All Saints kept their foot on the accelerator in the race for the division 4 title with a second comprehensive win in three days when they overcame a spirited challenge from St. Brigid’s in Ballymena on Wednesday night.
Once again the deadly duo of Damian Gillan and Ciaran Neeson led the way in the scoring stakes but it was a solid defensive display from the home side that provided the platform from which this 9th win of the season was achieved.
The hard working Gary Miskella and Vinny Esler worked tirelessly in mid-field, helping out in defence when required and supplying plentiful ball to their attack.
All Saints led 1-5 to 0-2 at half time with both St. Brigid’s points coming from frees and at this stage the Musgrave Park side must have felt they were in with a shout but the league leaders really opened up in the second half.
Conrad Duffin was the All Saints first half goal scorer while Damian Gillan 0-2, Cormac Lemon, Ciaran Neeson and Luke O’Rawe were all on target for the home side during the opening half.
Gillan added 0-5 to his first half total, all but one coming from play while Neeson, who had been well marshalled during the opening 30 minutes cut loose in the second with 2-3 to put his side in complete control.
The game marked the return to action of Liam Cassley from the substitute’s bench and he got his name on the scorecard and if the former Intermediate Championship winner with Cloughmills commits to the cause then he would prove a useful addition to an All Saints side who have gone from strength to strength this year.
All Saints: Ciaran Cassley, Daniel Gray, Colum Neeson, Kevin Brady, Padraig Magill, Luke O’Rawe 0-2, Cathair Cunning, Gary Miskella, Vinny Esler, Ciaran Neeson 2-4, Damian Gillan 0-7, Cormac Lemon 0-1, James O’Boyle 0-1, Conrad Duffin 1-0, Terence Diamond. Subs: Eoin Magee, PJ O’Kane, Liam Cassley, Sean O’Rawe, Daniel McCoy, Daire Hasson,
With this being Loch Mór’s last game before the split it was inevitable there we’re going to be some nerves on a hot, dry night on the Shaw’s Road away to St’Paul’s. There wasn’t a breath in the air and St’Paul’s were certainly left breathless as the ball broke to Darragh Turley straight from the throw in and he confidently and comfortably slotted over for the first score of the game with barely 30 seconds on the clock. As an impressive a start to a game all season by Loch Mor and they maintained that intensity as they continually pressed St’Paul’s in possession and moved the ball quickly and with intent. That pressure was sustained and Loch Mór made the most of it with Mathew Jones, Cormac Dwyer and Darragh Turley pointing from play. It was midway through the first half when a great ball was played into the 21 and gathered neatly by Declan Phillips. Skilfully striking on the turn the sliotar flew past the keeper and rippled the back of the net to put Loch Mór comfortably in the driving seat.
Whether it was complacency or a few of those nerves creeping in on Loch Mór’s part but St’Pauls, who weren’t without their danger men, slowly clawed their way back into the game. Some unforced errors and intercepted passes resulted in St’Paul’s racking up a few points from play and a goal form a free on the 20 gave them a major boost. Loch Mór responded and the lads went in at the break with 5 points to spare.
This has been a tough season so far and Loch Mór are not without their war wounds. It’s testament to how far this team and this club has progressed that they were able to call on their squad of dedicated players ready and willing to fill in for injured teammates. Reece McDonnell got his first start of the season and put in a solid performance in the full forward line.
The lads regrouped at half time and started the second half at a blistering pace. Cormac Dwyer, who was in talismanic form, on Wednesday night was simply unstoppable. Turning the ball over on our 21 and bursting forward at breakneck speed, playing a lovely one-two in the middle of the field and casually splitting the posts was most definitely the score of the match. Loch Mór weren’t content with that though and several points were to follow. Three more from Darragh Turley, two from Cormac Dwyer and one from Mathew Jones, who was on top form again, rounded off a convincing win that all but nails Loch Mór to the top half of the table. A great game of hurling and an inspiring performance that wraps up this this half of the league.
Lámh Dhearg returned to winning ways in the first post-split fixture of the league with a 1-21-1-19 victory over Rasharkin at Hannahstown on Wednesday evening.
Things were looking good for the Lámhs at the interval, leading 1-12-0-10 with Odrán Waldron grabbing the vital goal.
But Rasharkin began positively after the break and when Declan Lynch received a second yellow-card- they made use of their numerical advantage and drew level through a Connor Higgins goal midway through the half.
The hosts showed great determination to see off a late Rasharkin onslaught and avenge defeat at the Dreen a few weeks ago.
Both sides went into Wednesday’s encounter looking to respond to their weekends results. The visitors beaten by league leaders Cloughmills, while Lámh Dhearg were pegged back in injury-time by Con Magee’s and as a result missed out on a top-half finish.
Lámh Dhearg started on the front foot with Fionn Mervyn floating over successive scores, both arriving after layoffs from Ciaran Boyd.
It took Rasharkin a few minutes to respond, but they replied with three unanswered points to edge in front.
Donagh Quigg dropped over the initial response and Conor McKillop’s leveller was quickly added to by Conor McFerran.
