Lámh’s bridge twenty-five year gap after tense thriller

Lámh Dhearg 0-15-0-13 St John’s

0-34By Kevin Herron at Chapel Hill

Lámh Dhearg bridged a 25-year gap and put their name on the Padraig MacNamee trophy for the fourth time with a 0-15-0-13 win over St John’s in an epic final at Chapel Hill on Sunday afternoon.

Many of the critics couldn’t separate the sides in the build up and their hesitancy was justified as the two West Belfast sides were level on no less than eight occasions before Lámh Dhearg kicked the final two scores in a frenzied last ten  action packed minutes of injury-time which saw referee Eamonn McAuley produce three red-cards.

Lámh Dhearg made one change from their semi-final win over Creggan with Paddy Mervyn replacing Chris Nolan, while St John’s were without midfield duo Simon McDonagh and Ronan McCafferty after red-cards during the titanic clashes with Cargin, manager Paddy Nugent opted to field Jack Hannigan and Ryan McNulty in the engine room.

Lámh Dhearg had experienced five final defeats in the last fourteen years and despite their vast experience in the big occasions, they started nervously as Paddy Cunningham failed to convert an early free which dropped short.

Five minutes into the game the opening score arrived courtesy of Simon McDonagh’s replacement Jack Hannigan who split the posts from a shot off his right boot.

The Johnnies doubled their lead though a Paddy McBride point from a free a minute later, but Lámh Dhearg finally found their composure with Fermanagh ace Ciaran Flaherty driving the ball over the bar to half the deficit.

Paddy Cunningham squared the game up on 12 minutes after a fine score from the experienced corner-forward.

Despite Ryan McNulty converting a free to restore St John’s lead, Lámh Dhearg responded with Paddy Cunningham converting a free to level the game for the second time at 0-03 apiece.

The first goal chance fell to Lámh Dhearg after Flaherty did well to turn the ball over twenty metres from goal, however the Fermanagh native was denied by the crossbar as his chipped effort that had Padraig Nugent beaten crashed off the post and too safety, much to the frustration of Flaherty.

St John’s opened up a two-point lead once more with a quick fire double from Jack Hannigan and McBride, their lead lasted little more than two minutes however as Ryan Murray hit his first score of the afternoon and Cunningham converted his second free of the afternoon to level the scores for the third time at 0-05-0-05.

The Red hands hit the front for the first time through attacking wing-half back Brendan McComb who hit a fine point after his darting run down the right channel and a third converted free from Cunningham gave his side a 0-07-0-05 lead with five minutes of the half remaining.

The sides then traded scores with Patrick McBride hitting a marvellous score that sailed over in the wind, only for Paddy Mervyn to hit back at the other end.

Matthew Fitzpatrick ensured that the Lámhs would lead by just the minimum at the break with a superb score from play to make the score 0-08-0-07 at the end of thirty absorbing minutes at Glenavy.

St John’s levelled the game for the fourth time less than sixty seconds after the restart through a coolly fashioned Jack Hannigan point, but they only level for four minutes as Paddy Cunningham landed his second point from play of the afternoon to edge his side a point ahead once more.

The pendulum would swing back into the Corrigan Park men’s favour however as the three consecutive scores gave St John’s a two-point lead for the third time in the game.

Ryan McNulty kicked his side level with a minute of Cunningham restoring Lámh Dhearg’s lead and superbly worked scores from Conor Johnston and McBride gave the Whiterock Road men a 0-11-0-09 lead with almost ten minutes gone in the half.

Lámh Dhearg needed the next score and Paddy Cunningham was the man to deliver, the corner forward renowned for his coolness when tasked with a placed ball, landed two in a row to draw the sides level for the sixth time at 0-11 apiece.

With little over ten minutes remaining Kevin Quinn edged his side ahead with a lovely score from the right, but St John’s hit back through a wonderfully crafted Hannigan point, the midfielders third of the afternoon to make it 0-12-0-12.

Lámh Dhearg also suffered a blow of having substitute Ben Rice black carded for grappling with Stephen Tierney off the ball; however Conor Murray came up with the goods to give his side a 0-13-0-12 lead with just a minute to go.

St John’s needed a quick score and they showed their immense character as Marc McGarry gave away a scoreable free which Patrick McBride converted to level the score for the eighth and final time in a breathtaking contest at Chapel Hill.

Referee Eamonn McAuley signalled for four minutes of added time as both sides attempted to land the decisive blow.

Paddy Cunningham had the opportunity to give his side the lead two minutes into the four added on, however just like the start of the game Cunningham dropped his free short, the ball was eventually recycled out to the corner-forward who wasn’t about to miss at the second time of asking and Cunningham conjured up his eighth point of the afternoon to make it 0-14-0-13.

