Brendan McTaggart takes a look back at another great Paddy McLarnon Cup tournament in Creggan
The months of January and February, in GAA circles, are
dreaded. Preseason, training on bitterly
cold nights with lashing rain or biting frost while running, nay sprinting
between cones trying to run off the extra turkey acquired over the festive off
season. It can be mentally and
For me, they are fast becoming the highlight of the year.
With McKenna Cup, Sigerson Cup, Allianz National Leagues and
All-Ireland club competitions, there’s still plenty to dig your teeth into as a
journalist but The Ulster U21 Club Football Tournament, aka the Paddy McLarnon
Cup, run by Creggan GAC is absorbing Ulster football with the naivety of youth
still present. It’s an outstanding
competition that has all the teams present relishing an opportunity that may
have been forgotten. Players who may not
be involved with their county or on the fringe of their senior team, have the
chance to showcase their talents and skills against the best the province has
It takes a huge effort to run a competition like this but
Creggan have it down to a fine art. From
the moment you enter the gates where there’s an army of volunteers there to
help. From ensuring the car park is used
as efficiently as possible to the moment you leave the clubrooms on match day,
Creggan GAC continue to be class personified.
It’s the small things that make the difference and Creggan’s
attention to detail to make the match day experience an enjoyable one for
everyone involved is second to none.
Before throw in, Liam Tunney from Unit Updates claimed: “Sean’s becoming
the best part of this tournament.” Sean
McAuley, the man with the mic during the tournament is one of the most
knowledgeable guys I know when it comes to the game but he too goes the extra
mile. An example of such is making sure
he’s aware of team changes ahead of throw in to announce over the P.A system
and to make the journalists job that bit easier. My personal highlight is Sean announcing the
Carryduff and St Brigid’s semi-final as the ‘Skinny Latte Derby’ to everyone
before throw in, followed closely by a shout of ‘Up the ‘Duff’ on Sunday as I
walked towards the ground.
Again, it’s the small things and Sean does them so well, but
they make a massive difference and Creggan do them so well and without any
hassle. I’ve no doubt they put countless
hours into their preparations for the Tournament and it shows in their service
The match day experience during the Paddy McLarnon Cup is
second to none. The warmth of the Lough
Shore welcome didn’t always feel so good back in my playing days, now it
epitomises everything good about the GAA.
The tournament on the field of play continues to
flourish. Look no further than 12 months
ago and Gaoth Dobhair claiming the prestigious trophy before going on to win
county and provincial honours backboned by many of the same team. This year, the football has went up another
level. No one could pick a winner and
even after the semi-finals who would win was anyone’s choice.
Working on previews throughout the tournament is always
fun. You’ll get the odd manager who is
media savvy and know the right things to say.
Then you’ll get the guys like Paddy Montague from Dromore. Eventual winners but every time we spoke he
had his side as underdogs. I believed
him once, before their quarter-final win over Armagh side, Clann Éireann. The Tyrone men were impressive from the
outset. Lesson learned? Don’t listen to all Paddy Montague tells you!
Another great lad for an interview was Carryduff’s, DJ
Morgan. The devil to get a hold of but
always worth the wait. Before Sunday’s
final I rang him for a few quotes, the Carryduff man caught me on the hop: “Why
should I talk to you when you voted for Dromore to beat us on Sunday?”
He had me. Who knew
those polls on Facebook weren’t anonymous?
Not this eejit.
Anyway, I think I managed to manoeuvre that one with a mix
of country gulpin and the proverbial rabbit in headlights explanation. Carryduff only played one match prior to the
final but their match against St Brigid’s will live long in my memory. A certainty for match of the year, even at
this early stage.
Dromore ended up giving Mr and Mrs Montague the perfect
wedding present after a dominant second half performance in the final. Creggan showing another touch of class by
calling for Paddy and his better half, Rebecca to the balcony and presented
them with a bouquet of flowers.
The small things.
The football on show throughout the tournament was only bettered by the hospitality of everyone at Páirc Chiceam. The Paddy McLarnon Cup continues to flourish and from a footballing point of view, I’m thankful. It’s rekindled my love for the big ball game knowing there are still teams out there who want to play the game the way we all dream. Covering underage games has always been more enjoyable in my opinion and the Paddy McLarnon Cup has that unique blend of youthful exuberance and tactical nous that comes from playing at senior level. For now, the competition is over for another year but I’m looking forward to the 2020 version already.
Dromore captain Peter Teague said during his acceptance
speech, most men the day after their wedding would be laying in bed the next
day. Some might even have jetted off on
their honeymoon. For Paddy Montague,
there was only one place he wanted to be.
The Dromore manager watched his side lift the Paddy McLarnon Cup just
over 24 hours after saying ‘I do’ to Rebecca O’Brien and his side gave him a
more than decent wedding present.
