Antrim ran Cork close in the 1986 semi-final

Back in 1986 Antrim gave the first real indication that they were a coming force in hurling when they ran Cork to six points in the All Ireland semi-final, before a paltry 2000 fans in Croke Park.

In the years leading up to that Antrim had suffered some bad beatings at the quarter finals stages but when Sean McGuinness took over the reins things began to look up. They came close to getting promoted to Division 1 in 1986, but Westmeath beat them in the final league game in Mullingar. That summer they avoided a quarter final when Galway played Kerry instead so they were straight into the All Ireland semi-final to play the Munster champions, who turned out to be Cork, after their win over Clare in the final.

Two years earlier the Rebels had beaten them in the quarter final in Croke Park by 3-26 to 2-5 so most pundits were expecting something similar this time around and suggested this was a waste of time playing the game. However Sean McGuinness had instilled a bit of self-belief in the Antrim side and on August 10th the Saffrons showed that they were on the up when the scored 1-24 against the Munster men, but unfortunately things weren’t so good at the other end where they conceded 7-11.

The Antrim forward were flying that day and with four of the six forwards coming from the Ballycastle team who were to win the Antrim Senior Championship a few weeks later they tore the Cork defence apart. Of the 1-24 scored that day 1-19 of it came from Ballycastle players with Paul McKillen getting 1-4 from midfield, Peter Boyle got 0-5, Dessie Donnelly 0-4, Olcan Laverty 0-3 and Brian Donnelly 0-3.

The other scorers were Danny McNaughton 0-2, Jingo McKernan 0-2 and Aidan McCarry 0-1

Cork’s goals came from Jimmy Barry Murphy who grabbed a hat-trick, Ger Fitzgerarld got two while Thomas Mulcachy and Kevin Hennesy got one apiece

After the game when members of the southern media came into the Antrim dressing room to interview the management Sean McGuinness told a few of them what he thought of their previews and showed them the door.

Despite defeat Antrim had made a statement and they were to go to win promotion the following year and played at the top level for almost a decade.

Unfortunately we have no photos from the game but thanks to Bert Trowlen (and Big Gerard) we have copies for the programme from that day, which make interesting reading. The Antrim minor team, who also played Cork that day contains a good few names who were to go on an make a name for themselves in the game, including 16 year old Gary O’Kane who would go on to play in the senior final in 1989.

Covid Update

Croke Park issue a statement

24ú Feabhra 2021

A chara,

As you will be aware by now, the Irish Government yesterday published their “Covid 19: Resilience and Recovery 2021” plan. There is no immediate change for sport outlined in the plan and as per our last communication to you, it is clear that no on-field activity will be permitted – even at inter county level – until Easter at the earliest.

We will be seeking clarity on certain aspects of the provisions on sport in the new Government document and while the document does envisage the return of inter-county games at Level 4 and of some club games in Level 3, it remains impossible to plan a revised Master Fixtures calendar for 2021, as there is no indication at this point of when these Levels may kick in. The exercise is further complicated by the need to align our plans with whatever is permitted by the NI Executive for Counties and clubs in that jurisdiction.

In the interim, and despite any speculation you may read or hear to the contrary, we would again reiterate that the GAA have not decided on what competitions may or may not be facilitated in any revised national fixture programme for 2021. Such decisions will be a factor of how much time is ultimately available to us, both for an inter county season and for the broader participation levels that will be necessary for a meaningful club season at both adult and underage levels. 

The next signpost on the road for society is likely to come in the week leading up to Easter. We will again communicate directly with Counties and Clubs at that point and once Government make clear whether they see any further relaxing of restrictions (for example allowing inter-county training or games) being permitted.

We also want to assure you that we will publish a revised National Fixtures calendar at the earliest possible opportunity.

We thank you again for your patience and understanding of a very trying situation and we look forward with optimism to the resumption of GAA activities at all levels later in the year.

Is muidne,

Sean Ó hÓraín                                                   Tomás Ó Riain

UACHTARÁN                                                       ARD STIÚRTHÓIR

No sign of an early return to action

With announcements about the phased return to something near normality being rumoured there was high hopes among GAA fans that we might be moving in the right direction as far as getting our games up and running again, but that does not appear to be the case. Reports this morning would seem to suggest that the GAA have no intention of changing their plans that county hurling or football training will be allowed until at least Easter. That would mean that if the National Leagues were to go ahead they would not be commencing until at least the last weekend in April or the first weekend in May.