0-10In the aftermath of Cunningham’s point the play was delayed as a number of off the ball incidents left referee Eamonn McAuley with some consultation with his officials.

After taking his time to consider all advice McAuley issued Adrian Oliver and Lámh Dhearg substitute Terry McCrudden with red-cards and then gave Ryan Murray a black.

St John’s desperately pushed for the equalising score, but they were exposed and caught out after committing too many players forward and after black card substitute Eoghan McKeown turned the ball over, Declan Lynch fisted the ball over the bar to put two-points between the sides.

Play was then interrupted as Domhnall Nugent kicked the ball away as brother Padraig was about to take the subsequent kick out, frustration got the better of Padraig who hit out and received a red-card with brother Domhnall picking up a yellow for his time wasting strategy.

After almost ten frenzied and exciting additional minutes at Chapel Hill, McAuley blew his full-time whistle and the Lámh Dhearg contingent joined their heroes on the field to celebrate their first senior championship success since 1992 and first on the field since 1971.

Lámh Dhearg captain John Finucane hoisted the Padraig MacNamee trophy high into the Glenavy sky as the Hannahstown men headed back to their clubrooms to celebrate their success and leave St John’s dejected after a gallant effort which saw the Whiterock men tumble double championship winners Cargin and push them all the way in the bid for the Eddie Fitzsimons memorial trophy.

The Lámhs will now tackle Cavan Gaels in the Quarter-final of the Ulster Club Championship in two weeks time as they hope to extend with season into the winter months.


Team captain John Finucane lifts the McNamee Cup as he and team mate Conor Murray celebrate. Pic John McIlwaine

Lámh Dhearg: J Finucane, P Mervyn (0-01), A McAufield, M McGarry, D Lynch (0-01), M Herron, B McComb (0-01), P Fitzsimons, D Nugent, E McKeown, C Flaherty (0-01), C Murray (0-01), P Cunningham (0-08,0-05f), R Murray (0-01), K Quinn (0-01). Subs: B Rice for E McKeown (49 mins), G Slane for B Rice (57 mins), T McCrudden for B McComb (57 mins), C Nolan for M McGarry (60 mins), P Larkin for P Mervyn (62 mins), E McKeown for R Murray (66 mins).

St John’s: P Nugent, A Douglas, A Oliver, M Dudley, C Garland, M Bradley, P Donnelly, J Hannigan (0-04), R McNulty (0-02,0-01f), P McBride (0-05,0-02f), Conor Johnston (0-01), M Fitzpatrick (0-01), Ciaran Johnston, P McCallin, L Pedan. Subs: C McEvoy for L Pedan (31 mins), S Tierney for Ciaran Johnston (50 mins), R Hannigan for P Donnelly (55 mins), C McGlade for P McCallin (59 mins), A Press for J Hannigan (62 mins).

Referee: Eamonn McAuley (Erin’s Own)

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Northern Switchgear


Ryan Murray does a rather unortodox dance as he and his tam mates celebrate while young fans look on



1971 victory was ‘first class’: McCauge

Lamh Dhearg v St Gall's - 327 copyJanty McKeague holds back the tears at the end of Lamh Dhearg’s win over St Gall’s at Corrigan Park

By Kevin Herron

Lámh Dhearg stalwart Pat McCauge described the feeling of defeating St John’s in the 1971 decider as ‘first class’.

A former St John’s minor star, due to Lámh Dhearg not having a minor football team, McCauge; also known as ‘Shanty’ helped his boyhood club clinch the 1971 Antrim Senior Football Championship with a 1-13-1-12 win over the men from the Whiterock Road.

McCauge recalls that great day fondly and believes it was the way that any team wanted to win a championship final.

“We never did anything like it before” reflected McCauge.

“It was first class and the way we won it as well. We were winning by four points with time almost up and they [St John’s] got a penalty and scored it, we won by a point and that’s the way you wanted to beat St John’s, that’s the way I like beating them”.

McCauge recalls the decision to award the late penalty, which was little more than a late consolation goal for Andy McCallin and hopes the Lámhs will be in a similar position come the conclusion of play on Sunday afternoon.

“A fella lifted the ball off the ground and the referee [Phelim Green] gave St John’s a  penalty” McCauge recalled.

“But he said time was up and the kick had to be taken. We didn’t worry after that because the match was over and we knew before the penalty was even hit that we were going up the hill with the cup. It didn’t make any difference to us whether they scored, hit it wide or what they done. It was a great position to be in and I hope we are in the same position on Sunday”.

McCauge was part of the Lámh Dhearg side that relinquished their crown the following year, after St John’s turned the tables and describes the contrast of emotions between winning and losing.

