 &12) and O’Donnell’s (1940) all won Senior Championships.

Glenravel of course won their only senior championship in 1966 and I was privileged to have attended that final while Tir na nOg, Belfast were champions back in 1902.

As we know Eire Og, Pearses, Ardoyne, Mitchells, O’Donnell’s, Glenravel and Pearses still exist and are going strong but it would be great to get reports and photographs from their senior championship successes.

If any of our readers have reports and photographs from those championship successes or a bit of info on the history of those clubs it would be great to hear from you. I feel it is important that the history of these clubs is not lost.

If you have any info send it to ptrckmclwn@yahoo.co.uk or john.mcilwaine@yahoo.co.uk we would be delighted to hear from you.

When Dunloy were football Champions

Like most of you I suspect, I would always have regarded Cuchullain’s Dunloy as a hurling club who have always played football and, certainly in my time hurling has been regarded as the premier game in the North Antrim club.

It hasn’t always been that way however and back in the early 1920’s the Cuchullain’s were a force to be reckoned with at the highest level in Antrim football winning Senior Football championships in 1924, 25 and 26 to complete three in a row and again in 1931, 35 and 36.

The Dunloy football success story goes back a year earlier however when the breakthrough came and they won the Junior Championship on the 18th November 1923, defeating O’Rahilly’s in Dunloy in the final.

By virtue of that win in 1923 Dunloy entered the SFC the following year and against all the odds they reached the final where they came up against the great James Stephens. James Stephens at the time were regarded as one of the top teams in Antrim and had already collected six senior titles and Dunloy would have been regarded as outsiders when the sides met at Corrigan Park.

The match was played in wet conditions on June the 8th and it seemed to be going the way of the city side when they led by three points midway through the second half. A late goal drew the sides level and in extra time Pat Cunning scored the winning point to give the Cuchullain’s their first senior title.

Pat Cunning, who was one of the stars of the game described it as one of the toughest games he had ever played in and recalled the intense excitement in the village that morning as the team assembled in the Band Room prior to the journey to Belfast.

The Dunloy panel that day were: B McNally, W Brogan, J Brogan, W Molloy, R Reilly, J Dillon, J McFerran, H McCamphill, B Cunning, P Cunning, Fr. Cullen, C Kearns, D McKillen, J Hendron, D Brogan, HJ Drain, P McGuckian, P McCamphill.

Dunloy went into the 1925 championship as defending champions and they defeated Larne in the semi-final and went on to meet O’Connell’s in the final. Dunloy enjoyed home advantage for the final and led by six points at half time in almost perfect conditions.

The city side came strong in the second half but the Dunloy defence stood firm with Jack Myles Pat Cunning and John McFerran in brilliant form to run out winners by three points. That final was played in a field at the bottom of the New Road.

“Irish News” 11th August 1925

The County Antrim Football Final between Dunloy and O’Connell’s was played in ideal weather conditions in a field at the bottom of the New Road in Dunloy.

O’Connell’s started brilliantly, pressurising the home team for the first ten minutes of the game and scored the opening point with a lovely shot from Murray. John McFerran and Jack Myles were strong in the Dunloy defence however and O’Connell’s could not maintain that initial force. Dunloy then got into their stride and by the interval led by six points.

In a vigorous second half, both teams played for all their worth and hard knocks were all too frequent. Saddler was outstanding in O’Connell’s defence but, despite the visitors’ desperate efforts to pull the game out of the fire, they had to admit defeat.

Despite a three hour journey to Dunloy, O’Connell’s gave a worthy display and, had it not been for the excitement getting the better of some of their players, a replay may have been necessary. Starring for O’Connell’s on the day were Saddler, Cosgrove, Murray, Boomer and McDonald. Gillan in goal brought off a brilliant save in the second half.

Any of the few shots that came towards B McNally in the Dunloy goal found him on the alert. The magnificent display by Myles in the Dunloy defence secured him a place in the county team against Cavan. He was valuably assisted from the other backs especially Brogan.

McFerran in the middle line also featured brilliantly and was always found backing up the forwards’ attack.

Patsy McGuckian was unusually off colour. J Brogan played a great game, his placing of the ball was very noticeable. The forwards Cunning, Reilly and Kearns played vigorously from start to finish. Fr. Cullen was always found in attack and in defence D Brogan was responsible for some great moves.

