Craobh Rua secure final spot

AIB Ulster Junior club hurling semi-final

Craobh Rua (Armagh) 0-14 Con Magee’s (Antrim) 0-11

Con Magees’ bid to make their first Ulster Club Hurling final came up short once again when they were beat by Armagh champions Craobh Rua in Saturday’s semi-final at Davitt’s Park, Belfast. The Glenravel men started well enough and were three points ahead early in the second quarter but Craobh Rua clawed their way back, thanks to some excellent free taking from Tiarnan O’Hare, and the Armagh men were only a point in arrears at half time. (0-7 to 0-6)

Playing with the slight breeze in the second half Craobh Rua went ahead but Con Magees came back to level with another pointed free from O’Loan and they retook the lead with a point from substitute Sean McKay. However the final quarter saw Craobh Rua get a grip on the game and they pushed on to win by three.

Craobh Rua full forward Ryan Lewis gave his team and excellent start when he found an early opening and pointed from play, but two in a row from Conleth O’Loan frees had Glenravel in front. Tiernan O’Hare pulled one back from a free but two excellent scores from play by Declan Traynor helped the Antrim champions to a three point lead by the first water break.

The second quarter saw O’Hare close the gap from another free and though Declan Traynor hit a couple of top class points from play for the Con Magees, O’Hare’s accuracy saw Craobh Rua eat into the gap and by half time just a point separated the sides. (0-7 to 0-6)

Another point from a placed ball by O’Hare restored parity, and the Camlough men went ahead for the first time with another O’Hare score. Sean McKay brought Con Magees level with twelve minutes of normal time to play with a neat point from a snap shot from the 45 metre line but Craobh Rua were controlling possession around the middle of the field and they were getting on top. O’Loan was off target from a couple of difficult frees late on and the Armagh champions went two clear with two more points from the excellent Tiarnan O’Hare, before sealing the one with another deep in injury time.

An excellent win for the Armagh champions, who were forced to field without football star Jarly Og Burns. Glenravel will be bitterly disappointed but when they look back on their season in a few days’ time they can reflect on what was overall a very good year for the club.

Craobh Rua  Camlough

C Rowantree; D McCloy, S O’Keefe, B McKevitt: M Garvey, O O’Hare, M Doran; P Garvey, F Burns 0-1; F Bradley 0-1, T O’Hare 0-10 (f), S Watters; R Casey, R Lewis 0-1, C McKevitt 0-1.

Subs: D Harris for F Bradley (21), F O’Callaghan for R McKevitt (40), F McCann for R Casey (41), F Bradley for S Watters (54), C Brannigan for D Harris (60)

Con Magee’s Glenravel

 Ronan Donnelly, Brian O’Neill, Shanlee Kerr, Johnny Fyfe capt, Padge O’Neill, Eoin McCusker, Michael McDonnell, James Duffin, Charlie Henry, Delan Traynor 0-4, Niall Donnelly, Cathal Hynds, Conleth O’Loan 0-5 (4f) Rian Lennon 0-1, Damien O’Hagan.

Subs: Sean McKay 0-1 for D O’Hagan (HT), Sean Burns for N Donnelly (57)

Referee: A McAleer (Donegal)

Cormac Scullion reflects on days gone by and looks ahead to Saturday’s game for the Con Magees.

Cormac Scullion hurled for Glenravel Con Magees for more years than he cares to remember. Now he is reduced to the ‘Half Pace’ hurling on a Tuesday evening, which he helps organise and writes about with great wit and humour. He penned this piece a couple of weeks ago for the club Facebook page before they played Naomh Colum Cille in the quarter final, so I shared it here before their semi-final at Craobh Rua.

I’m 36 years old and I still glance over at my da for his verdict as I walk off the pitch at the final whistle. A wink. A thumb in the air. A shake of the head. All instantly summing up our most recent performance on the hurling field. That’ll do for now, I’ll head on in and get changed, as I know we’ll chat about it on and off for the next few days, regardless of the result. He’s seen it all before. So have I at this stage I suppose, so we have plenty to chew over at the kitchen table or wherever we happen to be.

