All Saints make history with Junior B Hurling win

Antrim Junior B Hurling Championship final

All Saints 2-25 St Agnes’s 0-5

All Saints hurlers won the club’s first ever All County Hurling championship title at Cloughmills on Sunday evening when they had just too much class and scoring power for hard working St Agnes in the Junior B final. Leading by 0-12 to 0-3 at half time the Ballymena boys were equally as dominant in the second half and two goals from Liam Cassley helped them to an emphatic win.

In perfect conditions for hurling Ciaran Neeson gave All Saints the lead in the opening minute when he pointed a long range free. St Agnes then missed a great chance to get level, or even go in front when a clever pass from Kevin Grieve from the right wing sent Sean McIlhatton clear in front of goal but the left half forward lost control of the ball when running in on goal and elected to kick it, which give the All Saints keeper and easy save. All Saints came back with three points on the trot from Niall McGarry, Ryan McGarry and Gary Miskella and were four ahead before midfielder Conor Pelan opened St Agnes’ account on eight minutes with a fine strike from 60 meters.

However by the time the Aggies had raised their next flag All Saints had all but wrapped up the win as they hit eight points without reply between the 12th and the 29th minutes. The excellent Liam Cassley started the run with a well taken point from 50 meters before corner forward Padhraig McGill added on from the right corner. Cassley struck again on 14 minutes before top scorer Ciaran Neeson hit five on the trot, four of them from frees and one from a 65. Kevin Greeve and Conor Pelan pulled two back for the Aggies in first half injury time but there was still time for one more from All Saints as Gary Miskella fired one over in the 33rd minute to put his team 0-12 to 0-3 ahead at the short whistle.22Man of the match Ryan McGarry breaks through a St Agnes tackle.

Just as he had done in the first half Ciaran Neeson added a point from a free within thirty seconds. Three from right half forward Damian Gillan and one more from the accurate Neeson stretched the All Saints lead to fourteen before St Agnes full forward Kevin Greeve pulled one back with an excellent finish from 40 meters on the right. Neeson added another to his personal tally with a point from a 65 on forty minutes before the Ballymena side got their first goal, a somewhat fortunate one it has to be said as Liam Cassley’s shot for a point was deflected down into his own net by the luckless Aggies goalkeeper Christopher Fay. Conor Pelan got St Agnes final score on 49 minutes but All Saints kept piling on the agony as Cassley got his second goal, this time with an excellent finish. Seven more points were to follow for the Saints, three of them from man of the match Ryan McGarry, who was excellent throughout to seal a comprehensive win and get the celebrations underway.

33Ryan McGarry won the Saffron Gael Man of the Match award after a commaning display at half back for the Ballymena men, scoring three excellent points into the bargain. His All Saints team mates Ciaran Neeson, who top scored on 10 points and midfielder Ryan Cassley, who scored 2-2, pushed him very close for the honour but McGarry deserved his award for a great all rounds display.

Ryan McGarry receives the Saffron Gael Man of the Match award to from John McIlwaine.  Pic by Kevin O’Boyle.

All Saints scorers

Ciaran Neeson 0-10 (8 frees and 2 65s); Liam Cassley 2-2; Ryan McGarry 0-4; Damian Gillan 0-3; Niall McGarry 0-2; Gary Miskella 0-2; Padhriagh McGill 0-1; Tony Connolly 0-1.

St Agnes scorers

Conor Pelan 0-3; Kevin Grieve 0-2;


Daire Hasson, Darren McGinty, Christopher McAfee, Francis Casey, Ryan McGarry, Colum Neeson, Brendan McDonnell, Ciaran McGarry, Liam Cassley, Damian Gillan, Ciaran Neeson, Eoin McGuigan, Niall McGarry, Gary Miskella, Padhraig McGill.

Subs – Anthony Mitchell, Tony Connolly,


Christopher Fay, Neill Gillespie, Martin Robb, Daniel McConnell, Brian Keatings, Dairmuid Kelly, Matt Carlin, Conor Pelan, Cormac Flannery, Ronan Carroll, Mark Caldwell, Sean McIlhatton, David Quinn, Kevin Grieve, Declan McLarnon.

Subs –Declan Crummey, Pascal Clarke, Shane McCafferty, James Halleron.

Referee – Ciaran McCloskey (Loughgiel)

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Aggies and Saints battle for Junior B crown

CRLL0715The St Agnes’ team who beat Lock Mór in the semi-final

Junior B Hurling Championship

All Saints v St Agnes – Cloughmills

Throw-in 6pm. Match referee – Ciaran McCloskey.

