Seven Goal Antrim Overpower Down

The Summer of 2014 proved to be a fruitful one for Antrim hurlers with their Minor and U21 teams collecting Ulster titles. The U21 side were in superb for as they overcame Down at the Athletics Ground in Armagh and while Antrim manager, Kevin Ryan was happy with the result he certainly wasn’t happy with the decision of Ulster Council to bring the time of the game forward to accommodate a Reserve Championship game.

                                  Bord Gáis Energy Ulster U21 Hurling Championship Final

                                                          Antrim 7-17 Down 1-5

Antrim  manager, Kevin Ryan was scatching of the Ulster council after Wednesday night’s Ulster U21 Hurling final between Antrim and Down at the Athletic Grounds had been brought forward by half an hour to accommodate a Reserve Championship game.

“Some of our lads had to finish work at 3.30 in order to be here for this game. It’s a poor reflection on how the Ulster Council view the development of hurling” Ryan said.

However, while the Antrim supremo’s protests seemed valid he could have little complaint about his side’s performance as they systematically took an outclassed Down side apart to earn a place in the All Ireland semi-final against the winners of Cork or Clare.

In doing so Antrim won their sixth Ulster U21 hurling title in a row, overpowering Down in a very one-sided final at the Athletic Grounds.

The Saffrons actually conceded the opening two points of the game, from Down duo Peter Mason and Eoghan Sands, but they hit 1-7 before the break to lead by eight at half-time. Their opening goal came a few minutes before the break through substitute Seán McAfee.

Antrim found the net six times in the second half as they ran riot on Down. Niall McKenna and Saul McCaughan both landed goals shortly after the restart to effectively end the game as a contest, while further goals followed from McCaughan and Connor Burke (2).

Down substitute Conal Fitzsimons found the net for the Mourne County 10 minutes before the end, but it was a brief respite as Ciarán Clarke scored Antrim’s seventh goal mere seconds later to take his personal tally for the game to 1-6.

Antrim will play the winners of the Munster final (Clare or Cork) in the All-Ireland semi-final on August 23. They will be hoping to repeat their achievement of 2013, when they stunned Leinster champions Wexford with a 2-15 to 1-16 victory in the All-Ireland semi-final at Semple Stadium.

Scorers for Antrim: C Clarke 1-6 (2f), S McCaughan 2-1, C Burke 2-0, N McKenna 1-2, Sean McAfee 1-0, D McKernan 0-2, J McGreevy 0-1, M Dudley 0-1, D McCloskey 0-1, R McCambridge 0-1, Stephen McAfee 0-1, E McCaughan 0-1

Scorers for Down: C Fitzsimmon 1-1, E Sands 0-2, J McGrath 0-1, P Mason 0-1

ANTRIM: C Butler; T O Ciarain, P Burke, F Donnelly; J McGreevy, E Campbell, M Bradley; D McGuinness, M Dudley; D McCloskey, R McCambridge, N McKenna; C Clarke, D McKernan, A McAfee. Subs: Sean McAfee for McGuinness (23), S McCaughan for Donnelly (h-t), C Burke for McCloskey (44) E McCaughan for Stephen McAfee (48), M Connolly for Bradley (52).

DOWN: S Savage; M Conlan, M McCullough, G O’Neill; C Taggart, C O’Neill, J McGrath; J McManus, R Brannigan; P Mason, B Nicholson, C Egan; L Savage, S Mageean, E Sands. Subs: B Byers for G O’Neill (37), C Fitzsimmons for Savage (41), A Scott for McManus (55), J Doran for McCullough (55), D Mallon for Mageean (55).

Referee: A Nash (Derry)

                                                                                   CAPTIONS

21) Antrim celebrate after defeating Down in the Bord Gais Ulster u21 Hurling Final at the Athletic Grounds, Armagh on Wednesday night.

Antrim’s Ryan McCambridge breaks clear of  C Taggart of Down during the Ulster U21 Hurling final at the Athletic Grounds on Wednesday night.

