Na Magha benefitting from Antrim experience

Ulster Junior Hurling club quarter-final

Na Magha (Derry) 1-13 Cootehill Celtic (Cavan) 0-10

I arrived at Breffni Park yesterday evening to catch the closing stages of the Ulster Junior hurling club quarter-final between Na Magha of Derry and Cootehill Celtic, the Cavan champions. It’s the second time I’ve seen the Derry city men this year and once again I was impressed with Alan Grant’s side.

Na Magha, as most of you will know, play in division 3 of the Antrim ACHL and I travelled to Feistown to cover a division 3 game between them and host club Glenarm back in the Summer and while Na Magha were beaten they certainly gave the Shane O’Neill’s a run for their money.

Heading into the second water break Cootehill were in the ascendancy and had cut a six point deficit back to a single point and the momentum was very much with the Cavan champions and serious questions were being asked about the Derry side.

Na Magha answered those questions in style as they regrouped to dominate the final quarter and a superb individual goal from Ruaidhrai McLaughlin put the contest to bed and they now go forward to join Con Magee’s, Glenravel in the semi-final.

Na Magha: Barry Robinson, Adam Rankin, Diarmuid Shiels, Oisin Glass, Feargfhal McAneanney, Brendan Quigley, Tomas lally, Blidhan Glass, Declan Foley, Tommy Gallagher, Michael Lynch, Mark McCloskey, Tim Rankin, Aidan Cutliffe, Ruaidhri McLaughlin.

Con Magees get back to Ulster action but Naomh Colum Cille will be tough opponents

Ulster Club Junior Hurling Championship

Con Magees Glenravel v Naomh Colum Cille (Tyrone)

Pairc Mac Uílin Ballycastle – Saturday 27th November @ 1-30 pm

When Glenravel hurlers take to the field in Ballycastle on Saturday in the Ulster Club Championship it will be one day short of nine weeks since their last competitive game, the Antrim final against Glenarm.

The Con Magees won their 7th Antrim Junior title on September 26th, beating hot favourites Glenarm with a performance that shocked even their most ardent supporters. In normal circumstances they would have had a couple of week’s to prepare for their Ulster campaign, a few days to wrap up the celebrations before getting back into training and probably three or four trainings sessions to get their sharpness back. However this has been no ordinary year and with Covid restriction throwing the fixtures into chaos the Con Magees hurlers were left in a position where it was like starting their season all over again.  

Of course they are not the only team in Antrim with a long wait to get back into action. Carey Faughs, who play on Sunday, have had to wait seven weeks for their next game while Dunloy, who are scheduled to face Derry and Ulster champions Slaughtneil on Sunday the 12th of December, are in the same boat as Glenravel, with a nine week lay-off.  

Con Magees manager Ciaran McKiernan is looking forward to Saturday’s game and feels his team is well prepared for it. When I ask him about the long lay-off he was full of praise for his players.

“We gave them a couple of weeks off to enjoy the celebrations after beating Glenarm in the Antrim final. After that we got back to do a bit of physical training to try and get back into some sort of physical shape. It was a bit slow at the start but the boys grew into it and after a couple of weeks they were all back at it again.”

They played a series of challenge games against Carey, St Killian’s College and Castleblaney and fared well in the games and McKernan feels they are well prepared.

Paul Greville in action against Antrim captain Conor McCann in Mullingar in 2018. On Saturday the former Westeath star will line out for jis new club Naomh Colum Cille against Con Magees in Ballycastle.

He and his assistant Archie Rea went to Omagh to see the Tyrone final and have a look at Sunday’s opponents. They are a strong side and have in their ranks former Westmeath hurler Paul Greville who earlier this year moved to Tyrone. Greville is no stranger to Antrim hurling and played against the Saffrons many times in recent years not only in Mullingar but in Dunloy, Ballycastle and Cushendall.

Dunloy native Chris Kearns captained the team who beat Omagh by 2-10 to 1-3 in the Tyrone final and with a strong midfield pairing of Andrew Byrne and Paul Maguire and Greville leading the forward line they will present a stern challenge for the Antrim champions.

Glenravel’s last venture into Ulster was back in 2014 when they beat Carryduff in the quarter final in Loughgiel before losing out narrowly in the semi-final to Monaghan champions Castleblaney in O’Neill Park in Dungannon. There are fond memories in the club of that great adventure. Half the 2014 team are still playing and they will be all out to get back to Ulster action once again.