The hurling championship season is upon us and after last week’s Reserve Championship final in which Loughgiel beat Dunloy the second championship will be decided when All Saints Ballymena take on St Agnes in the Junior B final at Cloughmills on Sunday evening.

All Saints made a welcome return to hurling this season and after a stuttering start they have steadily improved and have recorded five wins from their eleven games in the league. The most promising thing for those associated with hurling in the club is the fact that there a good few young players in the squad, something which bodes well for the future and under the stewardship of former Cushendall and Antrim star ‘Skinner’ McAlister the signs are promising.

In last week’s semi-final they saw off the challenge of Davitt’s in a tough encounter in Randalstown. The scoring power of one of the young players I referred to, Ciaran Neeson, was a major factor in the win, the teenager hitting a series of excellent scores from both play and from frees. An excellent half-back line of Ryan McGarry, Colum Neeson and Brendan McDonnell laid the foundation for the win while the highly experienced Liam Cassley was in top form on the ‘40’.

St Agnes had a facile win over Loch Mór Dál gCais in the other semi-final. Loch Mór could only field 13 players so the first half was a virtual procession with the Aggies running up a massive four goals and eighteen points without reply. The West Belfast men gave all their subs a run out in the second half and understandably the tempo dropped. Team manager Roy McLarnon, one of Antrim’s great Gaels, will undoubtedly feel a sterner challenge would have been much better preparation for Sunday’s decider, but he knows he has the players who can hurt All Saints on Sunday. Kevin Grieve, Conor McLean and Sean McIlhatton were the top scorer last week and big Martin Robb who was named at full-back proved he can also find the target when moved up front in the second half last week.

All Saints will probably start as favourites, because of their harder semi-final last week and their league position, but this is far from a foregone conclusion so if you are and Aggie or a Saints fan get yourself along to Cloughmills on Sunday to cheer on your team.CRLL1960

The All Saints team who beat Davitt’s in the semi-final

Aggies advance to final

All County Junior B Hurling Championship

St Agnes’ 5-28 Loch Mór Dál gCais 2-6

All County Junior B Hurling Championship

St Agnes had a safe passage to the final of the Junior B Hurling Championship at Tir na nÓg on Saturday when they easily accounted for Loch Mór Dál gCais in the first of the two semi-finals. Loch Mór Dál gCais is a hurling club set up for enthusiasts in the Crumlin, Glenavy, Aghagallon area and they have been progressing nicely at juvenile level in recent years. However the senior team they entered are badly short of numbers and when three of their key players were unable to turn up for Saturday’s game they were in a dilemma. Officially they probably should not have been allowed to field, but St Agnes were keen to play the game and so the referee sporting agreed to let it go ahead. The first half was a procession of scores by the Aggies and in the first time in my years covering hurling the Aggies goalkeeper never had to touch the ball, not a save, not a single puc-out.19Loch Mór Dál gCais 55 year old goalkeeper Liam Burke in action against St Agnes’ Martin Robb. Pic by John McIlwaine

By half time the Belfast men led by 4-18 to 0-00 and there were a quite a few people suggesting the game should be called off at this juncture. However both teams wanted to play on and so the game restarted and when Loch Mor got the first score of the second half there was in ironic cheer, but the score gave the 13 men a lift. The Aggies came back with two more points of their own but suddenly Loch Mór Dál gCais were beginning to compete and when Conor Murray deflected a high ball to the St Agnes net on 44 minutes they were leading the second half scoring. With their two half backs Ruairi Moran and Loran Rooney gaining in confidence they hit a few really nice scores and probably would have won the second half until the Aggies big full-back Marty Robb, who was playing the second half at full-forward, flicked a lovely ball past 55 year old Liam Burke in the Loch Mór net.

In the end St Agnes’ got a game and all five subs got a run out in the second half as they booked their place in next week’s final against All Saints. Probably not the competitive game they would have wanted going into a final, but the other option was no game at all. For Loch Mór Dál gCais a bit of pride was restored in the second half and another chapter written in the club’s history.

St Agnes – Christopher Fay, Neil Gillespie, Martin Robb, Briondan McLarnon, Cormac Flannery, Ronan Carroll, Brian Keatings, Mark Caldwell, Conor Pelan, Shane McCafferty, Declan McLarnon, Conor McLean, David Quinn, Kevin Grieve, Sean McIlhatton.

