A century’s heartache forgotten as Tir na nOg lift Intermediate title

Andersonstown SC IFC Final

Tir na nOg 1-19 Cloney Gaels 0-17

The long wait is over for Tir na nOg, Randalstown. In the first year of the second century since their formation the Whitehill side finally got their hands on the Intermediate hurling title when they overcame the challenge of Cloney Gaels in a great final at Dunsilly today.

The Ahoghill side went into this game as slight favourites but it was their opponents who showed the greater level of desire and fighting spirit, coupled with the ability to take their scores that deservedly won the day to lift their first Intermediate title.

The Randalstown side won key battles all over the field with their defence affording the much vaunted Cloney attack little time or space and in Sean Duffin in attack they had a player who hardly missed a chance all day and finished with 0-11 for the winners.

It was Cloney Gaels who made the brighter opening at Dunsilly today as they took the game to the opposition but James O’Connell, Dan O’Neill and Fionbarr O’Neill all shot wide in the opening four minutes and when Niall Devlin stepped inside his marker in Tir na nOg’s first serious attack and fired to the net the scene was set for what was to follow.

Aaron McNeilly followed with a point before Patrick Graham finally opened the Cloney Gaels account with a point in the 8th minute but Eamon Og McAllister replied from the puck out at the other end to restore his sides four point advantage.

The Ahoghill side were busting a gut to shake off the shackles of a tight marking Tir na nOg defence and Tomas McGlone split the posts in the 9th minute but Sean Duffin responded immediately at the other end with his first of the afternoon and his brother Colm added another to open up a five point gap by the 12th minute.

Eamon Og and Sean Duffin added points as the Whitehill side took advantage of the space they were being afforded by the Ahoghill defence to send their side into the first water break with a fairly healthy looking 1-6 to 0-2 lead.

Niall O’Connell replaced the injured Eoin Graham as the second quarter commenced and It was going to take something better if Cloney Gaels were to get back into contention and James O’Connell looked like the man to deliver as he pointed four frees in quick succession before setting up Tomas McGlone for another from play and suddenly the Tir na nOg lead had been reduced to two points.

Sean Duffin stopped the rut with a point for the Randalstown men in the 26th minute and at the other end Cloney Gaels looked to be in for a goal but James O’Connell’s ground shot sailed wide of an upright following a goalmouth scramble.

The final score of the half fell to the excellent Sean Duffin  who sent over a fine point to extend his side’s lead to four at the short whistle and they were good value for that lead though the Cloney side would surely rue the amount of opportunities they had squandered during a lively opening 30 minutes.

On the resumption Sean Duffin added a point in the first minute before Kevin Sheerin pulled off a good save at the other end to deny James O’Connell who raced clear but was forced to shoot from a bad angle before Owen Neeson got his side off the mark with a Cloney point.

Patrick Graham added an excellent score and once again it looked like a Cloney Gaels revival might be on the cards but Tir na nOg were having none of it as they responded with a point from Ciaran Logan to edge four in front with five minutes of the new half gone.

Sean Duffin added another from distance before Shane Donnelly replaced Sean McKinley in the Tir na nOg attack.

The Ahoghill side were doing all in their power to get going again but a Tir na nOg defence superbly marshalled by Christy Sheerin and Caoimhinn Duffin were denying them time and space and always ready to launch counter attacks with Sean Duffin making use of every opportunity.

The youngster of the Duffin clan added points in the 9th and 11th minutes as Tir na nOg moved seven points clear before James O’Connell replied from a pointed free and another from play but the Cloney attack were having to work their socks off for their scores.

Sean Duffin for Tir na nOg and James O’Connell for the Ahoghill side exchanged further points but it was the Whitehill side who were continuing to find the space as Sean Duffin, Ciaran Logan and Duffin again added to their tally with another O’Connell free leaving five in it again as the game moved into the final ten minutes.

The Ahoghill men were badly in need of a goal to ignite their challenge as Owen Neeson added a point and then James O’Connel kicked over another when a half chance presented itself but it was as close as they were to get with the superb Sean Duffin securing matters with two late points.

Scenes of wild celebration followed. The Whitehill men have been knocking at the Intermediate championship door for more than a decade but the men of 2020 finally delivered to herald a bright start to the second century for the club and no one would deny them their celebration.

They were superb all over the field with Kevin Sheerin in goals never putting a foot wrong and Christy Sheerin, Caoimhinn Duffin and Ciaran O’Neill commanding in a defence who gave nothing away.