1926

Dunloy reached their third final in a row in 1926. The final was a repeat of the 1924 final and was played in Corrigan Park. The score was Cuchullain’s 0-5-James Stephen’s 0-4. The game was played in very wet conditions and this suited the more experienced and much stronger Cuchullain’s side. After trailing by four points at half time, Dunloy eventually gained control.

Points from P Cunning, and D McKillen, midway through the second half, kept the Cuchullain’s in contention.

C Kearns was the hero when he goaled with five minutes remaining to give them a one point victory. This win completed a hat-trick of victories for Dunloy. The achievement was marked by the fact that the county team who defeated Tyrone that year included 14 Dunloy men in their side.

As a result of that success various invitations to play tournament games were accepted from clubs as far away as Donegal.

1927

Dunloy were back in the final in 1927 but lost to a strong Rossa side

1928

Dunloy continued to challenge for football honours in the years that followed and came close to extending their run to four in a row but O’Connell’s gained revenge for their 1925 defeat by beating Cuchullain’s in the final after a replay.

Cuchullain’s failed to make home advantage pay in the first game and were lucky to be level at full-time with Barney McNally in goals making a series of outstanding saves over the hour. In the replay in Corrigan Park Dunloy introduced three new faces in Archie McGowan, Fr. O’Neill and James Kearns and dominated most of the possession.

They led by three points until midway through the second half with all the points coming from Pat Cunning who was the best player on the field. O’Connell’s hit back with a goal and two points to take the lead. Dunloy pressed hard in the closing stages but were unable to turn good possession into scores.

1929

Dunloy were beaten in the North Antrim final by Lamh Dhearg, Toome who went on to take the county title,

1930

Dunloy were beaten football finalists again in 1930, this time losing to Rossa and it was double disappointment for the Cuchullain’s with O’Connell’s beating them in the hurling final.

1931

Dunloy were back in the football final in 1931 where they faced comparatively newcomers, McKelvey’s. The game was played on the 12th July. This historic date must have had an influence on some of the players and officials, as records show the game was abandoned because of a dispute! With Cuchullain’s leading by 0-6 to 0-2 McKelvey’s scored. The Cuchullain’s umpire signalled for a point while his opposite number raised a red flag.

Players and spectators became involved in the dispute. County officials decided the issue by ordering a replay which Dunloy won.

1932

It was back into another final in 1932 and Dunloy were firm favourites going into this game against an Ardoyne side who were playing in their first final. It didn’t work out that way however with the North Belfast men taking the honours.

1933-1934

Dunloy were back in the final in 1933 and 34 but success eluded them in both deciders, losing to St. Gall’s and O’Connell’s respectively. Cuchullain’s came back to claim the SFC crown in 1935 and 36 but lost the 37 final to Ardoyne and the 38 final to Gaedhil Uladh.

Defeats to O’Donnell’s and Sarsfields in the final of 40 and 41 brought an end to a superb period for the footballers of Dunloy. They still compete successfully in the league and championship in Antrim but in recent years have played in division 2 of the league and competed in the Intermediate championship.

A fresh crop of young players have merged in recent years with success at minor and U21 level but hurling has taken over as the number one sport and the Cuchullain’s have enjoyed their fair share of success on the hurling front.

The men from the village are well capable of claiming another success at senior level on the football field and if they can get their strongest side on the field then an Intermediate title is well within their capabilities in the not too distant future.

    

Eight in a row St. Gall’s last win was in 2014

When St. Gall’s completed an 8-in-a row of Senior Football Championships in 2014 and their 12th in 13 years it would have been hard to envisage it was to be their last to date. A team that had been built on the success of a strong minor and U21 side had dominated Antrim football for more than a decade and many of that successful minor and U21 side had remained on board throughout this record breaking journey.

St. Gall’s went on to win an Ulster title in 2005 and again in 2009 to add to a previous success in 1982 and the 2009 side wrote their names into the history books when they went on to take the All Ireland title under the guidance of present Antrim manager, ,Lenny Harbison.

Erin’s Own Cargin were beaten finalists in 2013 and 2014 and had interrupted the St. Gall’s run in 2006 when they beat Lamh Dhearg in the final and the Toome side will feel that they should have had more championship successes to their credit over the years before finally coming good again in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019 and were hoping to make it 3-in-a-row in 2020.

Those who witnessed the St. Gall’s success over nearly two decades will find it hard to believe that it is six years since the Milltown side last won a championship but they are now a side in transition with many of their top players coming to the end of very successful careers. Whether the 2020 championship goes ahead or not is down to Covid 19 but today we look back at the last of the St. Gall’s successes in 2013 and 2014.

