Depleted Creggan rattled as Eoghan Ruadh chalk up five majors


Photographs & Report: Joe Rice

O’Neill’s ACHL Division 3

Dungannon Eoghan Ruadh 5-16 Kickham’s Creggan 1-18

Should Kickham’s Creggan fail to get promotion from division 3 at the end of the season then they will look back on the last seven days with a lot of regret. A week ago they topped the division but three defeats on the trot against Carey, Clooney Gaels and this one away to Dungannon Eoghan Ruadh has put a serious dent in their promotion hopes.

The sun shone as the Antrim side entered the field.  Their opponent’s management seemed quite surprised to see Creggan line-out with the bare minimum of players but recent injuries and suspensions have dipped deep into the Creggan panel.

As referee, Rab Lappin, got the action under way the men in green & yellow made an encouraging opening.  Creggan were on top for the first five minutes and they looked to have taken control with Conor McCann, Kevin Small and Teddy McKeown firing over early points.

Undeterred, Dungannon responded with three of their own through Cathal McErlean, Damien Casey and Matthew Mulgrew to level the contest with ten minutes gone.  The visitors looked stunned and it took a further 7 minutes to restore their 3 point lead. Conor McCann from 2 pointed frees and Thomas McCann from play were them Kickham’s marksmen.

As the Antrim lads steadied the ship, Matthew Mulgrew for Eoghan Ruadh left his marker and sprinted into the corner to stop a fast moving ball crossing the Creggan end-line and while under pressure he drove it low from an impossible angle across the face of the Creggan goal.

James Dougan, the Creggan Keeper got his hurl to it but it somehow ended in the net and the Tyrone men were back on level terms with 20 minutes gone. It was tit for tat from then until the break as both sides added 4 points, Conor McCann, Oran McCann, Thomas McCann & Kevin Small for Creggan and Damien Casey getting three of the Eoghan Ruadh points.

Casey was the target man for Eoghan Ruadh and after missing a couple of chances he got on the end of a high delivery, turned and drilled an unstoppable effort to the visitors net.  At the short whistle Creggan were 3 points behind but still looked very much in the game.

The Tyrone side got the second half action underway in style with a point from Kiefer Morgan while Creggan’s Conor McCann added to his tally from a pointed free.  For the next nine minutes both sides traded scores and it still looked anybody’s game.

Josh Ferguson struck a superb 30 metre side-line cut over the bar as Dungannon started to find their form and with the wind at their backs, net minder Ciaran McCrudden was continually pucking the ball out 80 to 90 metres causing serious problems for the Creggan defence.

The pressure finally paid off as Piaras McErlean managed to get a touch to flick the sliotar over the line to give the Tyrone side their second major. Creggan’s Conor McCann responded almost immediately with Eoghan Ruadh losing a player to a Red card after hauling down the Kickham’s danger man for the second time.

When McCann broke through to finish to the net a come-back looked possible but the visitors were only able to add four further points through Conor McCann 0-3 and Liam Quinn as Eoghan Ruadh took control.

Taking advantage of McCrudden’s massive puck outs and with the breeze at their backs the Dungannon side started to turn the screw, adding a further 3-8 as the Creggan challenge crumbled.

Matthew Mulgrew increased his personal tally to 2-03 while Damien Casey notched up 1-8 as the scores came thick and fast and the visitors had no answer to this excellent pair who were a thorn in their flesh all night.

Dungannon will be pleased with their performance tonight while the visitors will be hoping to get most of their missing players back sooner rather than later as they attempt to resurrect a season that has gone pear shape over the past seven day.

DUNGANNON – No.1 Ciaran McCrudden, No.2 Paul Lavery, No.3 Mark Winter, No.4 Michael Donnelly, No.5 Locran Devlin 0.1, No.6 Stephen Donnelly, No.7 Kiefer Morgan 0.2, No.8 Shaun Donaghy, No.9 Josh Ferguson 0.1, No.10 Piaras McErlean 1.1, No.11 Pierse O’Kelly, No.12 Cathal McErlean 0.1, No.13 Matthew Mulgrew 2.3, No.14 Damien Casey 1.8, No.15 Martin Devlin, No.16 Stevie Currie, No.17 Michael Donnelly, No. 18 Padraig Hughes, No.19 Damhnaic Rushe, No.20 Ben Gormley, No.22 Fearghal Devlin, No.23 Padraig Mallon, No.24 Patrick McKillon.