Aaron McNeilly and Ciaran McKeown worked tirelessly at mid-field while Sean Duffin was the outstanding player on view in an attack where Eamon Og McAllister and Ciaran Logan were always dangerous.

Cloney Gaels gave it everything but never really got going or were allowed to get going but in Bernard Graham, Eamon Brady, Tomas McGlone, Patrick Graham, Owen Neeson and James O’Connell they had player worthy of special mention.

Tir na Nog: Kevin Sheerin, Tony Martin, Christy Sheerin, Daniel Martin, Ryan O’Neill, Caoimhinn Duffin, Ciaran O’Neill, Aaron McNeilly, Ciaran McKeown, Eamon Og McAllister, Ciaran Logan, Sean Duffin, Niall Devlin, Colm Duffin, Sean McKinley. Subs: Shane Donnelly for Sean McKinley, Conor Fitzgerald for Ciaran McKeown

Cloney Gaels: Martin Graham, Stephen O’Connell, Bernard Graham, James Magee, Fionnbar O’Neill, Diarmaid Graham, Eamon Brady, Francis Neeson, Tomas McGlone, Owen Neeson, Eoin Graham, Patrick Graham, Dan O’Neill, PJ O’Connell, James O’Connell

Referee: Colm McDonald (St. Gall’s)

Cloney to edge shoot-out of free takers

Andersonstown SC Intermediate Hurling final

Cloney Gaels v Tir na nOg (Dunsilly 1-00)

GAA fixtures at present are a bit like a bus! You wait for one for ages and then a number come along and so it is in Antrim tomorrow. I’m not complaining, nearly six months of writing reviews and features under the cosh of Covid 19 makes one appreciate what we at the Saffron Gael have been missing as we endeavour to cover all championship games in the county.

Tomorrow’s meeting of Cloney Gaels and Tir na nOg at Dunsilly tops the bill in another day of championship drama and it’s certainly one that supporters from both sides will be eagerly awaiting and one that is likely to be keenly contested.

Cloney Gaels won their last Intermediate title back in 2013 before going on to claim an Ulster title and quite a number of that side are still playing for the Ahoghill side. Carey Faughs were their opponents in that Antrim final back in 2013 and Carey were again their opponents in this year’s championship semi-final.

Indeed Cathaoir an Ri started that semi-final as slight favourites but Ghaeil Cluanaidh turned in an excellent performance to beat the Ballyvoy side by three points and were good value for that win. James O’Connell was their star man and finished with 1-9 as his side ran out 2-18 to 1-18 winners and the youngest of the O’Connell clan will take some watching tomorrow.

He will be joined in a sharp Cloney attack by his brother PJ, who can be another match winner on his day while another youngster, Eoin Graham and Dan O’Neill and the returning Patrick Graham add pace and scoring potential to a potent attack.

Martin Graham has been a revelation since taking over the goalkeeper’s jersey this year while Bernard Graham, Stephen O’Connell and Eamon Brady have been in good form in a resolute Cloney defence.

Tomas McGlone and Francis ‘Slim’ Neeson form a formidable mid-field partnership who have been the catalyst of most of the Gaels attacks and this mix of experience and youth will take some beating if they are firing on all cylinders.

Standing in their way are Tir na nOg from Randalstown and the Whitehill side will go into tomorrow’s decider in search of a first Intermediate title but certainly with no inferiority complex and with good reason.

They have their own star man in attack in Sean Duffin. Big Sean, like James O’Connell, the youngest of the Duffin clan scored 0-14 in his side’s semi-final win over Oisin Glenariffe and the Antrim panellist will be hoping to carry that form into the Dunsilly decider.

The similarities in the sides don’t stop there however as Kevin Sheerin has swapped his outfield jersey for the number 1 shirt and has been impressive as the Og’s last line of defence. Against Glenariffe his brother, Christy Sheerin lined out at full-back while Caomhin Duffin brings a wealth of experience to the Tir na nOg defence.

Aaron McNeilly and Ciaran McKeown form a strong mid-field partnership while Sean Duffin is likely to be joined in attack by Eamon Og McAllister, another youngster with an eye for a score and captain, Ryan O’Neill who’s introduction in the semi-final steadied his side.

Verdict: Both sides bring a good balance of youth and experience to Saturday’s final and this one could come down to a shoot-out between free takers, James O’Connell for Cloney Gaels and Sean Duffin for Tir na nOg but in a tight contest the Cloney side may just edge it.