Con Magees Stevie Acheson is lifted shoulder high by Cormac Scullion (left) and Shanlee Kerr after his last gasp point sealed the narrowest of victories over Down champions Carryduff in the 2014 Ulster Junior Hurling Championship quarter-final in Loughgiel. Rumour has it that Stevie hasn’t had to but a drink in the Glensway ever since. Pic by Dylan McIlwaine

Glenravel victorious against the odds.

Casement Social Club Junior Hurling Championship

Glenravel 2-12.  Glenarm 0-09

By Aodh O’Loan

Con Magees Glenravel ripped up the form book to win the Casement Social Club Antrim  Junior Hurling Championship by beating strong favourites Glenarm in an entertaining encounter in Glenariffe.  This was the 6th time Glenravel won the junior championship; their first victory achieved back in 1975 against Ardoyne in the same venue.  Glenarm had justified their favourites tag having beaten Con Magees well in both league and Championship round robin series. But form mattered little as Glenravel set about de-constructing the men in blue, no doubt buoyed on by those defeats earlier in the season.

Team captain Johnny Fyfe shows his delight at the end

Glenravel setup with full forward, Sean Burns deployed as sweeper from the start. This worked well for them as it gave the Green & Whites a spare man in defence to clear up loose ball but it also allowed their corner forwards, Declan Traynor and Conleth O’Loan, space to attack the Glenarm defence which they did  to great effect through the game.

A strong cross field wind led to a low scoring first half where both sides squandered goal scoring  chances. Con Magees were guilty in the opening minutes but their opponents also missed green flag opportunities and we were left to ponder what might have been had those chances been converted.

Glenarm started stronger and were four points to the good after twenty minutes with frees from Ciaran Magill and Darren Hamill from placed balls augmented by a lovely score from play by Dylan McLoughlin. At this point, all was going according to script. Niall Donnelly opened Glenravel’s account on twenty minutes but Ciaran Magill replied for Glenarm, restoring their four point lead on twenty three minutes and it looked like the game would follow the pattern of previous encounters.  How wrong were we to think that. From that point to the end of the game, Glenarm would only add a further four points, whilst the sea of green and white returned a total of 2-11! Con Magees got a great break when corner forward Declan Traynor fired to the net on twenty four minutes. That was followed up by points from Johnny Fyfe and Niall Donnelly before Traynor added another point in first half injury time to leave Glenravel in front at half time 1-04 to 0-05.

Glenarm’s Patrick McAuley in action against Glenravel’s Niall Donnelly

In the second half, Conleth O’Loan assumed free taking duties for Glenravel and this paid dividends when he pointed from a tight angle within three minutes of the restart. Glenarm replied with a score one minute later and then the very impressive Cathal Hynds started to exert his authority on the game with a well taken point. Darren Hamill put over a 65 to keep the gap to two points but O’Loan increased that to three points with another tight angled free from the other side with ten minutes played in the second half.  Glenarm were piling on the pressure at this point and indiscipline in Con Magees defence gifted two frees which Ciaran Magill gratefully accepted to leave the minimum between the teams as Glenravel led 1-07 to 0-09 with twenty minutes of normal time remaining. The silverware could go anyway at that time but Glenravel finished stronger in the home straight to secure victory. Conleth O’Loan pointed a free on forty six minutes and Declan Traynor added to that one minute later to leave three points between the teams. The axis of Traynor and O’Loan were proving too hot to handle for Glenarm and when Conleth was upended on route to goal with less than five minutes remaining  the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty. This resulted in a battle of the Niall’s as Glenarm’s Niall Hamill saved Glenravel’s Niall Donnelly piledriver. Unfortunately for the men in blue, the first guy on the scene was Cathal Hynds who  made no mistake.  As the umpire raised a green flag it seemed that Glenarm knew their fate. The ref declared eight minutes of injury time so Glenarm may have felt there was still time but the Glenravel defence closed up – and whilst Glenarm went in search of goals, the men in green and white  were giving nothing away. Indeed they went on to return two further points from Conleth O’Loan and Cathal Hynds and the trophy was heading ‘up the glen’.

Declan Traynor punches the air after scoring Glenravel’s first goal while team mate Conleth O’Loan joins in the celebrations

In truth this was a well deserved victory for Glenravel. They had stronger panel of players and when it mattered – everyone turned up. You would be hard pushed to pick a Glenravel player who didn’t perform at 100% on the day. But this is sport and you can always look back at spurned chances. Glenarm had several one on one chances but Glenravel keeper, Ronan Donnelly worked miracles at thwarting them. One couldn’t help but hark back one week, when Ronan’s sister Orla was starring in goals for Antrim minors Camogs in their All Ireland victory over Offaly.  Their father John, himself no stranger to Croke Park where he competed at county level, must have been immensely proud.