CREGGAN – No.1 James Dougan, No.2 Mick Maguire, No.3 Dannan O’Hara, No.4 Donal Carey, No.5 Liam McCann, No. 6 Kevin Small 0.2, No.7 Teddy McKeown 0.1, No.8 Rory McCann, No. 9 Sam Maguire 0.2, No.10 Thomas McCann 0.1, No.11 Enda Maguire, No.12 Oran McCann 0.1, No.13 Jake McAteer, No. 14 Conor McCann 1.10, No.15 Liam McCann 0.1.

Referee: Rab Lappin

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Job done for Saffrons


Neil McManus, Antrim races clear of Niall O’Muineachain, Kildare

Joe McDonagh Cup

Relegation/Promotion Play-Off

Antrim 3-23 Kildare 1-17

Saturday June 30

Brendan McTaggart reports from the Athletic Grounds, Armagh

An unnecessary job done.  That was the immediate feeling at the final whistle in the Athletic Grounds on Saturday afternoon.  The feeling surrounding this fixture in the build-up had garnered support for the hurlers of these Antrim and Kildare sides.  The long and short of it, it was a fixture that neither side felt they warranted and if a game had to be played, the scheduling could have been kinder.

Antrim put in a professional performance against the Lilywhites to hold on to their Joe McDonagh Cup status for 2019 but before I eulogise over the performances of Neil McManus, Keelan Molloy et al, spare a thought for the Kildare men.  The rules were set at the start of this year’s championship but to win your competition in a tiered system should ensure your promotion.  Not so for Kildare.  Madness.  12 points separated the sides at the end of 70 minutes in energy sapping heat with all three of Antrim’s goals coming in the first half.  McManus hitting the back of the net either side of Conor McCann’s 33rd minute major to give Antrim control after an uncertain start.  The Ruairi Og and Antrim talisman finished his county season with a personal tally of 2-10 while Keelan Molloy finished the match with 0-6 to his name in a performance that belittled his relative new comer status to the intercounty game.  McManus and Molloy took the lions share of the scoring accolades but it was another fine team performance from the men in Saffron and while they have probably played better this year and lost this year, they won’t have played in a more important match.

This was a crossroads for Antrim.  Win or bust.  A defeat would have condemned them to the Christy Ring Cup in what would have been an incredible turn of events considering they could have been playing in the Final of the McDonagh Cup.  With the rub of the green and a few breaks here and there, they could have been 70 minutes from re-entering the Liam McCarthy Cup.  Such has been the fine lines of this tremendous competition but that’s a story for another day.

The Saffrons were a much more polished team than their Kildare counterparts.  All talk of the three week break from their defeat to Kerry and Kildare’s six day turnaround from their success in Croke Park against London as being a decisive, telling factor is probably looking at this game too simplistically.  This was a banana skin game for Antrim and one that had many fearing the worse.  Kildare came to Armagh with the attitude that ‘everyone was against them’ but with momentum.  A ‘backs to the wall’ attitude can raise a teams performance another 10-15% yet Antrim showed that they belong in the Joe McDonagh Cup as they overcome the early Kildare onslaught to run out convincing winners.

Antrim started like a team that hadn’t been playing for three weeks.  Errors here and there, missed frees and stray passes.  The fluency of their performances during the six weeks of the McDonagh Cup round robin was missing and while Kildare weren’t firing on all cylinders themselves, they already had one point on the board thanks to a James Burke free before Paul Divilly fired the opening goal of the game in the third minute.  Antrim Captain Conor McKinley had shepherded Jack Sheridan down the left but the Kildare man managed to get across the byline before sending the sliotar high across the Antrim goals.  Divilly met the sliotar first time and gave Ryan Elliott no chance.  A dream start for the Lillywhites and a difficult task just got harder for the Saffrons.  Their reply however was instant.  A point from Ryan McCambridge was followed by a goal chance for Nigel Elliott, his strike from an acute angle well saved by Paddy McKenna in the Kildare goals.  Points followed though with Conor McCann, McManus (free) and Molloy’s first of the match to tie the sides by the 11th minute.