O’Connell stars as Gaels beat Faughs in semi-final

Andersonstown Social Club Intermediate Hurling Championship

Cloney Gael 2-18 Carey Faughs 1-18

Cloney Gaels booked their place in the final of the Intermediate Hurling Championship when they beat Carey Faughs in a thrilling semi-final at Dunsilly on Saturday. In a game that would have graced any hurling field in the land the Ahoghill men had that little bit extra on their north Antrim opponents and in corner forward James O’Connell they had a player who was a level above anything else on show. The former county player scored 1-9 of his team’s total, and his ball striking from both play and from frees was exemplary.

Cloney’s Eoin Graham cuts between two Carey defenders

Carey on the other hand were wasteful in front of goal and used four different free takers over the hour, unusual for a team normally so strong in that department. They couldn’t be faulted for their effort, for they gave it 100% from start to finish, but each time they got a foothold in the game it was snatched away from them by the Cloney men, who were able to react any time danger threatened.

A heavy shower of rain just at the start of the game made the pitch slippery underfoot but the players coped well and the scores came thick and fast early on. James O’Connell got the first of the day in the opening minute but the Faughs hit back with two from Shea Hunter to edge in front by the third minute. PJ O’Connell brought Cloney level with a one handed strike from close range before younger brother James gave them back the lead with two pointed frees in the fourth and fifth minutes. Two minutes later the brothers were involved again in a flowing move which ended with centre forward Eoin Graham grabbing the game’s first goal and suddenly they were five clear.

Carey steadied the ship and stopped the flow before a great period of play just before the first half water break and they got themselves back into the game with points from Cathal ‘Doog’ McAuley and Conlith McKinley, and when Caolan McCaughan followed a high ball into the Ahoghill ‘square’ Conor McBride got in to scramble it over the line and leave the game evenly poised at the first break.  

Caolan McCaughan (left) and Conor McBride celebrate Carey’s goal during the first half

After play resumed Cloney Gaels hit the front again when James O’Connell got on the end of high ball which dropped in around the Carey ‘square’ to flick the ball home, but Shay Hunter replied with his third point of the half to cut the deficit back to three. As the game went into first half injury time Patrick Graham put the Gaels four clear when he took advantage of a poor clearance by the Faughs defence, but just before the break Conor McBride fired over from a free to leave just a goal in it at the interval.

Caolan McCaughan, who had played for Ballycastle in the Junior Football semi-final against Ardoyne on the same pitch a couple of hours earlier, got the first score of the second half,  but incredibly it would be his team’s last score for nineteen minutes as the Faughs faltered in front of goal, missing a range of scores from play and from frees. It took Cloney Gaels a while to get going themselves, but once PJ O’Connell got their first score of the second half, with a beautiful wristy strike, they started to flow again. James added one from a free and PJ added another from play, and when referee Kevin Parke blew for the second half water break they were five to the good.

Eoin Graham shows his delight at the final whistle

Conor McBride reduced the gap to four just after things got going again but the Gaels came back strongly with three points on the trot, two from James O’Connell and one from Eoin Graham. It was backs to the wall time for Carey but they got the lift they needed when substitute Conal McGlynn grabbed a point in the 55th minute and a minute later James ‘Rocket’ Black batted a crossed ball to the Cloney Gaels net.

Suddenly there was hope again for the Carey faithful but those hopes were soon dashed at the Ahoghill men struck back in style adding five points in a four minute spell to seal their final place against Tir na nÓg. Carey kept battling away against the odds and two injury time points left just a goal between them but the Gaels were already home and dry.

Carey’s Conlith McKinley in action against Cloney Gaels

CLONEY GAELS

Martin Graham, Stephen O’Connell, Bernard Graham, James Magee, Finbar O’Neill, Diarmuid Graham, Eamon Brady, Francis Neeson, Thomas McGlone, Patrick Graham, Eoin Graham, Gerard Graham, Danny O’Neill, PJ O’Connell, James O’Connell.

CAREY FAUGHS

Stephen McGinn, Kevin Murphy, Sean McBride, Patrick Gillan, Michael Mcveigh, James McCouaig, Peadar McVeigh, Colm McBride, James Black, Conlith McKinley, Cathal McAuley, Shea Hunter, Conor McBride, Caolan McCaughan, Conaire Butler.