Growing up listening to stories of matches won and lost, Championship wins and the heroes involved, you can’t help but absorb that love for the club, that sense of belonging. It’s hard to put a finger on it, and I suppose everyone’s different, but the older you get the more you come to realise what it all means, why we all do it through good times and bad. You’re just one of the current playing generation and you’ll eventually pass the baton on to the next one, having tried your best to leave the team in a better place, happily sacrificing blood, bones and the odd tooth along the way.

At 38 the boots are hung up and the furthest the hurl gets now is the back garden. No Feystown on a wet Wednesday night or hot sun and even hotter tempers over at Dreen. Plenty to smile about and a few regrets too, that’s how it goes really. You won’t remember what you had for lunch this time last week but that ball you caught under the bar to hold out for the win 17 years ago is as clear in your mind today as it was when the final whistle was blown that night.

I see my neice, nephew and daughter starting out on what may or may not be a long career inside the white lines. Who knows? They could decide it’s not for them sooner or later. Hopefully not though, them getting involved just seems like a natural progression, like me from my Da, him from his. Families play such an important role in the conveyor belt. They’re the foundations every club is built on and each new generation is another row of bricks.

The parents bring the wee ones when they’re just about big enough to hold a hurl or push a football about. They don’t really know why they’re there or what it’s all about but everyone seems to be enjoying themselves so they’ll come back again next week, sure somebody said there might be sweets!

For so many parishes, the GAA club is at the centre of the community. On the surface it’s matches on a Sunday or a midweek summers evening and for those not directly involved that’s maybe all they see. But a local club is so much more than that. Handfuls of coaches for every age group, plotting, planning, preparing, dreaming. The pitches are full every night of the week from February to October as training and matches carry on whatever the weather.

Cormac receives expert medical treatment from team manager Sean Kerr back in 2014

Social media has everyone connected more than ever before and conversations never stop. If you went back and told your Grandparents you could talk to 10, 20, 50 people at once, without saying a word, they’d think your head was cut. Fundraising efforts, fitness programs, concerts, quizzes, reunions and countless old stories of battles won and lost, growing in heroic detail each time they’re told. But success and titles on the pitch come and go and today’s hero is replaced with the next one tomorrow. It becomes part of who you are and that bond you form with your team mates growing up is rarely broken as the years pass.

I just turned 40 and the playing days are well behind me now. I’m still inside the white lines, but this time coaching and trying to convince a bunch of minors that it’ll all be over in the blink of an eye, so take every opportunity that comes their way. I vividly remember being that age and thinking I had a lifetime to gather up county medals. You don’t. Its over in a flash and you’re suddenly on the wrong side of the fence looking in, not walking off the pitch and glancing over for a wink from your Da.

Still, that’s how it goes. Do your bit then tap out and hope it’s in safe hands.

The boys head into an Ulster Championship this weekend. I couldn’t be more delighted and proud to see the flag flying high but it kills to not be playing one last time. To feel that unmistakable buzz in the air at training and see that look in the eyes staring back at you ready for war. Local heroes through the winter chill, making history once again.

Life throws challenges at you every chance it gets, but the white lines keep them out. Inside the white lines nothing matters except what’s about to go down over the next 60 minutes as 15 men come together as 1 to represent not only their club and their parish, but every man that’s gone before them wearing that very same crest with pride.

Leave nothing behind lads. Everyone’s behind you every step of the way.

“In the end, the things we regret most are the chances we never took”.