2013 final

St Gall’s 0-12
Erin’s Own, Cargin 0-11

St Gall’s won a record equalling seventh consecutive Antrim SFC title at Ahoghill on Saturday when surviving a close shave against a brave Erin’s Own, Cargin outfit.

The 2010 All-Ireland club champions hung on by the skin of their teeth after defender Conor Burke’s arm came to their rescue by denying Tomas McCann a goal right at the death.

Cargin were also left to rue a missed penalty by goalkeeper Jimmy McNabb in the 35th minute.

His spot-kick was saved by his opposite number Chris Kerr and points from Conor McGourty (two) and Sean Kelly rubbed salt into Cargin’s wounds.

Cargin fought back to restore parity with two minutes left on the clock but points from Terry O’Neill and Michael Pollock secured the silverware for the holders.

“I suppose, in the end, the team with the best footballers closed the game out,” St Gall’s manager Carl McCabe remarked to the Irish Independent after the final whistle.

“But we have a few very close shaves – I don’t even know how that one was blocked at the end.”

St Gall’s – C Kerr; C Burke, A McClean, C Brady; J McGreevy, S Kelly (0-1), R Wilson; A Healy, A Gallagher; T O’Neill (0-1), K Niblock (0-3, 1f), N O’Neill (0-1); C McGourty (0-5, 3f), M Pollock (0-1), K Stewart. Subs: B Bradley for N O’Neill, S O’Hara for C McGourty, K McGourty for R Wilson, S McAreavey for K Stewart.

Erin’s Own, Cargin – J McNabb; D McKeever, J Crozier, M Kane; J Laverty, K O’Boyle, R Devlin; P McCann, M McCann (0-1); K Close (0-5, 4f), T McCann (0-1f), E McGrogan; T Scullion, G O’Boyle (0-3, 1f), M Magill (0-1). Subs: G McCann for P McCann, J Carron for E McGrogan.

St. Gall’s 1-11
Erin’s Own, Cargin 0-10

St. Gall’s secured a record eighth successive Antrim SFC title and a 13th in 14 years at the expense of Cargin at Ahoghill.

A stunning CJ McGourty goal in the 18th minute proved all-important as the Milltown men sealed their place in the record books. Cargin opening brightly with points from Ciaran Close and Gerald O’Boyle, but two Michael Pollock efforts had the holders level before Mick McCann edged Erin’s Own back in front.

However, that was the last time the challengers led as Anto Healy equalised before McGourty’s rocket into the top corner of John McNabb’s net gave Ciaran McCabe’s charges a 1-4 to 0-4 interval lead.

Close narrowed the gap from a free early in the second half, but the champions always looked comfortable as scores from McGourty, Pollock and sub Kevin McGourty kept them in the driving seat.

Gerald O’Boyle drilled over a 20-metre free in injury-time, but it was a case of too little, too late for the losers.

St Gall’s – C Kerr; R Wilson, C Burke, C Brady; J McGreevy, S Kelly, T O’Neill; N O’Neill, A Gallagher; A Healy (0-1), CJ McGourty (1-4, 0-2f), K McGourty (0-1); M Pollock (0-5, 3f), K Niblock, K Stewart. Subs: B Bradley for K Stewart, K McGourty for A Healy.

Erin’s Own, Cargin – J McNabb; K O’Boyle, J Crozier, M Kane; R Devlin, T Scullion, J Carron; M McCann (0-1), G McCann; K Close (0-2f), J Laverty, O McAuley; T McCann (0-1’45), G O’Boyle (0-6, 5f), M Magill. Subs: P McCann for R Devlin, M Kelly for O McAuley.

Referee – S Laverty.

St. Gall’s conquer Ulster in 2005

St. Gall’s collected their second Ulster Club football title when they defeated Bellaghy in Omagh in 2005. I was there to cover the game and here is a report from the Irish Times to accompany the photographs I took on the day. St. Gall’s turned out in the Antrim colours while Bellaghy wore the colours of Derry as both sides normally played in blue.

Ulster Club FC Final St Gall’s 1-8 Bellaghy 0-8:

Club finals at this time of the year are generally a slog and yesterday’s AIB Ulster football decider at Healy Park, Omagh was no exception.

A heavy pitch, intermittent rain and a chilly glowering sky gave notice that this wouldn’t be a day for champagne football, but in the end this was a competitive and interesting match, which yielded up Antrim champions for the first time since 1982 when St Gall’s won their only previous title.