Subs – Conall McGlynn for Colm McBride

Referee – Kevin Parke  (Naomh Eanna)

Tir na nÓg reach the promised land

Andersonstown SC Intermediate Hurling Championship Semi-Final

Tír na nÓg: 2.16 (22) Glenariffe: 2.14 (20)

By Aimee McAtamney

Tír na nÓg hurlers reached the Intermediate Hurling Final, after a nail biting encounter with Oisin’s Glenariffe at Loughgiel on Saturday. A game that was drawn 7 times throughout sixty plus minutes served up everything for the couple of hundred spectators present. Despite being three points down at the second water break, Tír na nÓg found another gear to clinch a well deserved and long over due, two point win which sets them up for a clash with South West neighbours Cloney Gaels next weekend

 It took both teams a number of minutes to settle with Tír na nÓg striking two wides and Oisin’s hitting four but after three minutes, the blues were the first to settle their nerves when Daniel Martin set Eamon Óg McAllister off on a run. The talented forward only had one thing on his mind, and he cut through the Oisins defence to find the back of the net and get his side off to the best possible start.

With both teams evenly matched throughout the pitch much of the play was balanced, Seamus McDonnell finally broke the deadlock for Glenariffe and got their first score from play. Man of the match Caoimhin Duffin who controlled matters from the very beginning, inspired his team with a huge score from centre half back before younger brother and top scorer Seán was fouled and got his first of 14 scores of the evening.

Glenariffe were now about to hit their purple patch. With pin point accuracy Kieran McKendry, Conor Patterson and Shane O’Connor were playing delightful balls into their full forward line, and the Oisin’s took full advantage. Firstly, Paul McDonnell stole the ball of the Tír na nÓg defence, he rounded his defender and found the top corner of the net. Dancing around the defence it was the turn of Caolan O’Connor, two minutes later. He was unfortunate to be denied by Kevin Sheerin who was at full stretch to stop his effort. Before the first water break Alex O’Boyle (1) and Sean Duffin (2) traded frees and Kieran McKendry, who was influencing the game, also pointed to leave the margin at 1 after 15 minutes.

Before half time both teams would score a major, with the clock running onto 38 minutes still only one point separated two evenly matched sides. Sean Duffin showed composure all evening even when he was fouled himself, he was capable of resetting and splitting the posts. Inside danger man Caolan O’Connor had the Tír na nÓg defence in turmoil on occasions after 20 minutes he pointed. A foul on Ciaran McKeown who was contributing to attack after attack for Tír na nÓg, gave Seán Duffin another opportunity to point. The next 60 seconds brought a different intensity to the game. Alex O’Boyle won a ball on the sideline, he ran direct and burned off his man to beat the keeper on his near post. This put Oisin’s one point in front, but the lead was short lived, as from the immediate puck out Colm Duffin broke the ball into the path of Niall Devlin who pulled on the spilled ball to find the back of the Oisins net. Kevin Sheerin was called upon again when Paul McDonnell’s effort ricocheted off his shoulder over the bar. With the game in the balance again, Conor Kerr helped his side take the lead with a point from play before Seán Duffin hit his sixth score if the game. Before the short whistle Ciaran Logan got the score of the half from wide on the sideline, to give Tír na nÓg a one point advantage at half time in an exciting 38 minutes of hurling.

The Oisin’s started much stronger at the beginning of the second half with scores from Seamus McDonnell and Alex O’Boyle, but Tír na nÓg introduced their captain Ryan O’Neill to the fray and it was clear to see his immediate impact. With only 5 minutes played in the second half Sean Duffin opted to go low with a 20m free, but Oisin’s full back Randal McDonnell dealt easily with this shot. Duffin made amends moments later when he converted yet another free but Alex O’Boyle then swung the advantage back in Glenariffe’s favour with a free and a 65′ finding the target. Substitute Dan McKillop also had an immediate impact, with a point from play which helped his side take the largest margin in the game to three points.

Before the second water break Duffin and Seamus McDonnell exchanged  point and when play resumed sharp shooter Duffin pointed again after a free on brother Caoimhin. Substitute Kevin Kerr was involved in the next play for the blues when he won a high ball, and passed it out to Colm Duffin who handed the ball to brother Seán to cut the deficit to the minimum once again. Paul McMullan was having a great game between the sticks for the Oisins and when he was called upon on the 52nd minute he made no mistake and pulled off a great save from Sean Duffin’s shot

 With his team 2 points down Seán Duffin took the game by the scruff of the neck as he scored a point from play, one from a free and then produced the score of the game, a sideline cut from 35 metres out to put his side in the lead, a lead they held until the end. Glenariffe pressed hard to try and salvage the game, but Tír na nÓg defence stood firm through Tony Martin, Daniel Martin and Christy Sheerin who won two frees out in the dying minutes, one of which Duffin converted from within his own half. The Randalsown fans were calling for the final whistle as the game went over 70 minutes but to their relief the long awaited whistle came and Tír na nÓg were in their first Intermediate final.

