St Enda’s won their first county hurling title in 1992

Had it not been for the Coronavirus epidemic the hurlers of Naomh Eanna would have been getting ready for the club’s first ever season in Division 1 of the All County Hurling League in a couple of weeks’ time. Last season the boys from Hightown won the Division 2 league title and the Intermediate Hurling Championship under the guidance of Terence Sambo McNaughton, and though the Cushendall and Antrim legend has moved on to take his home club Ruairi Og but the Glengormley men were still looking forward to the challenge.

Twenty-eight years ago St Enda’s won their first ever county hurling title when they beat All Saints Ballymena in the Junior Championship final at Casement Park. Two weeks earlier they had qualified for the decider when they beat St Paul’s by 2-7 to 0-3 in the South Antrim final.

Thanks to JJ Lawell I have received a report of the game and I have added my photos to reproduce a famous day in the club’s history.

Antrim Junior Hurling Championship final 1992

CONVINCING WIN GIVES ENDA’S TITLE

St Enda’s 3-12 All Saints Ballymena 0-5

St Enda’s got off to a flyer with an early goal from Donal O’Connor

Two goals in the first nine minutes helped St Enda’s take their first Junior Championship title as they raced to a sixteen point win over All Saints Ballymena at Casement Park.

Donal O’Connor opened the scoring for St Enda’s after six minutes with a fierce 20 yard drive to the net and three minutes later Sean Ward drove the ball past a helpless Sean Magee in the Ballymena nets to give them a six point lead.  Despite being reduced to fourteen men after nine minutes the Glengormley men never looked like losing their control of the match and they went on to lead at the interval by eight points (2-4 to 0-2).

Early second half scores by Paddy Dornan, who covered acres of ground throughout the match, and Paul Steele, reinforced St Enda’s grip on the proceedings. The third goal after 48 minutes finally seemed to end the game as a contest after good work by David Maguire set up Ciaran Campbell for goal number three.

For Ballymena Stephen McAfee tried particularly hard with thee fine second half points and he received good support from Liam Maybin and Liam Donnelly, but they never looked likely winners.

When they did threaten they found St Enda’s keeper Brenan Prenter in superlative form as he dominated his area with a series of fine saves and catches. For St Enda’s David Maguire, Paddy Dornan, Ciaran Campbell and Joseph Ward made telling contributions as they guide the club to their first ever county hurling title.

Team captain David Maguire lifts the Cup after St Enda’s win.

North Antirm Dinner 1989

DOWN MEMORY LANE

North Antrim GAA Awards dinner 1989

After the high of reaching the All Ireland final there was a great buzz about the North Antrim dinner in 1989. Jim Nelson and Peter Finn and hurling board chairman Fergus McNaughton were among the guests. Loughgiel had bridged a seven year gap to win back the Senior Championship and the Cushendall juvenile teams were going strong.

GAA couples have had to change their wedding plans

By Seamus McAleenan and John McIlwaine

A COUPLE of weeks ago, the plans were falling into place for Chloe Drain to have a dream 2020.

The Dunloy stalwart had played a leading role at full-back on Sunday March 8th as Antrim beat 2019 Division Two league champions Tipperary by an impressive 5-13 to 1-6 to almost guarantee the Saffrons a league semi-final for the first time in quite a few years.

Her hen-party was set for the following weekend (just before St Patrick’s Day), and all left to do ahead of her Easter Monday wedding was to dot an “i” or two and cross a couple of “ts”.

Then Covid-19 entered the equation – resulting in a completely different hen-party, her wedding to Kevin McShane postponed and no camogie for the foreseeable future.

Chloe Drain with her fiancée Kevin McShane after Cargin’s win over Lamh Dhearg in last season’s Antrim Senior Football Championship final replay at Corrigan Park.

“It has just been surreal how everything has changed in such a short time. To be honest Kevin and l were a little worried about the wedding with Covid-19 spreading and talked about the what ifs. But we never imagined that the impact would be so big, nor that there would be a near-enough total lock-down.

“We had set our wedding date around camogie – and football – plans and probably were thinking that the worst that could happen was that a match-date would have to switch to Easter Monday because of the weather.”

