CJ McGourty-Ulster finals are massive for our club in any code!

In the lead up to Sunday’s Ulster Intermediate hurling final the Saffron Gael speaks to St. Gall’s player, CJ McGourty. CJ has always been a colourful character. He has played for St. Gall’s and Antrim all his playing career and has represented the county in both football and hurling.

CJ’s scoring has played an important part in St. Gall’s run to this Sunday’s final and a big performance from their leading scorer could be vital if they are to overcome the challenge of the Armagh champions.

Rated one of the best forwards in Antrim in both football and hurling, CJ McGourty has the trophy collection to prove it including an All Ireland club football medal won with St. Galls and we spoke to him prior to this Sunday’s Ulster Intermediate hurling final against Keady Lamh Dhearg at Pairc Esler

Saffron Gael: CJ, your team play Keady Lamh Dhearg in the Ulster Intermediate final on Sunday. What do you know about the Armagh champions?

CJ: Keady are a very good hurling team they’re also able to mix it physically with a lot of key players that can hurt any team. they beat Middletown in the Armagh final, a side who won this competition last year and since then have beat everyone handy. So they’re a very good team.

S.G. St. Gall’s had a bad start to this year’s ACHL division 2 campaign and I know that you and a number of players missed the early stages of the league through injuries and other reasons. Who were the other players who missed those games and how did their return affect the good run that saw St. Gall’s gain promotion.

C.J. We had a very poor start to the year indeed but we had little work done. early summer time we had boys coming back from injury and a few boys coming back from time off and a break!! We started to get a win or two and since then we started to hurl a little better.

S.G. You had a tuff Antrim championship campaign, beating Gort na Mona, Glenariffe, St. Enda’s and then Creggan in a tight final. What are your recollections of those games?

C.J. Antrim championships are never easy won. We set out as we always do to try to win it. But Gort na Mona gave us some test in the first round and we just about managed the game through in the end. St Enda’s we hurled very well and won handy enough and the final against Creggan we were lucky to be honest. We had a bad start then but started to get going late in the game and probably stole it in the end.

S.G. In periods during most of these games St. Gall’s have dominated but at other stages they appear to have switched off, allowing their opponents to take control. That happened during the Ulster semi-final against Swatragh and you were perhaps fortunate to take the game into extra time. Has this been a concern for the team and the management?

C.J. Like any game of hurling and any sport you have your periods of dominance and periods of struggling. But we have looked to address that and for sure we can’t win on Sunday without scoring for 16 minutes. I thought we deserved to win over the 80 minutes against Swatragh though.

S.G. You received a Red card in the quarter-final against Lisbellaw which was subsequently rescinded on appeal. Tell me what happened there?

C.J. Sending off was a bit of a joke I pulled a man by the jersey and the ref said I pulled him by face guard. Video evidence at the appeal was very clear.

S.G. You have been in good form for St. Gall’s this year and have top scored in some of their championship outings. How do you feel you have performed yourself?

C.J. Look it’s a team game and everyone has to play their part. Again like said above you have your good moments in a game and poor moments. But lucky enough when one person’s having an off day someone else has stepped up.

S.G.  You have played in quite a few finals for St. Gall’s over the years. How will this one compare with the others you have played in and how do you think St. Gall’s will do?

C.J. An Ulster final is massive for our club in any code!! We are delighted to be there but no, we go in as slight underdogs but Ulster championship games are always tight and we hope on Sunday to get a bit of luck and get over the line.

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CJ McGourty, the Saffron Gael man of the match against Creggan in the Antrim final. Can he help St. Gall’s to an Ulster title when they face Keady Lamh Dhearg in the final in Newry on Sunday ?

 

 

Stiff test ahead for St. Gall’s against experienced Keady side

Ulster Intermediate championship hurling final preview

St. Gall’s v Keady Lamh Dhearg

St. Gall’s are likely to face a stiff challenge when they take oh Keady Lamh Dhearg in this Sunday’s Ulster Intermediate hurling championship final at Pairc Esler Newry. The Milltown Row side looked to be heading out of the competition at the semi-final stage when they trailed,Davitt’s, Swatragh by a point as the game headed into injury time, a fortnight ago at Owen Beg.