Tír na nÓg now face local rivals Clooney Gaels Ahoghill in the Intermediate Championship next Saturday.

Tír na nÓg

1. K.Sheerin 2. T. Martin 3. C. Sheerin 4. D. Martin 5. C. Fitzgerald 6. C. Duffin 7. C. O’Neill 8. A. McNeilly 9. C. McKeown 10. E. Óg McAllister 11. C. Logan 12. S. Duffin 13. N. Devlin 14. C. Duffin 15. S. McKinley 17. R. O’Neill 18. O. McAtamney 19. D. Fagan 20. D. Mallon 21. S. Carey 22. P. Sheerin 23. E. Martin 24. S. Donnelly 25. K. Kerr Subs: R. O’Neill for C. Fitzgerald, S. Donnelly for S. McKinley Scorers: E. Óg McAllister (1.0), Caoimhin Duffin (0.1), S. Duffin (0.14- 11 frees), N. Devlin (1.0), C. Logan (0.1)

Glenariffe

1. P. McMullan 2. M. Haughey 3. R. McDonnell 4. C. McToal 5. N. Murray 6. C. R Patterson 7. D. O’ Boyle 8. S. O’ Connor 9. K. McKendry 10. S. McDonnell 11. C. Kerr 12. A. Cosgrove 13. C. O’Connor 14. P. McDonnell 15. A. O’Boyle 16. S. McToal 17. M. McAllister 18. A. McDonnell 19. D. McKillop 20. M. O’Boyle 21. P. Burns 22. D. Haughey 23. O. Kearney 24. K. McDonnell Subs: D. McKillop for C. Kerr, K. McDonnell for S. McDonnell, M. O’Boyle Scorers: S. McDonnell (0.4), P. McDonnell (1.1), A. O’Boyle (1.4- 2 frees/1 65′), K. McKendry (0.1), C. O’Connor (0.1), C. Kerr (0.1), D. McKillop (0.2)

Hard to call in the Intermediate semi-finals

Andersonstown Soical Club Intermediate Hurling Championship

Carey, Cloney Gaels, Tir na nÓg and Oisins bid for a place in the final of the Intermediate Hurling Championship tomorrow at Dunsilly and Loughgiel in what is traditionally the most competitive championship of all in Antrim. The Senior Champions can lay claim to that honour this year but the Intermediate one is always hard to call.

Oisins and Tir na nÓg get the action underway at Fr Healy Park at 4pm while fifteen minutes later.

The Faughs take on the Gaels at Dunsilly. Both these teams are unbeaten with two wins out of two in this weird and wonderful three-group set-up. Carey were drawn in the ‘group of death’ along with Creggan and Sarsfield and came through with flying colours, not surprisingly the only qualifier out of Group 1. They travelled to Creggan on the opening day and beat the Kickhans by 2-10 to 0-13 and followed that up with a home win over Sarsfields by 1-16 to 0-14.

Cloney Gaels had too much for the Oisins in their opening game back on August 9th, winning by 1-17 to 0-14 before travelling to Turf Lodge where they beat Gort na Mona two weeks later by just four points on a scoreline of 2-14 to 1-15.

Like all the games in this competition it is hard to call, and with so few games played in the league section it is hard to tell who starts favourites. The Faughs have struggled at times against the Ahoghill men so they will need to match their physicality if they are to book that coveted final place.

Tir na nOg sat out the first day and travelled to Armoy on Day 2 where they won a hard fought battle by 0-16 to 1-10 and they hit the same score in their second game against Cloughmills, beating the Biddies by 0-16 to 1-9.

The Oisins were beaten by six in their opening game away to Cloney Gaels and when their second round opponents Gort na Móna had to isolate because of Covid it appeared that their chance to qualify had gone. Thankfully common sense prevailed and the Gorts were given the time to complete their isolation period and they got back to the action against Cloney Gaels. The Turf lodge men were beaten that day but the irony of if all was that both teams, Gorts and the Oisins, were going into their final game against each other knowing exactly what they had to do to qualify. Gort na Móna needed to win by two points, and Glenariffe by six and when the Belfast men went five up in the first quarter it looked they were set fair to make it through. However the Oisins began to find their feet and they clawed their way back to level at half time. After the break they ran riot and won convincingly in the end to book that final semi-final spot.

They now have to take advantage of that second chance however and that is easier said than done. They face tough opposition in Tir na nÓg, a team they have traditionally struggled against in recent years. Again it is a hard one to call. If the Oisins reproduce the form they produced in that second half against the Gorts they can certainly do it, but the Randalstown men are a different kettle of fish.