Kevin is a member of the Cargin team that completed back to back Antrim championship titles under Damian Cassidy last year, while Chloe has seen Antrim camogie fortunes suddenly surge under the new management team of Paul McKillen and Jim McKernan.

“Everything was going great with Antrim. I think Humpy and Jingo have been such a breath of fresh air this year. Training had become so focussed, the atmosphere in the changing room was so good – just the right mix between craic, fun and focus. And all that was beginning to show in results on the pitch.”

Despite games being called off due to Storms Ciara and Dennis, the Saffrons had built on a strong showing in the opening game against Dublin, by picking up a surprisingly easy win over Tipperary.

“We still have Laois to play, but such is our score-difference, it will take a massive win for either Tipperary or Dublin and a bad defeat for us to deny us a semi-final spot. Little did we think that worse was around the corner. I doubt now the league will actually finish.”

Just four days after the Tipp game came the announcement that all games and training have been postponed until the end of March – but more than likely for the rest of the spring and into the summer.

Drain, a PE teacher in St Louis Grammar in Ballymena, has also seen the end of preparations to defend the Ulster under 14 schools’ crown.

“St Louis won the Ulster under 14 A title last year for the very first time and there was a great buzz about the school with training over the past month or more. We were due to play our first game last week.

“We beat St Patrick’s Maghera in the final last year, and that was a big breakthrough for the school.”

Coaching the Maghera team in that final last May was Chloe’s Antrim team-mate Niamh Donnelly who also happens to be her bridesmaid.

“Niamh had organised a great hen weekend for Kilkenny just before St Patrick’s Day and that had to be shelved with just a day’s notice. We ended up with a house party instead.

“Then there was the uncertainty about the wedding which we eventually got postponed until the middle of November. I would say there might still be a trip to Kilkenny, if this Covid-19 allows life to get back to normal.”

 “To be honest, I am not sure whether I was more upset about the wedding or the camogie – but don’t tell anyone that!”

However Chloe and Kevin were not the only GAA couple whose wedding fell foul to Covid 19, three others in Antrim GAA, all of whom originally went for Easter Monday as their original date, were also affected.

Cricky McGuinness and Mairaoise McGourty have moved their big day back to November

Former Antrim camog and gaelic footballer Mairiosa McGourty from St Gall’s and her fiancée Christopher ‘Cricky’ McGuinness from Rossa had also planned to tie the knot on Easter Monday, with their reception in Ten Square in Belfast. Cricky, himself a former county hurler, and still a major cog in the Rossa senior team was obviously deeply disappointed at the postponement but was philosophical about the whole thing

“Its disappointing that we had to postpone the wedding at a late stage but in the context of the current climate it seems like a minor obstacle. Trying to put a positive spin on it, we now have a Christmas themed Wedding to look forward to…. however working from home feels like the marriage test has already started!!’’

Bróna McIntyre and Peter McCollum

Brona McIntyre and Peter McCollum had originally decided on the Easter Monday slot, but because of a clash they decided to go for the following weekend, with the reception planned for the Mill Park in Donegal town. Bróna is a dyed in the wool Shamrock and Pete is Creggan to the bone and their son Cillian is a confused young man, not knowing whether he will dress in the green and gold of Kickham’s or the red and white of Loughgiel when is sets out in the morning. That is usually determined by what grandparents he is going to visit on a particular day. It’s not good to turn up at Tony McCollum’s house wearing the Shamrocks kit, to pop over to Tommy McIntyre’s sporting the Creggan gear. Just like the other couples Bróna looked at the big picture

“It’s just annoying all the planning that had went into it for the last 2 years we were at the point where we were just double checking the last few things, everything was ready to go. Like Chloe and Kevin, Peter and I had planned the wedding round the GAA season so trying to find another date was difficult. We have ended up pushing it back by 8 months in the hope that everything Covid-19 has settled. We had to try and ensure everything we had booked was ok to go again in November and we were aware that was going to be difficult. Thankfully everybody apart from our band The Hype was available. Everyone was really understanding. Our reception is in The Mill Park in Donegal town so we only had 8 dates between now and the end of the year to choose from, but they were great and worked with us no problem.

