McCrory returns to the heart of the Antrim defence

Simon McCrory returns to pivot the Antrim defence for Sunday’s National Hurling League Division 2A season defining clash with Westmeath at Corrigan Park. The St John’s stalwart has missed the opening league defeat to Kerry and the win over Meath last time out due to a hamstring injury but he has been passed fit for Sunday.

McCrory’s inclusion is one of a few changes made by the Neal Peden and his selectors with Nicky McKeague returning after suspension and Kevin Rice making a comeback, after also suffering a hamstring strain. McCrory will move to centre back with Matthew Donnelly moving to wing back, which sees Ronan Molloy move to the bench.

Team captain Conor McCann, who was on the 40 for the win over Meath, moves out to midfield to partner Nicky McKeague, who is making a return after serving a one game suspension. This new partnership in the middle of the park sees Conor Boyd and Sean Duffin drop to the bench while Kevin Rice comes in at wing forward with James McNaughton moving in the centre-half-forward slot.

Antrim full forward Kevin Rice will be back in action during for Sunday’s league clash with Westmeath in Corrigan Park

That means that the full-back and full forward lines, who started against Meath remain the same with John ‘Rocky’ Dillon flanked by Stephen Rooney and Phelim Duffin at the back and Keelan Molloy flanked up front by Eoin O’Neill and Ciaran Clarke.

When Antrim suffered defeat to Kerry in their opening game at Corrigan Park three weeks ago it meant that it was going to be an uphill struggle to qualify for the league final, and subsequent promotion. Ideally it would have suited Antrim better if Kerry had gone on to beat Westmeath in the second round fixtures but the midlanders travelled to Tralee and came away with the both points. With Kerry now having the edge on Antrim due to their head to head game, the Saffrons simply can’t afford to lose out to Westmeath on Sunday or their promotion hopes will have gone, barring a few very unlikely results. So a win on Sunday is vital.

Dunloy’s Nicky McKeague returns to Antrim colours after missing the Meath game due to suspension.

There is of course some good news as far as the strength of the panel is concerned with St Enda’s Joe Maskey and four of the six Cushendall players returning to training. Quite understandably the management have kept faith with the players who were in action through the Kehoe Cup and the start of the league but it is nice to know that they can call on the likes of Neill McManus, Eoghan Campbell, Joe Maskey and co. if needed. James O’Connell of Cloney Gaels also returns to the bench after injury.

The Antrim team to face Westmeah is –

Ryan Elliott Rian Mac Uileagóid Cú Chullain
Stephen Rooney Stiofán O Ruanaidh Naomh Pol
John Dillon Sean O Diolun Fanaithe An Gleanna
Phelim Duffin Feilim O Duifinn Cú Chullain
Matthew Donnelly Maitiú O Donnaile Mac Uilin
Simon Mc Crory Siomon Mac Ruairi Naomh Eoin
Conor Mc Hugh Conchuir Mac Aodha Roibeard Eimeid
Conor McCann Conchúr Mac Cana Ciceam an Creagán
Nicky McKeague   Cú Chullain
Nigel Elliott Nigel Mac Uileagóid Cú Chullain
James Mc Naughton Seamus Mac Neachtain Na Seamroga
Kevin Rice Caoimhin O Maolchraoibhe Ciceam an Creagán
Eoin O Neill Eoin Ó Néill Cú Chullain
Keelan Molloy Keelan Maolmhuaidh Cú Chullain
Ciaran Clarke Ciaran O Cleirchin Mac Uilin
Kurtis Mc Greevy Kurtis Mag Riabhaigh Naomh Gall
Connor Patterson Conchuir Mac Phaidin Oisin
Sean Duffin Sean O Duifinn Tir Na nOg
Conor Boyd Conchúr Búiteach Mac Uilin
Donal Mc Kinley Dónall Mac Fhionnlaoich Na Seamroga
James O’Connell   Clooney Gaels
Connor Laverty Conchuir Mac Laibheartaigh Naomh Brid
Ryan McCambridge   Ruairi Ogs
Neill McManus   Ruairi Ogs
John McGoldrick   Naomh Eanna
Eoin Campbell   Ruairi Ogs

Central Restaurant Indoor Finals on Sunday

The Central Restaurant Ballycastle North Antrim primary 3 & 4 (under 8) indoor hurling competition finals will be in the main hall in Seven Towers Ballymena on Sunday 17th at 1pm. We will start with the Section 6 finals and finish with Section 1 finals. Each game will consist of two halfs of 7 mins with 2 mins at half time, rules attached.