Tomas O’Ciarain held his nerve when pointing an injury time free to send that game into extra time and the Belfast lads pushed on to win by five points thanks to a goal in the second half by CJ McGourty

During that extra time period the greater experience and craft of the Milltown Row side saw them gain control and McGourty’s goal finally killed off the challenge of a brave Swatragh side.

St. Gall’s looked in control at half-time as Conor Burke’s goal helped them to a deserved 1-11 to 0-7 lead at the interval.

However, Swatragh took the game to their opponents with five unanswered points with the brilliant Eoghan O’Kane proving a handful while Ruairi Convery was deadly accurate from the placed ball as they reeled in the Antrim champions.

O’Kane and Karl Stewart exchanged goals for their sides and a late major from Fintan McGurk looked to have sealed a dramatic one-point win for the Derry side, but Tomás Ó Ciarain late pointed free sent the game into time added on.

St. Gall’s have put a poor start in the ACHL division 2 behind to hit an unbeaten run and finish runners up to Ballycastle to gain a place in division 1 for next season but they were pushed to the wire in the Antrim Intermediate championship final against division 3 side Creggan.

Creggan led 0-10 to 0-4 after 25 minutes and had controlled much of the opening half but a late Jackson McGreevey goal kept them in touch at the break. The Milltown side were still three in arrears after 42 minutes.

They finished strongly however to win by two points in the end before going on to beat Lisbellaw of Fermanagh in the Ulster quarter-final. The sides were level at the break but second half goals from Sean McAreavy and Mark Napier saw them win by six points in the end.

St. Gall’s have mixed the good with the bad this year, dominating for periods in all their championship games but switching off at other times and allowing the opposition to gain control.

Manager Mickey Culbert will certainly not be happy with this aspect of their game as they go forward to meet an experienced Lamh Dhearg side at Pairc Esler on Sunday and it is something I’m sure he will have addressed and work on in the last fortnight.

WHAT OF LAMH DHEARG?

The Keady side were impressive in their semi-final win over Liatroim of Down and are sure to pose questions for the Antrim champions on a Pairc Esler pitch that could be heavy following this week’s rain.

The Armagh champions had 11 points to spare over the Down men at Corrigan Park. Paul Breen (2-1) and John Corvan were the goal scorers as they went on to win 3-14 to 0-12 with Paul McCormack (0-3) and Conor Corvan (0-7) their other major scorers.

Like St. Gall’s the Keady men went 16 minutes at the start of the second half without scoring and the team that can address  their respective ‘switch off’ period best can push on to take the title. Both sides are laced with talented players with Paul McCormack, Conor Corvan Paul Breen and John Corvan all capable of pushing St. Gall’s all the way.

Indeed in what could be another tight contest, the free taking of CJ McGourty for St. Gall’s and Conor Corovan for Lamh Dhearg could well prove to be the difference, McGourty often the difference for the Milltown Row men in a tight game.

St. Gall’s though have come through stiffer tests this year on the way to Sunday’s final and have proved when the chips are down they can dig out a win and with Joe McDaniel, Niall O’Neill, Justin McGreevey, Karl Stewart, Tomas O’Ciarain and the mercurial CJ McGourty on board they should have enough to see them through.

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CJ goal kills off the challenge of an excellent Swatragh

AIB Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship semi-final

St Gall’s 3-22 Swatragh 2-20

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St. Gall’s looked to be heading out of this Ulster Intermediate championship semi-final against an excellent Swatragh at Owenbeg on Sunday when they trailed the Derry champions by a point, five minutes into injury time.

They were awarded, what looked a rather soft free as the Swatragh support called for the full-time whistle and Tomas O’Ciaran held his nerve to send over and send the game into 10 minutes each way extra time.

In extra time the greater experience and craft of the Milltown Row side saw them gain control and a CJ McGourty goal in the second period finally killed off the challenge of a brave Swatragh side.

St. Gall’s looked in control at half-time as Conor Burke’s goal helped them to a deserved 1-11 to 0-7 lead at the interval.

However, Swatragh took the game to their opponents with five unanswered points with the brilliant Eoghan O’Kane proving a handful while Ruairi Convery was deadly accurate from the placed ball as they reeled in the Antrim champions.