“It was disappointing to lose the final the year after to St John’s” admitted McCauge.

“But it’s great to get to finals. You don’t get there very often; we haven’t been there very often. The difference, as everybody knows getting beat and winning is day and night. Losing is terrible and winning is just brilliant”.

McCauge has urged the Lámhs not to take the big occasions for granted and hopes the red hands will use their head, be smart and calm under pressure on Sunday.

“You might never be back in the final again” warns McCauge.

“We have some great young players there and some what I would call ‘older hands’. The whole thirty of them might never be back again, you have to take it when it comes. All the advice you can give them is just use your head, be smart and be calm. That’s the way I see it anyway, you have to be very smart on the ball and off the ball. You can’t do anything stupid, there’s so many people watching – four umpires, two linesmen and a referee. You have to play the ball and play the game”.

Fermanagh native Gerry Regan featured at right-back on the successful 1971 team with McCauge and another Fermanagh native Ciaran Flaherty is likely to line out for Lámh Dhearg on Sunday. Although McCauge is not superstitious to this link and believes that superstition doesnt come into play in championship football.

“Gerry Regan from Fermanagh was our right-back in 1971” McCauge recalled.

“Ciaran Flaherty seems to be the real business by the look of things, I don’t believe in superstitions, superstitions doesn’t come into championship as far as I’m concerned”.Janty

St John’s last title came in 1998


Antrim Senior Football Championship final preview 2017

St John’s 1-8 Cargin 1-7

Cargin’s last title came at the expense of Cargin when the Corrigan Park side beat the boys from the Loughshore in the 1989 final at Casement Park. There was a touch of good fortune about the goal that won the game for the Johnnies that September day. Trailing by a point Enda McAtamney went for the point that would have drawn St John’s level. His shot appeared to be on target but it came back off the upright and straight into the hands of full-forward Brendan Mackin, who took full advantage of his good fortune to drill home the winning goal. The goal put the Johnnies two points up as the game entered injury time and though Cargin got one last chance to grab victory when JC Devlin broke through in the final seconds, but his attempt for the match winning goal skimmed the top of the winners’ crossbar and the chance had gone.

Cargin had a host of early chances but wayward shooting cost them dearly and when Enda McAtamney got St John’s up and running with a pointed free it was quickly added to by Brendan Mackin and Paddy Curran to put the Johnnies three clear. It was all of eighteen minutes before Cargin opened their account with an Eddie Quinn point and when Quinn and Shenney McQuillan added two more the sides were all square. Gavin Scullion missed a chance to edge them in front but his shot came back off the woodwork and St John’s took advantage of the lucky break as Mackin pointed to give them a one point lead at the break.

When Eddie Quinn pointed early in the second half Cargin were back on terms and when Scullion pointed from a free they were ahead for the first time. When Eamon McCann grabbed his team’s only goal soon afterwards it appeared that Cargin were on their way to their third title but St John’s hit back with points from Enda McAtamney and Gearoid Adams to close the gap to two. Brenda Mackin had a glorious chance to put St John’s ahead but he blasted over with the goal at his mercy to leave just a point in it and it appeared that Lady  Luck had smiled on the South West Antrim side. However all was to change in the final minutes when Mackin was gifted a goal opportunity and the full forward made no mistake as he rattled the Cargin net to seal his team’s 24th title.

St John’s

Brian McNulty, Locky McCurdy, Mark Bohill, Ciaran Anderson, Gearoid Adams (0-2), John Kelly, Darren Swail, James Murphy Gary Heeney, Paddy Curran (0-1), Enda McAtamney (0-2), Donal Kennedy, Packie Nolan, Brendan Mackin (1-3), Jimmy Wilson.

Subs – Enda McKenna for Nolan


Kevin McNally, Martin Logan, Dessie McGuckian, Matthew Gribbon, Martin McAuley, Michael Johnston, Paul Craig, Shenney McQuillan (01), Ciaran O’Neill, Kevin Doyle (0-1), Eamon McCann (1-0), Dermot McPeake, Declan Gallagher, Eddie Quinn (0-3), Gavin Scullion

Subs JC Devlin (0-1) for NcCann, Raymond McGuckian for McPeake

Referee – Raymond Higgins (Glenravel)

Lámh Dhearg beat the Johnnies in 1971 final

Antrim Senior Football Championship final preview 2017 – Their last title

2017-10-12-0001 copy2Lámh Dhearg 1-13 St John’s 1-12

Sunday’s opponents met in the 1971 final at Casement Park when Lamh Dhearg withstood a late St John’s fightback to clinch a 1-13 to 1-12 victory in a game described by Denis O’Hara in the Irish News as a game of mixed standards.