Manager John Rafferty, the former Armagh player who has been with the Belfast club for 16 years, gently expressed the hope afterwards that his unsung team would get credit for this latest milestone on a road of surprises. “All year these players have had an aspiration to be recognised as good footballers. Today we came in as underdogs and I’d like to think that after today, the players of St Gall’s would get recognition for the good lads they are.”

There was no denying the winners’ merits. They gave an implacable team performance, tackled and covered superbly and generally exploited the weaknesses in a subdued Bellaghy display. The Derry champions lacked much cut in attack and relied too much on full forward Joe Cassidy’s accuracy from placed balls until that too wavered as the match ticked towards its conclusion.

For all that, there was a frantic conclusion with Cathal Scullion bending a spectacular shot off the underside of the crossbar with four minutes left and the margin was down to two points.

As has often been the case this season St Gall’s shuffled their declared hand before the start and brought in Mark McCrory at centrefield despite the injury scare that had threatened his participation – “If you have a Rolls Royce, you drive it; you don’t keep it in the garage,” was Rafferty’s gnomic explanation. Ciaran Gallagher also came in at full forward and five other positional switches completed the line-up.

The early exchanges were Bellaghy’s as they drove forward off the solid base of their excellent half-back line. Centrefield was a rush-hour of compressed play with neither side getting a grip.

Where the match was ultimately decided though was in Derry side’s last line of defence.

Their full backs struggled somewhat but diasastrously compounded their troubles by indulging in a death-wish, short game at the back. It was at the heart of the afternoon’s decisive score. In the 12th minute goalkeeper Brian Scullion was given a hand pass, attempted to work his way out before playing a short ball out only for centrefielder Ciarán McCrossan to block the pass and steer the ball past the stranded Scullion for a 1-1 to 0-2 lead that was never overturned.

The goalkeeper spilled another ball when Gallagher dropped a shot short and looked as if he might have picked the fumble off the ground. In fairness to Scullion he recovered his composure in the second half and brought off a great save from Gallagher to keep the game alive in the 53rd minute.

Gallagher had another chance to hit the net before half-time after a brilliant through-ball from Karl Stewart but hit it over the bar for a 1-3 to 0-5 interval lead.

Just after the break Ciarán McNally – whose rallying presence at centre back deserved more – equalised, making him the joint top scorer from play – but Bellaghy couldn’t impose their rhythm on energetic opponents. In fact Stewart nearly had a goal in the 38th minute after sneaking in behind the defence to sweep a shot wide.

Bellaghy obligingly talked a couple of frees forward to within scoring range and the Derry men could never quite close the gap again.

Joe Diver put in a storming final quarter at centrefield to try to drag his team through the challenge but Cassidy’s inability to kick two right-sided frees was exacerbated when Seán Burns and Stewart (in injury time) struck for points to give the Antrim club a deserved three-point win.

Captain Seán Kelly, having missed the provincial campaign through injury, was brought in for the last minute and was able to lift the cup. The victory gives him the recovery time to be able to strenghten the team’s challenge in the new year.

ST GALL’S: P Murray; C Brady, A Mclean, S Kennedy; P Gribben, G McGirr, A Healey; M McCrory, C McCrossan (1-0); A Gallagher, S Burns (0-4, three frees), T O’Neill; K Stewart (0-4, two frees), K Gallagher (0-1), Kevin McGourty. Subs: Kieran McGourty for O’Neill (20 mins), C McGourty for Gallagher (56 mins), K Niblock for McCrossan (59 mins), C Smyth for Gribben (61 mins), S Kelly for Kieran McGourty (63 mins).

BELLAGHY: B Scullion; M McGoldrick, M McShane, D O’Neill; P Diamond, C McNally (0-1), K Doherty; F Doherty, J Diver; F Glackin, G Doherty, L McPeake; D Graffin, J Cassidy (0-7, six frees), G Diamond. Subs: C Scullion for G Doherty (24 mins), C Doherty for Glackin (48 mins), E Brown for G Diamond (54 mins).

Referee: B Crowe (Cavan).

Frustration the order of the day for Cargin

AIB Ulster Senior Club Championship Preliminary Round

Cargin 0-12 Derrygonnelly Harps 2-10

Brendan McTaggart reports from Corrigan Park, Belfast

Frustration.  The 10 year frustrating wait for that elusive win in the provincial championship continues for Cargin, Derrygonnelly adding their names to Crossmaglen, Killclogher and Gaoth Dobhair in recent years.