O’Kane and Karl Stewart exchanged goals for their sides and a late major from Fintan McGurk looked to have sealed a dramatic one-point win for the Derry side, but Tomás Ó Ciarain late pointed free sent the game into time added on.

In extra-time, St Gall’s were the better side and a goal from CJ McGourty finally put the game beyond Swatragh after an absorbing 80-plus minutes of Championship hurling.

McGourty successfully appealed a red card decision from the last round during the week and St. Gall’s will be mighty grateful that his appeal was successful as he weighed in with 1-6 before being replaced late in the contest.

The Antrim champions made a good start to the game with Kieran McGourty opening the scoring before Ruairi Convery landed his first free of the day and Eoghan O’Kane slotted over a point from play.

CJ McGourty replied for St Gall’s at the other end before the Antrim champions got in for their first goal. Burke’s weakly struck initial effort was well saved by Swatragh keeper Conor O’Kane but he failed to clear his lines and Burke sent his shot across goal and into an empty net.

Ó Ciarain added a point immediately to move St Gall’s 1-3 to 0-2 ahead with 13 minutes played.

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O’Kane replied with back-to-back points for Swatragh, but St Gall’s hit a purple patch midway through the opening half and at this stage threatened to run away with the contest.

A hat-trick of points from the impressive Ó Ciarain coupled with points from Burke and two from CJ McGourty saw St Gall’s ease into a 1-8 to 0-4 lead and they looked in total control.

Convery missed a routine free for Swatragh and St Gall’s took full advantage as Sean Burke won the puck-out and set-up Ó Ciarain for another point.

CJ and Kieran McGourty then linked up for CJ to add another point and Swatragh were struggling but Convery finally stopped the rot with a good point in the 28th minute.

Mark Napier replied immediately for the Milltown men but Ruairi Convery responded with back-to-back frees in injury-time to leave six in it at the short whistle.

St. Gall’s were expected to push on at the start of the second half but instead it was the Derry champions who came racing out of the starting blocks, hitting the first five points to close the gap to one and St. Gall’s looked rattled.

Ruairi Convery led the assault as he converted four frees and a point from play by O’Kane had the South Derry supporters on their feet as they sensed a famous victory

Tomas Ó Ciarain steadied matters with a fine point before CJ McGourty added another fine score but the Swatragh men had the scent of victory in their nostrils as they came roaring back again.

Swatragh hit 1-2 without reply in a four minute spell.

Declan Quinn landed a point from play before O’Kane got on the end of a fine move involving Joseph Grant and substitute Seamus McFerran to fire past Kurtis McGreevy.

Another Convery free edged his side ahead by the 54th minute but St Gall’s found another response and Karl Stewart held off the challenge of Niall O’Doherty before kicking the sliotar into the far corner of the net to put his side 2-13 to 1-14 ahead.

Fintan McGurk replied with a fine score for Swatragh, but Sean McAreavy’s point two minutes into added time looked to have settled the game in favour of the Milltown Row men.

However, St Gall’s were punished for some slack defending as Grant, under pressure, played the sliotar across the face of goal for McGurk to bat to the net and put the Derry side 2-15 to 2-14 ahead.

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There was time for further drama as Ó Ciarain landed a free five minutes into stoppage time to force extra-time, referee Colin Murray’s decision finding little favour with the Swatragh support.

It was now down to ten minutes each way extra time and St. Gall’s called on their greater experience at this stage to get on top with O’Ciaran opening the scoring.

O’Kane replied for the Derry side and Sean Martin Quinn and CJ McGourty then exchanged long-range frees as both sides battled for control.

Slowly St. Gall’s wrestled that control from the brave South Derry men and managed to put some daylight between the sides at the end of the first period of extra-time with Kieran McGourty, CJ McGourty (free) and Ó Ciarain all pointing while O’Kane replying for Swatragh.

In the second period of extra-time St Gall’s started to gain control with substitute Jackson McGreevy and Kieran McGourty setting up Stewart for a great point.

Moments later, Stewart became the provider as he set up the inrushing CJ McGourty who buried the sliotar in the corner of O’Kane’s net and put the game out of Swatragh’s reach.