Subs – Declan Crummey, Martin Duffy, Pascal Clarke, Christopher Catney.

Referee – Ciaran McCloskey (Loughgiel)

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Pics by John McIlwaine




Neeson shines as Saints book final place

All County Junior B Hurling Championship

All Saints 2-12 Michael Davitt’s 1-9

All Saints booked their place in final of the Junior B Hurling Championship when they beat Davitt’s by six points in Saturday evening’s semi-final at Tir na nÓg, Randalstown. Leading by four at the break (1-8 to 0-7) they kept their opponents at arm’s length during the second half. When Niall McGarry grabbed his team’s second goal going into injury time they were nine points clear and though Davitt’s came back with a late goal of their own it was a case of too little, too late as the Ballymena men had already secured a final place against St Agnes’ on Sunday next.

Star of the show for the Saints was Ciaran Neeson who accounted for eight points of his team’s total. Starting at full forward Neeson was soon moved further out the field when he prospered. His accuracy from placed balls and frees gave his team an edge after a shaky start and was well deserving of his man of the match rating.

Davitt’s had two points on the board through their excellent full forward Stephen McGivern and left half forward Canice Mooney before Neeson got his team’s first score on eight minutes. Liam Cassley sent over the equaliser with a fine strike from 40 metres but though they hit the front for the first time soon afterwards with another pointed free by Neeson, McGivern hit back with one for Davitt’s to tie the scores at three apiece after 22 minutes. Points from Padhraig McGill and Ciaran Neeson gave All Saints the edge and when Nial McGarry goaled from a rebound they were six clear with just five minutes left of the opening half. When Neeson pointed another free the gap was out to seven but Davitt’s fought back in the final minutes with a point from Conor Matthews and two from Steven McGivern to cut the gap to four by half time.18Davitt’s top scorer Stephen McGivern – Pic by John McIlwaine

McGivern cut the deficit back to three with a point from a free six minutes after the restart but two fine strikes from Neeson put the Saints five clear again. McGivern grabbed another point for the Belfast men midway through the second half but the scoring dried up dramatically on both sides at this stage as the play got scrappy and disjointed. All Saints ended a fourteen minute scoreless spell with a second goal from Niall McGarry and when Neeson landed a great score from a free inside his own half there was no way back for Davitt’s and Toner’s late goal came too late to effect the outcome.

All Saints  – Daire Hasson, Darren McGinty, Christopher McAfee, Francis Casey, Ryan McGarry, Colum Neeson, Brendan McDonnell, Luke O’Rawe, Ciaran McGarry, Damian Gillan, Liam Cassley, Vincent Esler, Niall McGarry, Ciaran Neeson, Padhraig McGill.

Subs – Anthony Mitchell for Casey; Terence Diamond for Luke O’Rawe;

Davitt’s – Sean McIlhatton, Eugene Gallagher, Thomas Og Toland, Gearoid Cosgrove, Nathan Maginn, Thomas Magure, Jason Close, Anthony Rowntree, Michael Og Rowntree, Conor Matthews, Colm McKee, Canice Mooney, Christopher Gallagher, Stephen McGivern, Rory McEvoy.

Referee – Mark McDonald (St Gall’s)

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Pics by John McIlwaine

Gorts Ulster dream ended by slick Setanta

AIB Ulster Junior Hurling Championship


Gort na Móna 1-6 Setanta 1-20

Sunday October 22

Celtic Park, Derry


By Brendan McTaggart

Setanta and the Ulster Championship proved to be a step too far for Gort na Móna as the men from Tír Chonnail crushed the Turf Lodge men’s provincial dreams in Celtic Park.  Under the strong autumnal sun in the Maiden City, the Gorts had no answer to a slick Setanta side who were worthy of their 14 point win after the hour.

The Donegal men were more sharp and efficient throughout the pitch but it was their attack that had the Gorts chasing shadows for the majority of the game.  Declan Coulter and Kevin Campbell did the majority of the damage on the inside forward line, scoring 1-12 between them but centre half forward Colm Melaugh and Bernard Lafferty also chipped in.  Setanta had too many threats all over the pitch for Gort to contend with and were on top from the first whistle to the last.

Gort na Móna showed two changes from the side that edged past Derrynoose in the quarter-final, Thomas McGoran and Sean Doyle replacing Dermott McVeigh and Gareth Armstrong in the Turf Lodge sides forwards.