When analysing this game you could point to Glenravel’s forward power where Cathal Hynds, Declan Traynor and Conleth O’Loan each contributed five points each. You could single our there defence; Ronan Donnelly, Shanlee Kerr, Brian and Padge O’Neill were outstanding. Captain Jonathan Fyfe  was a colossus throughout the sixty minutes. But the real difference between the teams was that Glenravel had good hurlers across all positions and a passion to atone for previous defeats. That is what got them over the line the end. Team manager Ciaran McKernan must take a lot of credit too for turning things around this season. His move from the Bear Pit to Fr Maginn Park at the start of this season has certainly made a difference. His assistant Martin Scullion, former Shamrocks star, has also played a bit part, and club secretary Henry Duffin deserves a mention for his efforts in bring Ciaran McKernan to the club.

Cathal Hynds celebrates after scoing Glenravel’s second goal.

Glenarm will be wondering how they ended the season empty handed. They played some great hurling this season and were rightfuly favourites for Sunday, but things didn’t go their way on the day. They will be back and with brilliant minor Niall McGarel joining the senior ranks next season, they will take a lot of stopping.

A word of praise to Osian’s Glenarrife in staging the game. They are naturally blessed with the finest setting any hurling match could ever take place in – that is outside their control. But the state of the pitch and the handling of crowds entering and leaving the grounds is very much in their control – and they managed this with total professionalism.

CON MAGEES

Ronan Donnelly, Brian O’Neill, Shanlee Kerr, Michael McQuillan,  Padgraig O’Neill, Rian Lennon, Michael McDonnel, Charlie Henry, James Duffin, John Fyfe, Niall Donnelly, Cathal Hynds, Declan Traynor, Sean Burns, Conleth O’Loan

GLENARM

Niall Hamill, Paul Magill, Barry Hamill, Declan McDermott, Patrick McAuley, Darren Hamill, Kieran O’Boyle, Aidan Scullion, Ben O’Boyle, Ciaran Magill, Daniel Black, Dylan McLaughlin, Kevin O’Boyle, Sean O’Boyle

Donnelly holds his nerve to see Con Magee’s into Junior decider

Casement SC Antrim Junior Hurling Championship semi-final

Con Magee’s 0-16-1-12 Lámh Dhearg 

Kevin Herron reports from Randalstown 

An injury-time free from Niall Donnelly saw Con Magee’s edge past Lámh Dhearg and book their place in the Casement Social Club Antrim Junior Hurling final after a 0-16-1-12 win at Randalstown this afternoon. 

The Cargan outfit overcame a slow start to lead slenderly at the break and a spate of James Duffin free’s helped them into a five-point lead approaching the final quarter. 

But Lámh Dhearg themselves showed their powers of recovery and levelled on three occasions going down the home straight- Declan Lynch converting from the spot, but Donnelly finally saw off the plucky Hannahstown outfit after landing a pressure free deep into added time. 

Lámh Dhearg had opened their account early with Daniel Murray getting on the end of an Aidan McGuigan pass and firing high between the posts. but James Duffin swung over a leveller for Glenravel. 

Murray restored his sides lead after converting his first free of the half and extended it with two further efforts to make it 0-04-0-01 early-on. 

Niall Donnelly responded from the same scenario for Con Magee’s who almost took the lead from Conleth O’Loan’s effort that crashed off the post. 

The north-Antrim outfit pulled level with Duffin floating over his second of the half and Michael McDonnell then landing one from range. 

A point from Declan Traynor gave his side the advantage for the first time, however parity was quickly restored when Ronan Fegan intercepted a pass from Padraig Mervyn and conjured up his first score of the afternoon. 

Con Magee’s edged ahead again through a second converted Niall Donnelly free and doubled the lead through an angled Johnny Fyfe effort that sailed over the bar. 

Glenravel were perhaps fortunate to retain their full complement after Conleth O’Loan caught Declan Lynch in the mid-drift off the ball and referee Darren McKeown only saw the offence worthy of a booking. 

Daniel Murray converted his fourth free of the afternoon before the break as a single point separated the sides at the interval with Con Magee’s holding a 0-07-0-06 advantage. 