Teague continued to praise Montague during his speech while
the Dromore manager was equally praiseworthy of his side, especially their
second half performance: “We battled hard there in the second half. The first half and with the breeze I felt we
probably should have been further ahead.
I didn’t feel comfortable at half time to be honest, I felt we weren’t
far enough ahead.
“There was a few mistakes in the first half but the boys
came out in the second half and the tackling was brilliant. We kept it tight and got tackles in when we
“We got the rub of the green with a lucky enough goal that
kept Carryduff at arm’s length.”
During their semi-final win over Magherafelt, Dromore
started slowly but dominated the second half to cruise to the decider. On Sunday, it was more of the same. Their second half performance was controlled
and precise with a dominant performance built on a solid defence. Montague added: “I spoke to the boys before
the game, we needed a better start. With
that wind we needed a lead but look the boys came out in the second half and
they really put their shoulder to the wheel.
“They kept control of the ball when they had and moved it
when we had to. We got our tackles in
and I thought our full back (Ruairi Teague) and centre half Ryan McCusker were
“The boys worked seriously hard in around the middle of the
field. Carryduff’s a serious good
midfield but our boys got the breaks and were able to build from then.
“We told them if we got ahead, we had to remain
patient. Control the game and don’t
panic. That wind was tricky and at half
time I wasn’t sure who the wind was favouring.”
Dromore held just a one point lead at the interval and
although not happy with their first half performance, Montague had belief in
his side to get over the line: “We said at half time the wind wasn’t a massive
advantage to Carryduff. If we kept the
ball and made the tackles, not make as many mistakes and keep chipping away
with the scores then we wouldn’t be far away and thankfully we won.
“We trust all them players, they’re all good footballers and
they all have trust in themselves. You
seen out there today, they played ball, took hits and gave hits when they had to,
and we couldn’t have asked any more of them out there today.”
2018’s Paddy McLarnon Cup winners Gaoth Dobhair kicked on to
win senior county and provincial honours.
The U21 tournament proving to be a catalyst for an unbelievable season
and while Montague is hoping for a resurgence in the Tyrone club, he sees a
different outlook for his side: “We won’t be looking too much into Gaoth
Dobhair from last year. Our job or our
priority is getting these boys into championship footballers for Dromore. Not to be content with playing the odd
starred fixture here or there or odd league game.
“If we can get 30 or 35 boys with that mindset who want to
start on the big days in Carrickmore, Pomeroy and them places, we’ll need all
them boys buying into that and then we’ll be in a good place.
“I’m a very proud Dromore man. That’s the first time an Ulster title has
ever been won by a men’s team from Dromore so we’re very happy and looking
forward to a good night in Dromore.”
Bank of Ireland Ulster U21 Club Football Tournament Final
Sunday February 17
Dromore (Tyrone) 1-9
Carryduff (Down) 0-8
Brendan McTaggart reports from Páirc Chiceam, Creggan
Dromore became the third team from Tyrone to claim the Paddy
McLarnon Cup on Sunday afternoon as they saw off the challenge of
Carryduff. A man of the match
performance from Emmett McNabb, the Dromore man finishing the match with six
points beside his name and Tiernan Sludden’s 49th minute goal proved
to be the difference on the day as Dromore proved to be more clinical when it
mattered throughout the hour.
Sludden was sent off for a second yellow card in the last
minute of normal time but his dismissal had little impact on the score
line. After an intense opening 30
minutes where both sides sized each other up, Dromore held a precarious one
point lead at the short whistle. Playing
with a substantial wind advantage, it didn’t seem like it was enough but the
Tyrone men excelled in the second half, dominating possession and starving
Carryduff of space and time all over the pitch.
The Down champions went scoreless for 26 minutes of the
second half and while they had a couple of half chances for goal before Sludden’s
decisive major, Dromore had a stranglehold of the final with Ryan McCusker and
Gareth Henderson hugely impressive throughout the hour.
The final was slow in kicking into life as both sides sized
each other up in the opening exchanges.
Carryduff were keeping possession and looking to feel their way into the
final while Dromore were strong in the tackle showing huge intensity and
forcing turnovers all over the pitch.
The Tyrone men however seemed reluctant to play the long ball into
Sludden that had proved to fruitful in the earlier rounds. Instead, they looked to the genius of
McNabb. The Dromore forward finished the
first half with four points from play in his overall tally of 0-6 as Carryduff struggled
to deal with his trickery and pace. McNabb’s
ability to get the half a yard required to get a shot away is instinctive and
the Dromore forward was on form in the opening 30 minutes.