Burke (free) and Divilly gave Kildare a two point advantage but Antrim were beginning to get on top all over the pitch.  Molloy halved the arrears before they carved another goal chance.  Nigel Elliott collecting a long pass from McCambridge before speeding clear of the Kildare defence.  Through one on one, the expectant result never came.  You would have put your mortgage on the Dunloy man finding the bottom corner but his shot went to the wrong side of the post.

A brace of points from Elliott and McManus (’65) restored Antrim’s lead by the 18th minute and after a water-break, they hammered home their advantage.  A poc out from Ryan Elliott landed among the waiting group where McManus rose highest.  He turned and bore his way to the Kildare holding off three challengers before emphatically raising the rigging.  Kildare replied instantly with Burke landing a free but Eoin O’Neill and Molloy split the uprights to take the Antrim lead to five points in the 29th minute.

Kevin Whelan and Bernard Deay points breathed life into Kildare’s challenge but Antrim’s second goal came and underlined their superiority of the first half.  McCambridge playing a cross field ball where McCann collected.  The timing and intelligence of his run meant Kildare were chasing his shadow and the Kickhams man found the target with accomplished ease.

Divilly and Burke replied for the Lillywhites to leave four between the sides in first half injury time but the momentum swing in the closing stages was the deciding factor of this play-off.  Kildare had a goal chalked off for square ball, Martin Fitzgerald’s deemed to be inside the small square when Sheridan played the sliotar square.  20 seconds later Antrim scored their third goal.  McManus collecting a high ball before finding the onion bag again.


Conor McCann fires past the diving Paddy McKenna for Antrim’s third goal at the end of the first half .

Burke’s fifth point of the half, fourth from a free ended the opening 35 plus minutes with the Saffrons in control.  3-9 to 1-9.

Looking at the first half, Kildare were dealt a cruel blow with two of Antrim’s goals.  One after a water break and the other after they had a goal ruled out.  From potentially going in to the half time break level, Antrim had a six point cushion.

If Antrim’s performance was clinical but stuttering in the opening half, they dominated after the restart.  Éanna O’Neill fired the opening score in the second minute but three points from McManus (one free) and one from John Dillon opened a nine point lead after eight minutes.

Burke and Deay replied for Kildare but another brace of McManus points along with white flags from Nigel Elliott and Molloy’s fourth of the match reinforced the Antrim advantage.  Both management teams began to freshen their sides, looking to the sub bench and while Chris Bonus and two Divilly frees reduced the deficit to eight points, Antrim never really looked like capitulating in the closing stages.  Eoghan Campbell McCann dropping deeper and Simon McCrory were outstanding while McManus (two) and Molloy continued to pile the scores at the other end.

Divilly took his tally to 1-4 in the last minute of normal time but points from Molloy, McManus (free) and a point from James McNaughton after a sublime catch took the advantage to 13 points.  A Paul Divilly free reduced the deficit to 12 points in the seventh minute of injury time at the end of the game but that was that as far as Kildare were concerned.  An incredible hard luck story for the Lilywhites and an unnecessary job done for Antrim.




Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Arron Graffin, John Dillon, Ryan McCambridge; Paddy Burke, Matthew Donnelly, Conor McKinley; Simon McCrory, Eoghan Campbell; Keelan Molloy, Neil McManus, Nigel Elliott; Conor Carson, Conor McCann, Eoin O’Neill

Subs: Donal McKinley for R McCambridge (50); James McNaughton for M Donnelly (63); Eddie McCloskey for E O’Neill (65); Stephen Rooney for S McCrory (inj); Daniel McCloskey for C Carson (inj)

Yellow Cards: Ryan McCambridge (12); Paddy Burke (44)

Red Cards: none

Scorers: Neil McManus 2-10 (7 f’s); Keelan Molloy 0-6; Conor McCann 1-1; Nigel Elliott 0-2; Ryan McCambridge 0-1; Eoin O’Neill; John Dillon 0-1; James McNaughton 0-1

Kildare: Paddy McKenna; Conor Gordon, John Doran, Paul Sulivan; Éanna O’Neill, Mark Moloney, Kevin Whelan; Niall O’Muineachain, Brian Byrne; James Burke, Paul Divilly, Bernard Deay; Mark Delaney, Martin Fitzgerald, Jack Sheridan.