Good luck to our Senior Hurlers and Management. Con Mag Aoidh abú

Con Magees face tough task against Craobh Rua in Saturday’s semi-final

Ulster Junior Hurling Championship sem–final

Glenravel Con Magees take on Armagh champions Craobh Rua in Saturday’s Ulster Junior Hurling Championship quarter final at Davitt Park, Belfast. Fresh from their win over Tyrone champions Naomh Colum Cille the Glenravel side bid to make it to the Ulster final for the first time. When they last won the Antrim title back in 2014 the men from the Tenth glen made it through to the semi-final with a win over Carryduff in Loughgiel, but they came up just short against Castleblaney in the semi-final in O’Neill Park, Dungannon, a Blaney side who went on to take the provincial title that season.

At the start of the 2021 season the hopes were not particularly high amongst the Con Magees hurlers. However they brought in a new management team, headed by former Sarsfields hurler Ciaran ‘Tub’ McKernan and along with club secretary Henry Duffin, assisted by Martin Scullion they slowly but surely began to turn their season around. An impressive win over Lamh Dhearg in the semi-final lifter spirits considerably, and though they still went into the county final against Glenarm as rank outsiders, they produced their best performance in years to record a famous win and clinch their 7th Junior title.  

It was all of eight weeks before they were back in action again, a long break by any standards, but McKernan and his team handled the lay-off very well and played a series of challenge games to get the sharpness back. Conditions were far from ideal when they face the Tyrone champions Naomh Collum Cille at Ballycaste two weeks ago, but though they struggled against the wind in the first half, they came good in the second and ended up winning by double scores  2-16 to 1-8.

Craobh Rua 3-10 St Eunan’s 2-8

Craobh Rua had won their second Armagh Junior title in 2020, (their first coming in 2013) but because of Covid last year they never got the chance to compete in Ulster. However they retained the League and Championship titles this season and a win over Armagh city club Cuchullains saw them secure their spot in the Ulster Junior semi-final, where they faced Donegal champions St Eunan’s of Letterkenny.

Two first half goals from Armagh footballing star Jarly Og Burns helped the Camlough men over the line.

Tiarnan O’Hare, Man of the Match from the county final, fired over five frees while Ryan Lewis rattled off 1-2.

Conor McKevitt and O’Hare claimed early scores to give Craobh Rua a lead that they would keep for the remainder of the contest.

Burns’ first major along with a Lewis point split two efforts from the visitors. O’Hare slotted over two 65’s while younger brother Oisin also got on the score sheet.

Jarly Og rattled the net for a second time, followed by scores from the accurate O’Hare and Fiachra Bradley.

St Eunan’s replied as Craobh Rua carried a comfortable 2-8 to 0-4 lead into the break.

O’Hare and Lewis traded scores with the opposition before Conor O’Grady netted for the away team to close the gap to five.

The Armagh winners replied emphatically as Ryan Lewis raised a green flag. St Eunan’s claimed their second goal, but the Camlough men were too far ahead by that stage.

Craobh Rua Scorers: Jarly Og Burns 2-0, Tiarnan O’Hare 0-5 (5f), Ryan Lewis 1-2, Conor McKevitt 0-1, Oisin O’Hare 0-1, Fiachra Bradley 0-1.

The Armagh champions will provide strong opposition to the Glenravel men this weekend. They will need to be at their very best on Saturday to get the better of the Camlough men, but if Cathal Hynds, Conleth O’Loan, Padge O’Neill, James Duffifn and Niall Donnelly can reproduce the form they showed in the quarter final, they are in with a chance of making the club’s first ever provincial final.

The Con Magee’s team who beat Naomh Colum Cille in the quarter final was –

R Donnelly, B O’Neill, SL Kerr, M McQuillan, P O’Neill, E McCusker, M McDonnell, J Duffin 0-2, C Henry, J Fyfe, N Donnelly 0-7 (6f), C Hynds 1-1, C O’Loan 1-5, (4f & 1 pen), R Lennon, D Traynor.

Subs: S McKay 0-1 for D Traynor (38), S McCusker for C Henry (46), S Burns for P O’Neill (57).

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