Two soft and avoidable first half goals, missed frees and an under par performance all adds to the frustration for Damian Cassidy and his side.  Outscoring the Fermanagh champions eight points to six, playing into a strong breeze will act as scant consolation and add to the, yes, frustration.

A day that promised so much, ended with more questions than answers.  An hour of football that brought more what if’s than what about’s.  Maybe eight days wasn’t the ideal preparation, maybe. 

After the county final, Mick McCann spoke about needing an extra Budweiser to help with the knock he picked up at the end of the hour.  Even the King of Beers couldn’t help him make the starting 15.  A huge loss to the Erin’s Own men and it showed when he was introduced with 16 minutes of the hour remaining.  A baller who plays with flair, a ball carrier who can evade tackles and be the playmaker.  It was just too much of an ask, even for him at that point.

The Cargin midfield came under huge scrutiny after the first game against Lámh Dhearg and they answered most of those questions and critics in the replay.  On Sunday they couldn’t stamp their authority on the game, the loss of Gerard McCann to a knee injury eight days ago certainly felt as the match progressed.

Kieron Close was a bright light in the first half, leading the fight with three points in the opening 30 minutes – two from play.  Cargin were rocked by the concession of the early goal and while it may have looked soft, the circumstances before the major add to the disappointment.  Cargin ‘keeper John McNabb had been struggling from the first whistle and had been down for treatment.  With the next attack and 40, maybe 45 yards from goal, Conall Jones took aim.  The ball looped into the back of the net with McNabb blinded by the sun and a pair of players jumping in front of him.  The Toome side responded well with Close the focal point of their play.

The second goal was a sucker punch.  Trailing by a point and Close scoring a brace of points in the space of 60 seconds beforehand, it was another counterattack from the Harps.  Down the Cargin left, Stephen McGullion broke past the tackles and shot for goal.  The ball broke to Gavin McGovern who looked like he was inside the small rectangle and McGovern made no mistake.

Derrygonnelly had their tactics on point.  Leaving space for their power runners to make use off and they rucked for possession like packs of hungry wolves.  They hit hard and fair in the tackle and along with pace in their breaks, Cargin were on the backfoot.  The referee came under scrutiny during the first half and added to the Cargin frustrations.  Paul Faloon is renowned for letting the game go but he left some big, big hits unpunished, especially in the first half without calling for a free.  The Fermanagh men packed their defence with 14 men in their own ’45 on numerous occasions and they took full advantage of Faloon’s style of officiating.  The Cargin attack couldn’t get on the front foot and looked laborious in possession with no incision and attacking impetus lacking. 

A six point deficit at half time and Cargin had hardly turned a wheel.  They needed something special in the second half playing against the wind but the Erne County champions kept them at arm’s length.  The threat of Jamie Gribbin all but nullified, Pat Shivers coming off before being introduced as a ‘Plan B’ on the edge of the square late on.  No space for a long ball into Michael Magill on the edge of the square and Tomás McCann was living off scraps.

The Cargin defence were superb in the second half, James Laverty and Justin Crozier running themselves into the ground to join the attack as Derrygonnelly retreated.  The introduction of Kevin McShane helped to get a footing in midfield but by the time Mick McCann was brought on, seven points separated the sides.

The Cargin pressure increased but they were going to need a goal or something inspirational to get over the line.  Neither happened.  The hope, if not expectation was still there.  Cargin were faced with a similar situation in the first match against Lámh Dhearg but the Harps were a different animal.  They had a strong defence, well organised and more defensive than the Hannahstown side were and an attack who were willing to break at pace or keep ball and be patient if the breaks required it.

Cargin’s Kieran Close

Michael Clarke’s 50th minute point was their third in five minutes, all unanswered to leave four points between the sides and maybe the introduction of McCann was timed to perfection.  Cargin pressed, looked for gaps and a yard of space but that was becoming increasingly difficult.  Goal chances were non-existent never mind at a premium. 

Donagh McKeever was sent off for a second yellow card late in the game before McShane scooped over with an instinctive effort in injury time.  Neither had any bearing on the game.  The disappointment was visible for all to see at the final whistle as the Erin’s Own men left the Corrigan Park pitch.  The Golden Egg of a run in Ulster must wait for at least another 12 months for the Erin’s Own men with Derrygonnelly progressing to a meeting with Tyrone champions, Trillick.  Something that Cargin manager Damian Cassidy would have relished with his past in the county.  Frustration.