Subs: Chris Bonus for B Deay (53); Diarmuid Cahill for K Whelan (53); Sean Gainey for J Burke (56); Barry McCormack for M Delaney (60); Shane Walsh for E O’Neill (67)

Yellow Cards: Bernard Deay (10); Jack Sheridan (34); Brian Byrne (36)

Red Cards: none

Scorers: Paul Divilly 1-6 (3 f’s); James Burke 0-6 (4 f’s, 1 ’65); Bernard Deay 0-2; Éanna O’Neill 0-1; Kevin Whelan 0-1; Chris Bonus 0-1

Referee: David Hughes (Carlow)

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Win or bust for Saffrons

CRLL2808 (2)

Joe McDonagh/Christy Ring relegation/promotion playoff

Saturday June 30

Athletic Grounds, Armagh

Throw in: 12:45pm

Referee: David Hughes (Carlow)

By Brendan McTaggart

It’s not the match those who follow the Saffron hurlers were hoping for this weekend, but it’s every bit as important. Antrim travel to the Athletic Grounds in Armagh for a play-off with Christy Ring winners Kildare, the prize on offer? The right to participate in the Joe McDonagh Cup in 2019.

After releasing a joint statement with the Kildare players on Thursday evening, the Saffron players and management have expressed their disappointment at the set-up and scheduling. The Lilywhites firmly of the belief that they have already earned that right when they defeated London at Croke Park in last Sunday’s Christy Ring Final and the scheduling of this match, just seven days after their first Christy Ring success since 2014 doesn’t help the situation much either.

The Antrim management have expressed their concerns around the play-off and the reasons – why break something that clearly isn’t broken is the trail of thought among Sambo, Woody, Neal Peden and Pappy and you would be hard pushed to find someone who would disagree with them, outside of GAA’s HQ. When we spoke with Dominic McKinley, he has sympathy for the Saffrons opponents on Saturday: “Look we’ve got ourselves in this situation and we’ve known the format from the start of the season. My own opinion is Kildare won the Christy Ring Cup and should be playing in the Joe McDonagh next year but I also think the McDonagh Cup should remain a six team competition.”

There is no doubting the McDonagh Cup has been a resounding success and McKinley is obviously eager to maintain Antrim’s status in the competition: “Some of the games have been outstanding. The games against Westmeath and Carlow were had fierce excitement and maybe wasn’t good for the managements health standing on the side line but I’m sure from a neutral’s perspective they were a spectacle. That’s the level of hurling that we as a county are at and we want to be playing in it next year again. Some of our hurling has been very, very good. You look at those first 20 minutes against Kerry and that’s what this team is capable off. We went off the boil and when that happens it’s difficult to get started again.”

Kildare come into the match ‘fresh’ from their dismantling of the Exiles. I say fresh but there is no doubting the Kildare men would have been hoping for at least another weeks grace before this playoff. The Lillywhites had 14 points to spare over London after the 70 minutes, thanks largely to goals from Jack Sheridan (two) and one from Shane Ryan along with the free taking ability of James Burke. A hugely impressive performance on an afternoon where they had 10 different scorers.

In recent matches Antrim have had the upper hand over Kildare, most recently the Saffrons had two points to spare on their way to securing promotion to Division 1b in March 2017. On that particular day in Cushendall, Ciaran Clarke top scored for the Saffrons with 1-6 but the Ballycastle man won’t be part of the squad at the Athletic Grounds: “We’ve known Clarkey’s situation all season,” added McKinley: “with his working commitments it was always a possibility he could miss this one and it’s turned out to be the case. The rest of the squad is much the same with no fresh injury concerns.” McKinley continued: “Some of the guys in this squad have been representing Antrim for the better part of 10 years. The squad enjoy being together and being part of Antrim hurling. They’re proud to represent their county and wear an Antrim shirt. There is no-one hurting more than they are right now for being in this playoff but we’re going to be doing everything we can to ensure we’re playing in the McDonagh Cup next year.”

Kildare will present a stern opposition for the Saffrons make no mistake about it. Their performances in the Christy Ring Cup were highly impressive highlighted by the fact they beat a strong London side and a Derry team littered with Slaughtneil players in the semi-final with eight points to spare. Under the tutelage of Joe Quaid they have made progress on the field of play and in Jack Sheridan they have one of the inform players in the country right now. Six goals in his three outings during the Christy Ring tells you Antrim will have to be mindful but the Saffrons have enough about them to edge this one. If they can replicate the intensity and form in recent times against Westmeath and Carlow they should keep their place in the McDonagh Cup for next season.