Carryduff kept in touch with the free taking ability of
joint captain John McGeough. Taking up
the mantle of taking the frees, McGeough struck four frees in the opening 30
minutes with three from distance despite the strength of the wind coming in
from the Lough.
One point separated the sides at the interval with Dromore
winning 0-6 to 0-5 but there’s no doubt Carryduff would have been the happier
side at the short whistle. They
curtailed Dromore in the first half with the Tyrone men only making use of the
elements once, Caolan Slevin’s 19th minute point the only score
coming from distance.
Carryduff started the second half brightly and were back on
terms five minutes after the restart, McGeough’s fifth free of the final
restoring parity of the score line for the fourth time. It was the last time Carryduff would register
a score for the next 26 minutes however as Dromore took a stranglehold of the
Paddy McLarnon Cup.
Pressing all over the pitch and bringing even more intensity
to their tackling, Dromore forced errors and made Carryduff cough up more
turnover ball to ensure they could keep the pressure on their opponents. The trio of Ryan McCusker, Peter Teague and
Cahir Goodwin prominent as Dromore turned the screw, dominating
possession. Phase after phase, they
starved Carryduff of quality ball, space and time while systematically probing
for space or looking for the man on the burst.
A brace of frees from McNabb and Caolan McCarron opened a
two point lead but they had their ‘keeper to thank for maintaining their
stranglehold. Josh Connery made a break
through the usually watertight Dromore defence before off loading to Peter
Loughran. His shot came from an acute
angle but Mark McGale saved his blasted effort.
Moments later, Pierce Laverty went for point but his effort hung in the
air with Owen McCabe waiting on the dropping ball on the edge of the square
with Ruairi Teague for company, his palmed effort fell into McGale’s waiting
arms. A yard either side and it would
have been a goal but Dromore made the most of the reprieve.
Once again probing for space, substitute Odhran Rafferty
went for a point from range. The ball
dropped but Carryduff ‘keeper Darren Ross failed to deal with the danger,
Sludden did the rest and managed to squeeze the ball over the line to open a
five point lead with 11 minutes remaining.
Sludden’s goal proved to be decisive, giving Dromore more
control of the closing stages. They had
a match winning lead going into the closing stages and when McNabb slotted his
sixth point of the final with his second free of the half, Dromore were in
Dromore were reduced to 14 men when Sludden saw red for a second yellow card in the 59th minute but it had no bearing on the resuly. Carryduff pressed in the time that remained with McGeough’s first from play and a Ronan Beatty free in injury time but it wasn’t enough as Dromore saw out the remaining time with controlled assurance and consummate professionalism to seal their first men’s Ulster crown.
Paddy McLarnon Cup Final – Sunday February 17th Dromore (Tyrone) vs Carryduff (Down) 2pm
By Brendan McTaggart
Nine has become two but there can only be one winner. After six top quality matches, breathtaking football and drama aplenty, where the Paddy McLarnon Cup will reside for 2019 will be decided on Sunday. Dromore and Carryduff have navigated their way to the decider and by 3:30pm Sunday, we should know who the U21 champions will be.
The tournament as a whole has once again been a monumental
success. Every club who has participated
have brought a uniqueness to the tournament that only an Ulster club
competition can bring and Sunday promises to be the final the tournament
We had a chat with both managers as we preview Sunday’s
Dromore’s date with
destiny a marriage made in heaven…
Dromore’s path to Sunday’s decider has been controlled
brilliance. Coming into their
quarter-final against Clann Éireann, they put in a superb performance against a
side highly fancied yet it was their semi-final win against Derry champions
Magherafelt that proved to be the most eye catching.
Magherafelt were installed as favourites having demolished
Enniskillen Gaels in their quarter-final, running in six goals in the process
but the Tyrone champions put in another defensively strong yet devastating
counter attacking performance to cruise to the decider.
Incredibly, they have half an eye on the 2019 county U21
championship already. After Sunday, they
have three matches next week against Omagh, Carrickmore and Errigal
Ciaran. Four championship matches, one
of which an Ulster final, in the space of seven days. Burn out?
A story for another day but for team manager Paddy Montague, football is
put on the back burner. The Dromore man
is getting married to his better half, Rebecca O’Brien on Saturday before
making his way to the lough shore on Sunday to be with the squad. Dedication to his club and a seriously understanding
wife-to-be. When we caught up with
Montague during the week, he gave us his own assessment of their impressive
semi-final win over Magherafelt: “We were slow in starting against Magherafelt
but we regrouped at half time and the lads gave us a reaction in the second
half. I felt we controlled the game
after half time and it was a serious shift from the lads but that type of
performance won’t be enough for us on Sunday.
“If we’re going to win it’ll take a complete 60 minute
The Dromore manager continued by heaping praise on their
final opponents: “They’re a good side.