Con Magee’s made a terrific start to the second period and increased their lead, James Duffin floated over his first free of the afternoon and landed another soon after. 

A third from Duffin was followed by a response from Daniel Murray- converting his fifth free of the afternoon. 

Back-to-back scores from Conleth O’Loan and Cahill Hynds had Glenravel 0-12-0-07 ahead approaching the second-half water break – but Mark Finnegan converted a free to narrow the margin at the short whistle. 

Finnegan swung over his second in quick succession from Pearse Fitzsimons popped pass and with a quarter of an hour remaining the Hannahstown side had the chance to level. 

Declan Lynch floated a high ball into the area and substitute Gerard Smyth was illegally manhandled with McKeown signalling for a penalty. 

Declan Lynch seized advantage and fired it high past Ronan Donnelly in the Con Magee’s goal to make it 1-09-0-12. 

James Duffin nudged his side back in front from a free, but Finnegan was on-hand to land a third point and level for the fifth time in the game. 

The pendulum swung back in favour of Con Magee’s with Declan Traynor notching up his second point of the afternoon and Niall Donnelly converting a free. 

Lámh Dhearg refused to go away though as Finnegan converted his third free of the half and Ryan Diamond then swung over to tie the game at 1-12-0-15. 

In a frantic final five minutes Con Magee’s almost grabbed goal that would have surely downed the Dhearg, Conleth O’Loan steered the ball into the path of James Duffin- who was bravely denied by Francie Dugan in the Lámhs goal. 

Extra-time remained a distinct possibility- but three minutes into added time Niall Donnelly converted his fourth free of the afternoon to make it 0-16-1-12. 

Time was against Lámh Dhearg and a late Declan Lynch effort from range was flicked wide off the stick of Pearse Fitzsimons and time elapsed with Glenravel hanging on for a slender victory to book a place in the Junior decider in two-week’s time against Shane O’Neill’s. 

Con Magee’s: R Donnelly, B O’Neill, S Kerr, M McQuillan, P O’Neill, R Lennon, M McDonnell (0-01), C Henry, J Duffin (0-06, 0-04f), D Traynor (0-02), N Donnelly (0-04f), C Hynds (0-01), C O’Loan (0-01), S McCusker, J Fyfe (0-01). 

Lámh Dhearg: F Dugan, C Nolan, M Lynch, D O’Brien, SP Gibson, P Mervyn, R Diamond (0-01), M Hamill, A McGuigan, F Mervyn, D Lynch (1-00p), D Murray (0-06, 0-05f), R Fegan (0-01), P Fitzsimons, M Finnegan (0-04, 0-03f). Subs: B Rice for D O’Brien (HT), G Smyth for D Murray (44), N McGarry for M Finnegan (60+2’). 

Referee: Darren McKeown (St Galls)

Saints and Davitt’s draw in excellent final game

Casement SC JHC Group 1

All Saints 1-17 Davitt’s 3-11

All Saints and Davitt’s played out a draw in the final game of Group 1 of the Casement SC Junior Hurling Championship at Slemish Park, Ballymena yesterday. Both side gave it everything from the start with the lead changing hands on a number of occasions and in the end a draw was probably a fair result.

The visitors held a narrow one point lead at the first water break with the score standing at 1-4 to 0-6 but at the second water break the home side had increased their total to 0-15 with Ciaran Neeson to the fore in the scoring stakes to move the home side one ahead.

It was end to end stuff throughout and it kept the crowd suitably entertained with All Saints adding 1-2 in the run in to the final whistle but the visitor’s contribution of 1-3 in that nail biting fin’sh was enough to earn the lower Falls’ side a share of the points.

There was a big shock in the other game played in Group 1 with Lamh Dhearg recording an impressive 4-16 to 1-8 win over previously unbeaten St. Mary’s Rasharkin in Hannastown and this win means that Lamh Dhearg finish top of the group with 5 points from 3 starts. Rasharkin qualify for the semi-finals in second place with 4 points from 3 starts while Davitt’s recorded two draws to finish in third.

This was All Saints only point that they gained in the group section but they have had a good season, winning the Junior B Championship and they were competitive in all three games in the A championship.

All Saints: Ciaran Cassley, Dwayne McKee, Chris McAfee, Kevin Brady, Padhraig Magill, Luke O’Rawe, Colum Neeson, Vinny Esler, Cormac Magill, Cormac Lemon, Gary Miskella, Ciaran Neeson, Daire Hasson, Damian Gillan, Eoghan Daly