Antrim and Kildare hurlers issue joint statement

Ahead of Saturday’s relegation/promotion playoff between Antrim and Kildare, both panels of hurlers have come out in opposition to the format of the Joe McDonagh Cup.

Kildare, winners of last weekend’s Christy Ring Cup final, will take on Antrim for a place in next year’s Joe McDonagh Cup; with the loser of that tie fated to spend another year outside the peripheral reach of the All-Ireland series.

In a joint-letter, both panels believed it is “incumbent on us to highlight the unfairness and inconsideration surrounding this fixture in the hope that we can positively affect change for the future.”

As of the current structure, Meath, the bottom-placed team in this year’s Joe McDonagh Cup, have already been relegated. With Offaly set to make the move down from the Leinster Championship next year (with the winners of Carlow and Westmeath going in the other direction), the six-team format of 2018 will become a five-team tournament for next year’s Championship – the winners of Kildare and Antrim joining Kerry, Laois and the remaining sides mentioned.

Unsatisfied with the prospect of this “illogical” change, the hurlers of Kildare and Antrim have outlined their reasons in a point-by-point method:


  1. The Joe McDonagh Cup should remain at 6 teams; a request which is made in the interest of competitiveness, fair-play and equity. The McDonagh Cup has shown everyone how competitive hurling at the lower levels has become and the tier below the Liam McCarthy should encourage teams to achieve higher standards, not shut them out. This is a point which many panels have echoed throughout the year. A 5 team competition is illogical and only serves to make it more difficult for aspiring counties to compete. Antrim should remain in the competition as they did not finish bottom and Kildare should fill the relegated 6th spot.

  1. The Christy Ring Cup competition, and by consequence the Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cups, have been eroded in standing for a number of years consistently since their inception. For example, the Christy Ring Final used to take place before Liam McCarthy All-Ireland Semi-Finals, which held true to the original intentions of promoting hurling in the weaker counties. This progressive principle has been lost to a point where all these competitions have been downgraded to tiers 3, 4 and 5 and run off in their entirety before the end of June. This does nothing to promote respect for these competitions and this grievance has been aired numerous times in the past.

  1. If the system of promotion/relegation matches is being discarded next year, then the time for implementation was this year’s competitions. They are unjust, unequal in advantage and unnecessarily stressful. Winning your respective competition must be the end-point and high-point of your competitive year. No further fixtures should ever be considered for any reason and automatic promotion must be the incentive. Promoted teams should be afforded the courtesy and respect of being given a pre-season to prepare for superior opposition and competition. Kildare suffered under a similar situation in 2014 and failed to win the Christy Ring for a further 3 seasons. This could have happened to any team in the competition that year. Manipulating the rules of promotion/relegation in such a fashion can and does have long term ramifications for progression.

  1. The scheduling of this fixture exemplifies a blatant disregard for the welfare of the players. Both panels acknowledge that the week turnaround, the date, the timing and the location were not fixed with the best interest of the players in mind. We call for a more transparent, communicative, flexible and equitable process to be considered when fixing matches, especially of this nature and given the circumstances of all players involved.

  1. Regardless of the result on Saturday both panels will support each other to retain the 6 team McDonagh Cup format and pursue all possible avenues to make this happen.


Utmost of all, the two panels of players are keen to stress that their frustrations are aired in the hope that “the GAA to listen to the concerns of the players and that increased respect is given to all participants of the great game of hurling.”

Having been repeatedly overlooked throughout much of the year thus far, the hurlers from both panels are keen ensure greater attention is paid to the Joe McDonagh Cup.


Great to see these young hurlers playing the beautiful game

I feel I have to publish this comment I received from a parent about a report we posted recently about the Antrim Celtic Challenge. Lovely words from a proud parent

”Great to see these young hurlers playing the beautiful game. Many would say that Analagy is for soccer, however if you like me have been introduced to the game of hurling by your children you soon see it’s the beauty of the game that strives in the heart and soul of each and every family involved. Im so proud of each and every one of these boys, you do your county (Antrim) and your country a great service by participating whole heartedly in this beautiful game.

So well done to every county for playing your heart out in every match. We as parents have enjoyed watching all of you strive for greatness Thank you for allowing us to be part of this and for being amazing role models to those who play and those who are spectators.”


A very proud parent of an Antrim hurler… you are my hero’s

Antrim ABU