Down keeper, Sean Savage clears his lines.

No where to go! An Antrim forward is closed down by C O’Neill and M Conlan of Down.

Two goal Antrim hero, Saul McCaughan solos clear of  C Brannigan of Down.

McQuillan’s GAC & Carey Faughs united for epic journey in aid of Marie Curie

McQuillan’s GAC Ballycastle and Carey Faughs have left their on pitch rivalry to the side for a short time, to unite forces to raise much needed funds for Marie Curie.

The charity had issued an ‘Emergency Appeal’ due to Covid19 putting fundraising on hold with funds for Nurses and Hospices being needed now more than ever. Caoimhe McShane, Mc Quillan GAC Club PRO said ‘Both clubs have many members involved in the local Marie Curie group, so it made sense for us work together to raise as much as we can for this much needed service. Their biggest fundraiser takes place at the Lammas Fair and this 400 year tradition has also been cancelled due to the current pandemic.’

This incredible fundraiser has involved club members of all ages, as they use their daily exercise during lockdown, to clock up their kilometres by running, walking or cycling and posting this into their respective groups. 

‘It has given everyone a great buzz and the club Social Media platforms have been used to keep everyone motivated. The posts and the videos have been excellent and have really captured the spirit of what we want to achieve. We have also been blessed by the weather and the fact that we live in an area of incredible beauty, with the striking Fairhead linking both Carey and Ballycastle, so it is easy to exercise from our own doorsteps.  Everyone is very respectful when we are out, crossing over the road and maintaining social distance, calling out to each other so the banter has also been good. Families have really enjoyed getting in on the challenge and we have club people from everywhere posting in their pictures from Liverpool, Belfast, County Down, Dublin, Derbyshire and even Canada to name a few.’

It had been originally planned for the squads to take on the challenge to race from ‘Fairhead to New York’, but such has been the response they arrived in New York in just 3 days clocking up an amazing 5,855.71km, exceeding all expectations.  The organising committee said ‘We decided to keep the challenge going and to continue on to Australia adding a further 16,020km to the journey. There are so many of our younger members from both clubs out in Australia and they had already set up their own group out there clocking their distances and making donations, so we agreed it would be a nice touch to go on and ‘pick them up’, if only we were really able to take them home!’

This target was again smashed and the clubs made it to Sydney with 5 days to spare. The Ballycastle Club PRO vowed that ‘It was a real challenge to get back home again, but the groups within the clubs, not just the players but the ‘Carey Fit Club’ and our ‘Brighter Nights’ crew plus the Committee and Supporters groups were all keen to keep going until the challenge was met’ and that they did.

Within the 14 Day target that was set, they collectively covered a massive 40,592.93km through running, walking and cycling, a phenomenal effort. The equivalent distance of travelling from Fairhead to Sydney via New York and back home to Ballycastle again, with 2,463.93km to spare. That’s a lot of exercise!

The clubs had originally set a fundraising target of £2000, however this amount has also been surpassed as well with over £16,000 pledged to support Marie Curie to date.

Martin ‘Cubby’ Mc Auley, who is involved in the management of both Mc Quillan’s Senior Camógs and Carey Faugh’s Hurlers spoke highly of the epic journey the two clubs have been on, ‘What a fantastic effort from everybody involved with both clubs. To see the phenomenal community spirit at such a difficult time is heart-warming and a pleasure to be a part of. I would like to thank everybody for their efforts locally and from all over the world, raising funds for a cause close to so many hearts in our local community’.

Winnie McGarry, the Treasurer of Marie Curie Moyle group said ‘We have been overwhelmed by the response – the Clubs came to us with this idea and the uptake has been brilliant; it has been fantastic and shows how generous everyone is in times of crisis, especially in these uncertain times, where there are many individuals and organisations in need.’