Parity was restored when Fionn Mervyn turned provider for Paddy Cunningham to steer over his first of the evening and a second soon followed after an angled effort that drifted between the posts.
A converted Odrán Waldron free extended the hosts lead, but Rasharkin twice cut the deficit.
Tiernan O’Boyle hit back from the same scenario at the other end, and despite Ciaran Boyd hitting a magnificent score from range- O’Boyle nailed another free to make a one-point game again (0-06-0-05).
It was all square for a second time when Conor McKillop picked off a fantastic score from range.
But the sides weren’t to be tied for long as the opening goal of the game arrived shortly after.
Rhys Camlin’s quick puck-outs were successful, and, on this occasion, he picked out Paddy Cunningham in the channel and he sent a high ball to the edge of the square where Gerard Smyth flicked it on and shot towards goal- Liam Tunney kept out the initial shot, but Odrán Waldron stabbed the loose ball to the net to make it 1-06-0-06.
Frees were traded between O’Boyle and Waldon in the aftermath and Rhys Camlin was forced into a smart stop when O’Boyle tried to go low from an angled dead-ball.
O’Boyle reduced the deficit again- though Paddy Cunningham conjured up his third point in response.
Rasharkin again narrowed the margin through a well-executed side-line puck from Conor McKeever.
Four unanswered points before the break had the hosts on the front foot heading for the interval.
Odrán Waldron dropped over his third free and Paddy Cunningham followed that with a fantastic long-winded effort that sailed between the sticks.
Two more points came courtesy of Daniel Murray and Waldron (free) before O’Boyle landed his fifth placed with the final action of note in the first half as Lámh Dhearg held a 1-12-0-10 lead at midway.
Rasharkin started the second period brightly with back-to-back points that left the goal separating the sides.
Conor McKillop added to his two first-half points and Tiernan O’Boyle opened his account for the second period from a free.
The hosts were under the cosh in the early stages and things went from bad to worse when Declan Lynch was shown a second yellow-card and subsequent red for a chop on his opponents stick.
O’Boyle converted the resulting free and his side had little under 25 minutes to try and make most of their numerical advantage.
Odrán Waldron floated over his first point from play to relieve a bit of the pressure on his side, but Tiernan O’Boyle conjured up his first score from play in reply.
Back-to-back frees from Kilkenny native Waldron opened up a four-point advantage (1-15-0-14)- though Donagh Quigg doubled his tally for the evening at the other end.
An outstanding Paddy Mervyn point was cancelled out by a fine effort that dropped over the bar from the stick of Shane Hasson.
With little under a quarter of an hour remaining Rasharkin found the net and in doing so restored parity for a third time as Connor Higgins low strike deceived Rhys Camlin and ended up in the corner of the net.
The visitors failed to kick on and the 14-men of Lámh Dhearg forged ahead once again, Odrán Waldron added another two frees to his ever-increasing tally and in between times Paddy Cunningham picked off another excellent score as the Hannashtown outfit were 1-19-1-16 to the good.
Rhys Camlin ensured his sides lead stayed intact, making a tremendous point blank-save to deny Tiernan O’Boyle- who took a swipe at the follow-up that was adjudged to have snuck over the bar.
Points were then traded between Paddy Cunningham and Cormac Gaston and despite Odrán Waldron again opening up a three-point gap, it was again reduced thanks to Tiernan O’Boyle replying.
Try as they might, Rasharkin couldn’t find the net for a second time- which would have swung the game- as the hosts defended resolutely into injury-time and held on for the win.
Lámh Dhearg: R Camlin, C Nolan, J Brady, M McGuigan, P Mervyn (0-01), D Lynch, F Mervyn (0-03), C Boyd (0-01), A McGuigan, D Murray (0-01), O Waldron (1-10, 0-08f), P Cunningham (0-05), D Cunningham, G Smyth, SP Gibson. Subs: N McGarry for G Smyth (47), M Lynch for D Cunningham (47).
Rasharkin: L Tunney, C Donaghy, C Doherty, E Kennedy, R O’Boyle, S Hasson (0-01), A McKeever, C McKeever (0-01f), T O’Boyle (0-10, 0-08f), C McKillop (0-03), C McFerran (0-01), D Quigg (0-02), C Higgins (1-00), C Gaston (0-01), T McGregor.
By Marty Bellew I made the decision to move from Belfast to North Antrim a load of years back. Well, actually, my wife made the decision for me. Her mother’s family, from Cushendall and her father’s from Loughgiel, when someone with that genetic mix tells you to do something there’s no point in arguing. My own family are Naomh Gall people through and through. My nieces and nephews and their fathers are all very active in the club to this day. The youngest brother, Ciaran, ‘Barrett’ migrated to the North West a few years back and is the current net minder for Setanta Hurling Club in Killygordon, Donegal. He claims he’s the best keeper in the county – he’s not! But he loves every minute of playing for his club and the great friends he has made along the way. A small club offering him an experience to match the childhood memories spent in the hustle and bustle of Belfast playing for St Galls. When you move away from the place where you grew up, one of the biggest decisions you have to make is deciding on a club for your children. It’s more important than picking a house or a school, it’s life-changing and something my wife and I did not take lightly. With her mum being a Regan from Cushendall and her father being a McFadden from Loughgiel, naturally we chose … Naomh Padraig North Antrim, as our club.