St Gall’s will now face Armagh outfit Keady in the Ulster IHC final on Sunday, November 11 but will feel as much relieved as elated by todays performance.

Nevertheless this win will stand them in good stead and they will fancy their chances of pushing on and taking another Ulster title.

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 Swatragh: C O’Kane; N O’Doherty, M Ó hAgáin, M Cassidy; E McGuckin, Conor Quinn, Cathal Quinn; SF Quinn, SM Quinn (0-2, 0-1); F McGurk (1-1), R Convery (0-9, 0-9fs), E O’Kane (1-6); D McGuckin, D Quinn (0-2), J Grant.

Subs: S McFerran for McGuckin (48mins), N McQuillan for D Quinn (60 + 20mins), T Walsh for McGurk (60 + 20mins).

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St Gall’s: K McGreevy; A Gribben, J McDaniel, A Hannaway; N O’Neill, S Burke, A Gallagher; J Hopkins, K Stewart (1-1), CJ McGourty (1-6, 0-2fs), K McGourty (0-3), T Ó Ciarain (0-8, 0-1f); M Donnelly, C Burke (1-1), M Napier (0-1).

Subs: J McGreevy for Donnelly (HT), A Healy (0-1) for Napier (51mins), S McAreavey (0-1) for C Burke (57mins), C Burke for S Burke (60 +14mins), G McGreevy for CJ McGourty (60 +20mins).

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Referee: C Murray (Down)

 

 

St Gall’s made to work to earn semi-final spot

AIB Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship quarter-final

St Gall’s (Antrim) 2-19  Lisbellaw (Fermanagh) 1-16

ST Gall’s were forced to work hard for Sunday’s Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship win againt Fermanagh champions Lisbellaw at Brewster Park before getting over the line with six points to spare. Level at the break the Antrim champions certainly knew they had a fight on their hands at it took two second half goals from Sean McAreavey and Mark Napier to seal the deal and book a semi-final spot against Derry champions Swatragh.

However the Milltown men will be forced to face the Derry men without their star man CJ McGourty who received a straight red card, a decision which St Gall’s are likely to appeal.

St Gall’s started well and had two points on the board through CJ and Kieran McGourty before Lisbellaw hit back through Shea Curran and Conor O’Shea to square the game. CJ gave his team back the lead before and error by St Gall’s net-minder McGreevy gifted the Fermanagh men a goal, a score that really put some impetus into their challenge

The Fermanagh champions began to pull clear as Ryan Bogue and Caolan Duffy hit two apiece to pull five points clear before Karl Stewart stepped in with an excellent score to halt the Lisbellaw charge. Two points from CJ  and one each from Tomás Ó Ciaráin and Jackson McGreevy brought them back into contention and when CJ added two more they were two clear with first half time almost up. However the Fermanagh men hit back to level in added time with two Curran points which sent them in at the break on level terms at 1-9 to 0-12.

St Gall’s edged ahead again early in the second half through Karl Stewart but  Lisbellaw hit back with three on the trot from John Paul McGarry, Barry McPhillips and Ryan Bogue. CJ and Kieran McGourty hit points apiece to bring the Antrim champions level and it remained that way after Niall O’Neill and Bogue exchanged scores. The introduction of substitute Sean Burke was to have an instant impact for St Gall’s as he broke through soon after coming on to set up corner forward Sean McAreavey for hit team’s first goal.

CJ’s red card soon afterwards could well have derailed the St Gall’s challenge and when Lisbellaw fought back to within a point with just five minutes of normal time remaining, the nerves were jangling yet again for the St Gall’s followers. However Burke stepped up to the mark again and after winning a long ball from Aodhan Galalgher he found corner Mark Napier with a hand-pass and the corner-forward fired home from close range to put his team back in charge. Lisbellaw battled away but 14 man St Gall’s were now in control and late points from Karl Stewart and Andy McClean had them six clear at the final whistle.