The organisation and game plan for Setanta was evident from the early stages.  Coulter was being used primarily alone on the inside forward line with Campbell never far from his shoulder but it was in their engine room where they held all the aces in the first half.  Rich Kee and Danny Cullen in midfield were instrumental with Martin Bonner leading the Setanta defence from centre half.

The Gort defence were being worked over and under huge pressure in the first 30 minutes but they were a match for their counterparts.  Once they got to grips with Setanta’s style of hurling they were able to counter but it was their lack of any fluidity or creativity in attack that harmed their chances.

The Donegal men opened the scoring with Coulter and Campbell splitting the posts in the first four minutes but Gort got off and running when they scored the first goal of the match in the sixth minute.  A free from Patrick McCaffrey landed short and caused consternation in the Setanta defence.  The Donegal men scrambled the ball clear only for referee Colin Murray to be notified that Martin Ward’s flicked effort breached Gary McGettigan’s line.  A goal in fortuitous but welcome circumstances for the Turf Lodge men and as midfielder McCaffrey pointed a free three minutes later, everything was going to plan for the Antrim champions.

The Donegal men hit back though and scored eight points unanswered though to reinforce their authority on the game.  Lafferty and Melaugh contributing to leave six points between the sides as the semi-final approached half time.  Gort were struggling for fluidity and some uncharacteristic missed frees were hampering their chances of gathering any momentum.  They did manage the last two points of the half, McCaffrey scoring his second free of the match before Sean Doyle split the posts to reduce the deficit to four points at the interval.

With whatever wind there was blowing in Celtic Park now in their favour, Gort would have been content with the score line at the interval.  Their efforts would have worried them as they were outplayed for the majority of the opening 30 minutes, but they knew they were capable of more and needed a strong start to the second half.  Martin Ward and Darren Boyd provided the start they required.  Points apiece for the Gort duo halved the Setanta advantage and breathe fresh impetus into the Gort challenge but it acted as merely a wobble in the road for the Donegal men.

Three unanswered points, one each for Melaugh, Campbell and Coutler stemmed the Gort challenged once more but it was the 39th minute that proved to be the pivotal moment of the semi-final.  Gort na Móna had introduced Gareth Armstrong into the full forward line and he made his presence known straight away, giving the Setanta defence a headache and allowed Boyd the space to get an effort at goal away.  Diesel drilled his shot but the sliotar cannoned back off the crossbar with Gary McGettigan beaten in the Setanta goals.

A chance missed for the Turf Lodge men and their dismay was turned to anguish when Setanta made no mistake at the other end.  Campbell providing the assist for Coulter who applied a smart finish to beat Connor McCann in the Gort goals.  Gort’s luck let them down when they needed it most and it turned a potential two-point deficit into an eight advantage for Setanta and they never looked back.

Five further points for the Donegal senior hurling champs in the space of seven minutes all but ended Gorts hopes of making the provincial decider.  They laid siege on the Setanta goals in the closing minutes to get a goal that would reignite their Ulster championship aspirations but the Setanta defence thwarted any and all Gort attacks with a Patrick McCaffrey pointed free all they had to show for their efforts.

Campbell and Melaugh added further gloss to the score line for Setanta to stretch their advantage to 14 points and book a place in the Ulster Junior hurling final against Derry champions Na Magha.


Gort na Móna: Connor McCann; Christopher Devlin; Gavin McKenna; Conor Donnelly; Padraig McHugh; Mark Rea; Gary Doyle; Patrick McCaffrey; Declan Hughes; Sean Doyle; Martin Ward; Thomas McGoran; Thomas McCaffrey; Padraig Fryers; Darren Boyd

Setanta: Gary McGettigan; Brendan Tourish; Simon McMenamin; Mark Callaghan; Sean Anderson; Martin Bonner; Niall Cleary; Richie Kee; Danny Cullen; Bernard Lafferty; Colm Melaugh; Mark Kane; Shane Flynn; Declan Coulter; Kevin Campbell


Gort na Móna: Martin Ward 1-1; Patrick McCaffrey 0-3 (3 frees); Sean Doyle 0-1; Darren Boyd 0-1

Setanta: Declan Coulter 1-6 (4 frees); Kevin Campbell 0-6 (4 frees); Colm Melaugh 0-4; Bernard Lafferty 0-3; Danny Cullen 0-1

Ref: Colin Murray (Co. Down)

PHOTOGRAPHS: Ciaran O’Brochain


Pic by Brendan McTaggart