If you would like to contribute to the McQuillan’s GAC and Carey Faughs fundraiser for Marie Curie go to: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/fairheadnewyork

The Just Giving Page will remain open to allow anyone who has not yet donated to do so. McQuillan’s and Faughs would like to take this opportunity to say a massive Thanks to everyone who has donated so far.

Epic clash see Rasharkin and Ballela share the spoils

AIB Ulster Club Junior Hurling Championship – Quarter Final

Ballela GAC 3-20           St.Mary’s Rasharkin 2-23 (AET)   

Sunday 4th October 2015

This very entertaining end to end fixture had all the thrills and spills of championship hurling, both sides had chances to win this fixture in normal time and indeed additional time but neither did enough to get over the line and alas neither team deserved to lose. The game was nip and tuck until Antrim kingpins Rasharkin pulled away, going eight clear by half time of extra time and the game looked to be over. They then went nine up early in the second period of additional time but Ballela with a never say die attitude, rallied scoring 2-3 on the bounce to rescue draw from certain defeat.

The Down Champions coming out of the hat first were afforded home advantage and due to the unavailability of county ground Páirc Esler in Newry, St.Mary’s Rasharkin, who recently collected their third Antrim Junior crown, travelled to Ballela on Sunday past to fulfil this Ulster Club Junior Hurling quarter final tie against the Katesbridge side.

Derrytrasna club man Anthony Nash was officiating and was flanked with linesmen his brother Eddie and Leon Reynolds, fourth official was Gerard Devlin.

First blood when to the visitors when St.Mary’s corner man Conor McFerran flashed the sliotar through the posts inside the opening minute, Ballela’s wing half back Niall Burns opened his sides account three minutes later, indeed it was the Down men who settled best in the early exchanges the home side when on to point a hat trick of long range frees from their talisman and Down County star Johnny McCusker. Rasharkin responded with points from Thomas Doherty and two sublime strikes from wing half back Daniel Doherty to leave the tie all square midway through the first half. St.Mary’s last line of defence James O’Mullan produced an excellent save on sixteen minutes to deny Ballela’s Daniel Doran, the agile keeper was quick off his line to narrow the space and turn the ball from a one on one situation.

Long range free takers on both sides played a big part of this fixture throughout, and both made valuable use of the elements. Ballela’s Johnny McCusker and Rasharkin Brendan McMullan exchanged frees on the eighteenth minute before the Down Champions finished the half on a high – four points in as many minutes all from the stick of McCusker, three from the set piece and one resulting from a poor clearance out of the Rasharkin defence, saw them establish a firm grip. Shane Hasson and Declan McKay replied for the visitors before McCusker registered his ninth point on half time to leave halftime scoreline Ballela GAC 0-10 St.Mary’s Rasharkin 0-7.

The Katesbridge men started the second period with a substitution, Paddy Mackin had an instant impact on the game and had barely fastened is helmet before he lifted the Rasharkin net with a rasper in the opening seconds. Rasharkin skipper Declan McKay restored calm within ranks and coolly slotted over a minute later, before Shane Hasson pulled on the sliotar from close range to raise the green flag following a goal mouth scramble and reduce arrears to two points. McKay struck again for the blue and amber hoops to close the gap to the minimum before McCusker pointed a free to nudge his side further ahead after ten.

The Dreen men dug deep and took full advantage of the wind in the second period, Decky McKay pointing two frees before his side took the lead for the first time in the game after Brendan McMullan drop the ball over the crossbar from right in front of St.Mary’s dugout much to the cheers of the many travelling supporters. Conor McFerran had Rasharkin on their way and pushed further daylight between the sides when he collected possession rounded his maker and split the points from fifty yards, midway through the half. However, the Down men showed reliance and levelled matters for the third time through none other than McCusker after twenty minutes. The pendulum swung back in favour of St.Mary’s when Declan McKay collected his sixth and seventh points to open up another two point lead. It was a one point game once more when Ballela’s McCusker came to the rescue with five minutes on the clock, before Rasharkin’s Conor McKeever pointed a screamer which looked to have lifted the visitors in the closing minutes. Back again came the home side to close out the game with two back to back points and force additional time. Full time score line Ballela GAC 1-16 St.Mary’s Rasharkin 1-16.