ST GALL’S: K McGreevy; S Morrison, J McDaniel, A Hannaway; N O’Neill (0-3), S Burke, J McGreevy (0-1); J Hopkins, K Stewart (0-3, 0-1f); CJ McGourty (0-8, 0-4s), K McGourty (0-2), Ó Ciaráin (0-1); S McAreavey (1-0), A Gallagher, M Napier (1-0).

Subs: C Burke for S Burke (43mins), A Healy (0-1) for McAreavey (47mins), M Donnelly for K McGourty (60mins).

LISBELLAW: C McPhillips; C Rafferty; B McPhillips (0-1), D Bannon; T Cleary, D Teague, B Duffy; R Bogue (0-4, 0-2fs), C McShea (0-1); S Curran (1-6, 0-5fs), M Slevin, JP McGarry (0-1); C Corrigan, J Duffy, Caolan Duffy (0-3).

Subs: R Porteous for B McPhillips (48mins), A Breslin for D Teague (50mins), A McShea for Slevin (60mins), Ciaran Duffy for B Duffy (61mins).

REFEREE: J Clarke (Cavan)

St Gall’s take on Lissbelaw in Ulster Intermediate Club Championship

CRLL0493The St Gall’s team who beat St Enda’s in the Antrim semi-final

St Gall’s make the long journey to Brewster Park in Enniskillen on Sunday where they take on Fermanagh representatives Lisbellaw in the opening round of the Ulster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship. Two weeks ago the men from Milltown sealed the Antrim title with a late fightback against Creggan in a windswept game at Hannahstown to win their first title at this grade since 2009 and on that occassion they went on win Ulster and indeed reach an All Ireland final.

L-R – Karl Stewart, Tómas O’Ciaran, Aodhan Gallagher and CJ McGourty.

With no less than seven of the team who lost in last Sunday’s dramatic Antrim Senior Football semi-final against Cargin there is no doubt team manager Mickey Culbert has a job on his hands to lift his players. Aodhan Gallagher, Jackson McGreevy, Conor Burke, Niall O’Neill, Tómas O’Ciaran, Kieran McGourty and CJ McGourty were all part of the team who lost so dramatically to Tómas McCann’s last gasp winning goal and building up for an Ulster Hurling quarter-final must have been far from those players thoughts in the early part of this week. However this may well be the tonic they need to put that one firmly behind them.

CRLL2208St Gall’s manager Mickey Culbert

Since Mickey Culbert took over the hurlers they have come on in leaps and bounds this season. A slow start to the league did not auger well for their chances, but they slowly picked up the pace and came with a great run of victories to eventually clinch promotion back to the top-tier next season. Their run in the Antrim championship has been impressive as well and after accounting for Gort an Mona in the opening round (despite having three men sent off) they went on to overcome a tough hurdle in Glenariffe Oisins. In the semi-final they had six points to spare over St Enda’s in Corrigan Park before a late second half surge got them over the line against Creggan in the final.

As a club they have been through this all before and they have a good sprinkling of the men who did it nine years ago still wearing the blue shirt of St Gall’s. Their form in the Antrim title race must give them great confidence, but they must not take anything for granted against a side who also have proven pedigree in this competition.

Lisbellaw also won a title in this grade back in 2012 when they beat Antrim champions Cloughmills in the final in Pairc Esler in Newry, a remarkable achievement for a club who basically plough a lone furrow in Fermanagh. With no opposition in the county they play their hurling in the Tain Ulster Hurling League with clubs like Carrickmore from Tyrone, plus Keady and Middletown from Armagh providing the opposition.

imageFormer Lisbellaw and Fermanagh player Shane Mulholland. The Loughgiel native had made Fermagh his home before his tragic death in 2015

There is of course a significant link to Antrim in the Lisbellaw club and that is their former player Shane Mulholland, who died so tragically in a road accident back in April 2015. Shane was a native of Loughgiel who took up the caman with the Fermanagh men after marrying his wife Vennessa just a year before his untimely death. Six months later the Shane Mulholland Foundation was set up and his memory and is still very much alive in the club and in Fermanagh in general.

St Gall’s go into Sunday’s game as favourites and they deserve to be, but they must not take the Fermanagh men lightly. We are all behind them as they set out on their Ulster adventure, but there may be a few around Loughgiel who will have a soft spot for the Fermanagh men.