We got another band booked thankfully, but they said they had been getting constant enquiries within the last week. We took the decision ourselves to postpone before it was enforced on us. That way it gave us a couple of extra days to help get organised”

Aimee McAtamney and Kevin Sheerin, both dyed in the wool Tir na nOg

At least Aimee McAtamney and Kevin Sheerin don’t have to worry about crossing clubs like the other three couples. Both of them are Tir na nOg Randalstown and have known each other since they were children playing at the club pitches at Whitehill. They were also Easter Monday and like Bróna and Pete they were heading to Donegal for the reception, the Clanree in Letterkenny the venue of their choice. Like Bróna the only thing they couldn’t re-book was the band and Aimee is equally disappointed about that

“I’m gutted to have to give up the Rare Auld Stuff but it is what it is.Taking the decision to reschedule before being forced to helped, as we were ahead of the game searching for a new date to match all of our bookings. Unfortunately we had to search for a new band. We hope that when the GAA season gets back up and going we will not run into any potential clashes. In the current pandemic, everyone’s health and well-being is much more important to us and we just hope this will pass as quickly as it came and we get to enjoy an end of summer wedding.”

Antrim hurlers lay Ballycran bogey at last

DOWN MEMORY LANE

Ulster Intermediate Hurling Championship 1970

Down 3-13 Antrim 5-10

Last week Saffron Gael took a look back over Antrim’s Division 2 national League win back in 1969/70, which ended with a final win against Kildare in Croke Park. That hard fought campaign was to stand them in good stead when they started their Intermediate Championship campaign later that year. In the league run they had played Down three times, beating them in the home game at Casement in October 1969, but the men from the Ards gained revenge in the Spring of 1970 when they came out on top in Ballycran. That set up a play-off for a place in the semi-final and the two met again in the Athletic Grounds in Armagh on a day when Seamus Richmond inspired the Saffrons to a good win.

Man of the match Andy McCallin who scored 4-3 against Down

Down’s win in Ballycran had maintained their unbeaten record over their arch rivals at the new McKenna Park, so the Saffrons faced another tough task when they had to travel back there for the Ulster final of 1970, which was the start of the Intermediate campaign. Antrim had the nucleus of the team which had won the league title a few months earlier. A few had dropped out but the bulk of the team was still there and a few had been added like Loughgiel’s JP McFadden, St John’s Leonard ‘Boo’ Vernon (who came in as reserve goalkeeper) and Martin McGranaghan of Sarsfields.  The final was another hard hitting and high scoring game, and not for the first time Andy McCallin was the hero of the hour, with a personal tally of 4-3 in a man of the match performance.

IRISH NEWS JULY 1970

Ulster Intermediate Hurling Final

ANTRIM 5-10 DOWN 3-13

Antrim’s Intermediate Hurlers retained their Ulster title yesterday when they achieved their first ever victory at Ballycran’s new pitch. But a hard tackling Down outfit nearly kept their unbeaten record intact and Antrim must again thank ace marksman Andy McCallin.

Down fielded without the stocky Hugh Dorian and Antrim had to do without the services of Sean Collins, otherwise both counties had all their big guns on display. The battle started with Down aided by a strong breeze, piling on the pressure in an attempt to build up a worthwhile first half lead.

The rearranged Antrim rear-guard, in which Eamon Hamill replaced Kevin Donnelly at full-back, was finding it difficult to settle down and soon forced to concede a 70, which Paddy Byers pointed effortlessly to open the scoring. Seconds later Martin Coleman registered a similar score and the Antrim attack had yet to show itself.  

                      LOOSE MARKING LED TO GOALS   

Eventually Antrim steadied, and aided by the promptings of midfields Sean Burns and Aidan Connolly, they at last broke away and Aidan Hamill pointed. Some loose marking by both defence saw Brian Faloona and Eddie Donnelly exchange goals, and after Brendan McGarry attempted to lift the ball ten yards out when he might easily have struck the ball to the net on the ground for the lead, Down began to gain control, and use the strong wind to considerable advantage. Eventually they added a further goal and two points by the end of the first quarter, and only some remarkable saves by Johnny Coyles in the Saffrons’ net, prevented a total collapse.