Section 6 – Eoghan Rua 2 V Oisins 2

Section 5 – Naomh Padraig 3 V Con Magees Glenravel 1

Section 4 – Cuchullains 2 V All Saints

Section 3 – Eoghan rua 1 Naomh Padraig 2

Section 2 – Ruairi Og 1 V Omagh St Endas 1

Section 1 –  McQuillans 1 V Cuchullains 1

Well done to all the U8s that entered this year.

Dónal McAnallen to give give talk on GAA in North Antrim

DThe next North Antrim Cultural Event features a talk by Dónal McAnallen who will cover the history of the GAA in North Antrim.

The event will be held in Carey Parish Hall Saturday 23rd February 8.00pm. (Contact a North Antrim club for tickets or pay at the door. entry £5.00)

Dónal McAnallen (1978-) is an historian, researcher and educator. He graduated with a BA from Queen’s University Belfast and a PhD from NUI Galway. He co-edited (with David Hassan and Roddy Hegarty) The Evolution of the GAA, based on a conference held at the Cardinal Ó Fiaich Library and Archive, Armagh, in 2009. He authored The Cups that Cheered: A History of the Sigerson, Fitzgibbon and Higher Education Gaelic Games (Collins Press, 2012), which examines the uniquely fascinating and sometimes controversial world of Irish intervarsity sport. His most recent book, The Pursuit of Perfection (Penguin Ireland, 2017), is a deeply personal memoir of his late brother Cormac, an All-Ireland winning Gaelic footballer who died suddenly in 2004, at the age of 24. Dónal has also lectured at the University of Ulster

Dónal McAnallen is a former national treasurer and secretary of Comhairle Ardoideachais, the GAA’s Higher Education Council, and the author of The Cups That Cheered: A History of the Sigerson, Fitzgibbon and Higher Education Gaelic Games.

1.      Armoy Glen Rovers GAC

2.      Ballycastle McQuillan GAC

3.      Carey Faughs GAC

4.      Cloughmills St Brigids GAC

5.      Cushendall Ruairi Og CLG

6.      Cushendun Robert Emmets GAC

7.      Dunloy Cuchullians GA & CC

8.      Glenariffe Oisin CLG

9.      Glenarm Shane O’Neills GAC

10.  Glenravel Con Magees GAC

11.  Latharna Og GAC

12.  Loughgiel Shamrocks GAC

“Agonisingly Close” – Eamon Gillan Gives His Verdict

By Liam Tunney

The cool of the evening was sidling into the vacuum left by the setting sun at Parnell Park as the Ruairí Óg supporters rallied around their devastated players in commiseration following their narrow All-Ireland Club SHC Semi-Final defeat to St Thomas’ of Galway.

A visibly disappointed Eamon Gillan observed things with the agonised grimace of a man wondering what might have been.

“I thought we were going to win it,” he lamented, “when it went level with four or five minutes to go, because we were on top that whole second half.”

“Agonising is the right word. They just broke away, got a couple of scores at crucial times and it cost us in the end.”

A heroic second half comeback had ultimately ended in disappointment, St Thomas’ corner back David Sherry popping up in the 64th minute to find his side a winner, and Donal McNaughton’s late goal attempt ricocheting back off a defender’s hurl to safety.

Gillan defended the Cushendall stalwart’s decision:

“At the end of the day, if that hits the back of the net then we’d have won the match. If we’d got the score then it would have gone to extra time and that’s a lottery. I don’t blame him.”

The Cushendall men were driven on in the second half by the ever-consistent Neil McManus, whose accuracy and determination restored parity after a brief St Thomas’ flurry had seen them edge ahead again.

His young midfield partner Fergus McCambridge shot 1-01 in the second half, never breaking stride as he dipped the ball on the way to the goal that halved the deficit, while Gillan reserved special praise for Arron Graffin and his Lazarene recovery from injury.

“There’s only one man in this world could do that, and that’s Arron Graffin, he defied logic. But they all had a good second half, they all did things that lifted us.”

The Cushendall manager winces as he delivers his final verdict:

“We should have been going in with less of a deficit, but you couldn’t ask for more, we kept going and kept going and chipped away and came agonisingly close.”

“Agonisingly close” sums up yesterday’s events in Parnell Park perfectly, but when the post mortem is done and the dust settles, Ruairí Óg will be content in the knowledge that they left everything on the pitch, the exhausted bodies and minds that milled among their faithful support on the turf on Saturday afternoon testament to that Herculean effort.