Some people were suggesting that because this lockdown went on so long that the Croke Park authorities may decide to re-jig the fixtures and play the club season first. That way there would have been a better chance of crowds being allowed in to the county games later in the year. However this is highly unlikely and it could be late summer or even Autumn before we see any action on the club front.

Rasharkin honour award-winners

St Mary’s GAC, Rasharkin have honoured their 2020 award-winners, but they have had to make do without the acclaim of the traditional live audience.

The club handed over the prizes at a socially distanced outdoor presentation at Dreen, showcasing the winners via their social media account and through the local media.

Chairperson Thomas Doherty said it was important the club made time to pay tribute to the efforts of all its members under difficult circumstances.

“The 2020 season will be remembered for a very long time as the season that nearly didn’t happen,” he said.

“We began the year with much optimism across all three codes before the season was curtailed in March.

“The summer months brought championship activity back to our pitches, and coaches all worked hard to ensure the safety of our players and members of all ages.

“We could not have a formal awards ceremony this year, but as a club, we felt it was important to mark the efforts and performances of our teams, players and volunteers over the season.”

Karol Doherty receives the Dan Doherty Trophy for Clubperson of the Year.

Karol Doherty picked up the Dan Doherty Trophy for Clubperson of the Year after excelling in his many different commitments throughout the life of the club.

U14 coaches Christina Smyth, Amy McMullan and Fiona Mooney accept the McKillop Shield for Juvenile Team of the Year on behalf of the U14 camógs.

After being narrowly defeated in the county final, the U14 camogie team picked up the McKillop Shield for Juvenile Team of the Year.

Conor Hasson

Seasoned campaigner Conor Hasson received the Gerry Dalrymple Trophy for Footballer of the Year, while the energetic Colm Kennedy was awarded the Christy Hardy Trophy for the Most Improved Footballer.

Colum Kennedy

Conor McKeever’s work leading the line during the hurlers’ run to the junior championship final saw him take the Eugene Gribben Trophy for Hurler of the Year, while Fergus Quigg picked up the McMullan Cup for Most Improved Hurler.

Conor McKeever
Fergus Twigg

Aoife McFerran capped a fine season for the senior camogie team by clinching the Ciara McLaughlin Trophy for Camóg of the Year, while Niamh Mooney and Eimhéar Hardy shared the Most Improved Camóg award.

Aofie McFerran
Niamh Mooney and Eimear Hardy

Antrim have seven on the Joe McDonagh team of the year

Antrim have seven players on the Joe McDonagh All Stars team which has just been announced

The Saffrons had a great year in the competition and can be happy with seven positions, but there were a couple more who could definitely have made it.

Kerry, the team Antrim beat in the final, and in the round robin stages,  have five on the team, Carlow, who drew with Antrim in Dr Cullen Park, have two while Westmeath have one.

Three of the six defenders are Antrim men Matthew Donnelly, Stephen Rooney and Gerard Walsh Keelan Molloy gets one of the two midfield positions, while Niall McKenna, Ciaran Clarke and Antrim team captain Conor McCann claim three of the six forwards positions.

There is a special honour for McCann as he is named as Player of the Year, a richly deserve honour after an incredible season which saw him score 4-20 from play during the campaign.

The players will be honoured as part of the GAA/GPA 2020 Joe McDonagh Team of the Year awards, which will be featured on RTÉ 2fm’s Game On programme this Wednesday evening from 6pm.

Team of the Year

1: Brian Tracey (Carlow)

2: Tomás O’Connor (Kerry)

3: Matthew Donnelly (Antrim)

4: Stephen Rooney (Antrim)

5: Jason Diggins (Kerry)

6: Aonghus Clarke (Westmeath)

7: Gerard Walsh (Antrim)

8: Shane Nolan (Kerry)

9: Keelan Molloy (Antrim)

10: Niall McKenna (Antrim)

11: Shane Conway (Kerry)

12: Daniel Collins (Kerry)

13: Chris Nolan (Carlow)

14: Conor McCann (Antrim)

15: Ciaran Clarke (Antrim)