You couldn’t help but be impressed with how they go about their
game. Daniel Guinness, Pierce Laverty
and Josh Connery had very good games against St Brigid’s while Owen McCabe was
outstanding at 11.
“Ronan Beatty got man of the match and was very accurate
from frees. He wins a lot of ball for
them up front and he’s someone we’ll have to be careful of on Sunday.
“They play a lot of free flowing football and that can be
hard enough to stop. We’re trying to
come up with plans to counter that on Sunday.”
The Tyrone 2019 U21 championship is already underway and
Montague’s side have an action packed week ahead: “It’s bizarre aye but it’s a
nice situation to be in. It’s not
everyday you get to an Ulster Final but after Sunday we have to play Omagh on
Wednesday, Carrickmore on Friday then Errigan on Sunday to get caught up
With players involved in the Sigerson Cup this weekend, it’s posed a problem for the Tyrone champions as Montague revealed: “We tried to get the match moved. It didn’t suit a few of our boys with Sigerson Cup on this Saturday. It wasn’t possible and you have to respect Creggan club for that. They run a terrific competition and it’s not easy getting space in the calendar so we’ll just have to deal with it. It’s put a couple of boys in a position to make a choice but we’re leaving it up to them.”
Montague’s side have already made history but are hungry for
more as he concluded: “The whole town’s buzzing. It’s the first time a Dromore men’s team have
reached an Ulster Final and you can tell these boys want it bad. Training has been class since the semi-final
and the whole team are up for it.
Hopefully we’ll do the business on Sunday and bring the Paddy McLarnon
Cup back to Tyrone.”
Carryduff hoping to
make more history….
Carryduff may only have had one match in the Paddy McLarnon
Cup in 2019 but what a match it was. A
blistering hour of pure entertainment that had the large crowd in attendance
purring with Daniel Guinness scoring the decisive point at the death to edge
the Down men past St Brigid’s.
Brilliant goals, goal saving tackles and attacking play that
would do your heart good, Carryduff have won over the neutrals for their
attacking play but should it be a surprise?
In the Down championship they travelled to Burren and won before
overcoming Bryansford in the county decider.
They were awarded a bye in their quarter-final after the 11th
hour withdrawal of Carrickmacross Emmets so having a three month break from
competitive football makes their performance against St Brigid’s all the more
Having fell at the semi-final hurdle to eventual winners
Gaoth Dobhair 12 months ago, Carryduff clearly have the hunger to succeed this
time round. When we spoke with team
manager DJ Morgan, he started by telling us about their epic semi-final win
last day out: “We watched the match back again and it was an enjoyable game of
football. End to end stuff and lived up
to the hype. It was everything everyone
thought it would be.
“We went toe to toe and we were fortunate enough in the end
to come away with the win. It was one of
those games that as a manager, you wouldn’t have been too disappointed to have come
away with a loss.”
Morgan was complimentary of his final opponents when he
continued: “Dromore were impressive.
Especially against a Magherafelt side who were probably the pick of the
teams after the Quarter-Finals. The way
they took Enniskillen Gaels apart, we all thought they’d be the team to beat
but Dromore did a number on them.
“They set themselves up, took the big hits and rode out the
early storm and they controlled the second half about five minutes in.
“They work well as a unit.
There’s always one sitting but it’s never the same person. They’re a well drilled but typical Tyrone
Morgan reported a clean bill of health for his side from the
their semi-final win but one of their goal scorers from the county final win
over Bryansford misses out: “Rory Reilly is missing for us. He missed the semi-final as well with a groin
strain but he’s been waiting for a while on a shoulder operation. He’s had trouble with it for the last couple
of years where it’s popped in and out and he got the chance last week to get it
sorted. We’re gutted for the lad.”
Carryduff are aiming to become the third club from the
Mourne County to claim the U21 trophy, hoping to emulate Burren (2010, 2011)
and Bryansford (2013). Morgan told us it
could be a pivotal moment for his club: “It’s massive for the club. To be in an Ulster final is massive but to
win it would be unreal. You can see the
effect its having on the club already.
The senior lads are in preseason at the minute and they’re training
harder, they want to be part of this.
“It would give the whole club and give everyone a lift.”
The Tyrone and Down champions dominated the early years of the Paddy McLarnon Cup with the first five championships being split three to two in the Down men’s favour. Twice the counties champions have played in the decider with one win apiece. All these stats will count for little on Sunday however. Both sides are 60 minutes away from claiming a maiden Ulster club tournament. Will Dromore’s powerful, structured attacking play win the day or will the men from Carryduff produce another blistering performance? This one promises to be a cracker and I can’t see there being more than a kick of the ball between the sides. All roads lead to the Staffordstown Road on Sunday.