The men from Budore had opened a two point lead by half time and had stretched that advantage to three when Tyrone county player Sean McElhatton took advantage of a mistake by the Johnnies goalkeeper Len Vernon to fist the ball to an empty net three minutes from time. Six points to the good the title was bound for Hannahstown but their fans had to endure an anxious finish as St John’s hit back with two points from Mickey Gallagher to cut the gap to four. The Lamh Dhearg anxiety rose to fever pitch deep into injury time when the Johnnies were awarded a penalty by match referee Phelim Green of Pearses. Ace marksman Andy McCallin stepped up to drill the ball to the Lamh Dhearg net but it was to be the last meaningful kick of the game and the final whistle sounded on the kick-out to the great relief  of the  Lamh Dhearg followers.

Star of the show for the Hannahstown side was 22 year old Mickey O’Neill who scored eight points of his team’s total. In his report in the Irish News Denis O’Hara wrote

Just on the fringe of senior county honours Mickey gave the selectors a hefty nudge with his display of instinctive and opportunist football. With loads pf speed and guts, despite his lack of stature, he regularly tormented the Johnnies defence, and rarely did the Corrigan Park outfit find a real answer to the roving O’Neill. It was amazing to witness the freedom given to O’Neill who popped up in all kinds of unexpected places without an opponent in-tow.

Another star for the red hands was goalkeeper Paddy McCann who O’Hara described as cat-like in his report. O’Hara wrote

Given blanket coverage by Sam McGarry, Gerry McCague and unyielding Gerry Regan, McCann casually dealt with anything the St John’s attack cared to offer. Although their success was due mainly to teamwork McCann, Regan, Gerry McCague, O’Neill and Sean McQuillan, in spite of erratic judgement in the early stages, were undoubtedly Lamh Dhearg’s most prominent players.

The first half was a close fought affair and after Andy McCallin put St John’s ahead from a fifty metre free Sean McElhatton was on the end of a good three man move to draw Lamh Dhearg level. O’Neill put the winners ahead for the first time in the eighth minute but St John’s hit back with a point from Brendan Rainey to tie the scores at two apiece soon afterwards. St John’s began to gain the upper hand and they went two clear with points from John Rainey and Mickey Gallagher and had it not been for the heroic efforts of goalkeeper Paddy McCann the Corrigan Park side would have been much further ahead. Buoyed by these let offs Lamh Dhearg came back strongly and four points on the bouche from Pat McCague, Mickey O’Neill (2) and Gerry McCague from a ‘50’ they went in at the break with a two pointe lead.

Lamh Dhearg dominated the early stages of the second half as O’Neill added another point to stretch the gap to three, but an Andy McCallin point from a free reduced the gap to two again in the fortieth minute. The gap was down to a single point when Eamon Grieve and Jim Milligan combined to set John McCallin up for a point they were back on terms with eleven minutes to go after another McCallin point. It looked like remaining close to the very end until Lamh Dhearg pushed for home with three Mickey O’Neill points inside five minutes, and when McElhatton took advantage of goalkeeper Vernon’s mistake the gap was out to six. The Lamh Dhearg celebrations appeared to be a little premature when the Johnnies hit back with two points, followed by Andy McCallin’s penalty goal, but it was a case of too little too late for the Corrigan Park men and the title was on its way to Hannahstown.

Lamh Dhearg scorers – Mickey O’Neill 0-8; Sean McElhatton 1-1; Pat McCague 0-1; Gerry McCague 0-1; Sean McQuillan 0-1.

St John’s scorers – Andy McCallin 1-3; Mickey Gallagher 0-3; John McCallin 0-2; Brendan Rainey 0-2; Eamon Grieve 0-1; John Rainey 0-1.

Lamh Dhearg

Paddy McCann, Gerry Regan, Sam McGarry, Vincent Duffy, Jackie Duffy, Frank Fitzsimons, Gerry McCague, John P O’Kane, Sean McElhatton, Mickey O’Neill, Sean McQuillan (capt), Sean McNama, Cyril Jordan, Dominic McCann, Pat McCague.

Subs – Pat McQuillan for D McCann

St John’s

Len Vernon, John Gough, Herbie Gallagher, Martin McGranaghan, Dessie McNeill, Eamon Grieve (capt), Sean Burns, Terry Dunlop, Jim Milligan, John Rainey, Andy McCallin, Gerry McCrory, John McCallin, Mickey Gallagher, Brendan Rainey

Subs – Gerry McCann for McCrory; Hugh Murphy for B Rainey

Referee – Phelim Green (Pearses).2017-10-12-0001 copyb

NB The following year the Johnnies gained revenge when they beat Lamh Dhearg in the final in Ahoghill