The hurling circle keeps on turning
Fifty years ago Antrim hurlers won the Intermediate Hurling title, when they beat Warwickshire in the final at Croke Park. Last Sunday the Saffrons once again lifted the second tier trophy when they squeezed past Kerry in the final of the Joe McDonagh Cup, again in Croke Park. Having written a lot about that 1970 team over the past year I started to think of the connections between the two sides, something that always interests me.
Sunday’s goalkeeper Ryan Elliott is the first direct connection as his granduncle Chris Elliott was a tough and tenacious corner back on the 1970 team. Full-back Matty Donnelly has lots of connections as his uncle Kevin wore the same number 3 jersey fifty years ago, while his other uncle, Eddie, was one of the real stars of Saffrons forward line during that campaign. His wife’s grandfather JP McFadden came on as a sub in that 1970 final and scored a point, interupting his honeymoon in Galway to be in Croker that day.
Matty also has a double connection with the Antrim team which reached the senior final in 1989, his father Brian playing in the half forward line that day and his uncle Dessie at corner-back, the position he won his All Star award for that same year.
Moving up front on Sunday’s team James McNaughton has a strong connection as his dad’s first cousin Brendan McGarry was on the 1970 side. James has pedigree all right as his dad Seamus ‘Crow’ McNaughton was one of the stars of the Loughgiel team who won their first All Ireland title in 1983 and further back his granny Mary McGarry won an All Ireland Senior Camogie medal with Antrim back in the 1947.
Conal Cunning, who played so well when introduced at half time on Sunday, has a strong connection with 1970 team through is late grand-uncle Aidan McCamphill, a stylish performer on the day in the half-back line. Of course Conal’s granny Eilish Cunning, a sister of Aidan, won an All Ireland Senior Camogie medal with Antrim in the 1950s.
Damon McMullan who was a sub on Sunday’s team, and played a part on all of the other games in the competition, his grand-nephew of Danny McMullan who was part of the management team with Neill Patterson and Justin McCarthy in 1970 and his uncle Dominic ‘Jew’ McMullan was midfield on the 1989 team.
Tiernan TC Coyle, who was part of the panel in the early rounds of the Joe McDonagh Cup is another Loughgiel man with a direct connection. His grandfather Johnny Coyle was one of the real stars of the team of 50 years ago, guarding the Antrim goal during that campaign
In the management team, selector Johnny Campbell, is a nephew of Barney Campbell who played in the half forward line on the 1970 side. Johnny has a bit of form himself, playing for years for Antrim and winning the Christy Ring Cup (back then the second tier competition in hurling with the Saffrons in 2006, and of course he was joint captain of the Loughgiel team who won the Shamrocks second All Ireland title in 2012.
That is all the connections I can figure out but if there is anyone you know who I have missed out, please get in touch