Naomh Padraig was formed 8 years ago to serve a purpose, a vision. That being, to provide sporting opportunities for children in small rural communities with dwindling populations. Numbers in small rural Primary schools are on the decline, aided by a government turning their backs on them through cuts to funding and the withdrawal of key services. Likewise children from small rural communities need the help and support of others to sustain and develop their national games. Naomh Padraig started off as an amalgamation of Armoy, Carey and Cushendun. Cloughmills joined in a little later too. The trend in recent years, within the GAA, has been for families to bypass their small local club for the big established neighbour. For many it is the easier option and can you blame them? Life is hectic, these are stressful days we live in and people look for ways to counter that. My family threw ourselves headfirst into the club. I didn’t want to drop our kids off at the pitch for someone else to have to give up their free time. With the limited abilities I have I offered my services as a coach. Eventually I became safeguarding officer too, my reward for non-attendance at that year’s AGM. I haven’t missed an AGM since due to the fear of ending up as toilet attendant, fundraising committee member or worse, coach of the pre-schoolers – my daughter is four now and I can’t control her let alone 15 more like her. My wife plays an active role in the life of the club too. She is finding her feet in the role of PR whilst washing kits, serving food and some. We will get her to the other side of the fence eventually. She just doesn’t know it yet! The early years of an amalgamation are tough. The first few AGM’s were feisty, some believed in the system and others decided it wasn’t for them. There is some politicking goes on. Have you ever listened to a conversation between an Armoy and a Carey man? Then Cushendun want hurling played one way and Cloughmills another, you slowly get the picture. Our various clubs want matches and training to be at their home ground, naturally. They want the very best for the children of their area. Why wouldn’t they? Those children have the same GAA hopes and dreams as children from more populated places. But there is a way!! Eventually, with the will of the collective, and through great leadership, Naomh Padraig found its feet. Through trial and error, give and take, we discovered amalgamations can be hugely rewarding, they can be a success, whatever that means. People from those small rural communities started to buy into the process and numbers slowly began to rise. What started out as a couple of hurling teams grew to fielding teams at every juvenile age
group. Then came the Camogs!! Initially a pipe dream, developed by the most underappreciated members of any GAA club, women! They have been phenomenal in getting teams up and running, sourcing kits, coaching, leading and organising fixtures – something they need a lot of help with from the higher powers. They have led the club by example along with the help and support of a few very talented men. In recent times Naomh Padraig has begun the process of feeding players back into the parent clubs, and even some to county teams. Something we could only dream of in the early years. Dropoff levels are tiny – a great indication that something is working. The recent successes of Carey Faughs and Cushhendun at intermediate level have been supported in some small part by the development of players through the Naomh Padraig system. There are plenty more on their way. My families’ experience with Naomh Padraig has been rewarding and enriching. We have found a home from home. The pride and energy people from small rural communities have in themselves is endearing. Outsiders, blow-ins to the club, add another dimension, they see something different. We heave a Kilkenny man, a Bellaghy man and people from places in Ireland I have never even heard of, all offering a fresh perspective. We have even dipped our toes in Gaelic football on the odd occasion, a culture shock to the hurling men of North Antrim. I have enjoyed the arguments between a few colourful characters in our club over it. I may even have stirred it up from time to time. The foundations of the GAA, the beauty of our sport is its people. All of them, including those from areas suffering from depopulation. Being involved with small communities standing up against this trend has been inspiring. Do they have to work harder than the big established clubs? Do they have greater problems to solve? Undoubtedly, but working through these challenges is what makes it all worthwhile. It builds character, it builds resilience and it instils pride. Thanks to everyone in Armoy, Carey, Cushendun and Cloughmills for welcoming us with open arms into your clubs – our clubs. They’ve been some of the happiest days of our lives.
Loughgiel turned in a polished display on Wednesday evening when they visited Cushendun in Division 1 of the Antrim Hurling Leagues, tuning on the style as they ran out winners by 27 points.
One club official I spoke to today told me that he felt the Shamrocks were the sharpest side they had met all season, operating at a different level than the Emmets, who have found life in the top division very testing.
A goal from an early free by Rian Bubbles McMullan was the start Cushendun did not need, but in fairness to the Emmet’s they stayed in touch quite well and trailed by 2-15 to 1-10 at break, David Kilgore getting the goal for the home side while Dan McCloskey got the Shamrocks second.
They scoring rate continued at a high rate for the visitors after the restart as they added another 2-10 to their tally, while restricting Cushendun to just two points, the Shamrocks goals coming from Dan McCloskey and Enda Og McGarry.
The Shamrocks trail Portaferry by a point at the top of the table, though the Down men have a game in hand. That game will be played on Sunday when they take on Rossa, while Loughgiel sit it out. With most of the county players back in action for the second stage of the league it should be very interesting run-in for the teams in contention. That of course will not affect Loughgiel whose county star James McNaughton is off to the USA for a few weeks, but they will be looking forward to getting him back in the red jersey before the championship commences in six weeks’ time.