Eddie Donnelly who scored 1-1 in potent Antrim forward line

It was in the second quarter that Andy McCallin stamped his class on the game. First he took a neat pass from Brendan McGarry and left goalkeeper Sean Hollywood helpless and shortly afterwards while everyone stood watching the ball apparently sailing wide, young Andy waited in the Down square and sure enough the wind brought the ball down onto his flashing hurl, and the Down ’keeper had no chance. The score looked all over a “square” ball but the referee had no option as both umpires signalled a goal.

Intermittent points at both ends brought the sides level at 2-6 to 3-3 five minutes before half-time. Down forged ahead again with points from Faloona and Coleman before McCallin again hit the target to cut the Down lead to a single point.

HAMILL ROVING TACTICS

Although McCallin was responsible for putting the finishing touches to many of the Antrim scores Down dselectors were seriously troubled by the roving of Andy’s co-star Aidan Hamill who was giving the Down rear-guard plenty to do and was creating the space for McCallin to work in.  Jimmy Hughes was brought back from the three-quarter line to the full-back line to try and put a stop to Hamill’s antics, while Gerry Lennon took Hughes’ place up front and Paddy Curran stood down. The effect of the changes were not immediately noticeable for after Paddy Braniff and Seamus Richmond exchanged points the referee blew the whistle for half time with Down in the lead by the minimum margin. 2-9 to 3-5.

Down resumed in a blaze of confidence and captain Paud Braniff pointed to stretch their lead to two. One immediately recounted the previous encounter between these two teams at Ballycran when Down put in a super display against the breeze to beat the Glensmen.                  Just when Down looked like the might be capable of another uphill fight McCallin struck again. First he took a pass from Aidan Hamill in his stride before crashing the ball home and then repeated the dose shortly after Johnny Coyles had produced another fine save at the other end. Antrim now appeared to be coasting home and captain Sean Burns showed that he too found pointing a ‘70’ a simple matter with the strong breeze to aid him.

                                             DOWN RALLY

Then came a remarkable Down fight-back, and a ten minute spell when they hemmed Antrim in their own half, but Joe McCallin, Eamon Hamill and Chris Elliott were in no mood to give away the hard earned lead, and Down could only muster 1-1 for the stick of Paud Braniff during this long spell of pressure. Meanwhile Antrim had managed three breakaways and scored points from all three so in the end Down had to concede victory, but what a fight they put up.  

Antrim must contribute their success to Andy McCallin’s sharpshooting but at the same time one must bear in mind they won because they were more of a team than the Arsdmen. After all two of McCallin’s goals came from neat hand-passes from McGarry and Hamill – a fine indication of the forward sextet’s sendse of unselfishness.

At midfield Antrim captain Sean Burns broke even with his Down counterpart Paud Braniff and it was left to Aidan Connolly, making a welcome return to the yellow jersey, to give Antrim the edge in this sector. Antrim’s rearguard will have to plug many gaps and the 13 points they conceded is far, far too many and only four good saves from Johnny Coyles gave them victory at all.

Johnny Coyles saved Antrim with some outstanding saves

In defeat Down can be reasonably pleased with their display. New full-back was a pillar of strength and along with Paddy Byers did most to contain the Antrim attack. Up front Down were extremely accurate and Martin Coleman and Brian Faloona would a hot handful for most defences on this display.

Antrim scorers – Andy McCallin 4-3; Eddie Donnelly 1-1; Sean Burns and Seamus Richmond 0-2 each; Aidan Connolly and Aidan Hamill 0-1 each.

Down scorers – Brian Faloona 2-3; Paud Braniff 1-3; Martin Coleman 0-3; Paddy Braniff 0-2; C Smith and Paddy Byers 0-1 each.

ANTRIM – Johnny Coyles, Chris Elliott, Eamon Hamill, Joe McCallin, Niall Wheeler, Tony Connolly, Aidan McCamphill, Sean Burns, Aidan Connolly, Brendan McGarry, Eddie Donnelly, Seamus Richmond, Andy McCallin, Paddy McShane, Aidan Hamill.

DOWN – S Hollywood, P Curran, S Crawford, C Duff, P Byers, W Coulter, C Coulter, E Faloona, Paud Braniff, Paddy Braniff, C McMullan, J Hughes, M Coleman, B Faloona, C Smith.