Additional time would be ten minutes each way and was ultimately a game of two halves in more ways than one, The Antrim Champions took on board the inspiring words of wisdom from mentors Paul McFerran and Liam McCart and started at 100mph, Conor McKeever fired over within seconds of the restart and followed up two minutes later smashing the sliotar beyond Gary McMullan on the Ballela goal line raising the green flag, Enda McFerran got in on the act with two points back to back followed by Eamon McNeill with two as Rasharkin released the shackles and opened up a commanding eight point lead. A shell shocked Ballela could only respond with a free from Johnny McCusker before Shane Hasson re-established the eight point margin on the stroke of half time.  

St.Mary’s started the second period of additional time similar to the first after Eamon McNeill blazed over to extend their advantage to a convincing nine points with eight minutes remaining. However, the Down men dusted off and got back at it, Ballela’s midfielder Malachy Magee started the comeback with a major after three before Johnny McCusker added two points from range after six. St.Mary’s frantically held on but couldn’t get a foothold, Magee bagged another goal with two minutes remaining before fittingly man of the match McCusker dropped over on full time to bring his personnel tally to a magnificent eighteen points – a good day at the office!

The Antrim kingpins will wonder how they let a nine point lead evaporate and Ballela must be thankful their ace man was is scintillating form. Both sides will have gained a lot from this game, we’ll find out next Sunday who has learned the most. Replay is confirmed 3.30pm Sunday 11th October at Loughgiel. Armagh Champions Sean Tracy’s await the winners of this pairing following their victory over Cavan champions Cootehill.       

St.Mary’s Rasharkin: James O’Mullan, Donagh Quigg, Aidan McKeever, Conor Hasson, Daniel Doherty, Brendan McMullan, Conor Donaghy, Conor McKeever and Thomas McMullan, Eamon McNeill, Thomas Doherty, Shane Hasson, Conor McFerran, Declan McKay and Enda McFerran

Subs: Joey Quinn, Kevin Agnew, Aidan Darragh, Chrissy McKiernan and Emmett McFerran

Ballela GAC: Gary McMullan, Ryan Burns, Daniel McCusker, Donal McCann, Niall Burns, Gareth Burns, Michael Doyle, Johnny McCusker and Malachy Magee, Calvin Magee, Rory McPolin, Daniel Doran, Kevin Close, Ryan McCusker and Mark Cosgrave

Subs: Deon Kelly, Paddy Mackin, James McParland, Paddy McPolin

Referee: Alan Nash (Doire)

Antrim Junior Hurling Champions St.Mary’s Rasharkin

Lines man Eddie Nash (Doire), Ballela GAC captain Johnny McCusker, referee Alan Nash (Diore), St.Mary’s Rasharkin captain Declan McKay, linesman Leon Reynolds (Ard Mhacha) and Standby Referee Gerard Devlin (Ard Mhacha).

Down Junior Hurling Champions Ballela GAC

There was a feeling after the game that this the one that got away and so it proved to be when Ballela narrowly won the replay in Loughgiel but never the less it is a time that the hurlers of Rasharkin can look back at with some pride after the disappointment abated.

The Town’s last title came in 1986

Ballycastle’s last Senior County title came back in 1986 when they beat St John’s in the final in Dunloy. Anyone who witnessed the Town tear through all their opponents that year would never have thought it possible that this famous club, who still sit second behind Loughgiel in the roll of honour, would not lift the Volunteer Cup again, for 36 years later they are still waiting. The win marked the end of an era for one of the greatest team of our times.  

Dessie Donnelly who was top scorer with 1-12 in the ’86 final win over St John’s

1986 was their eighth final in nine years (their ninth if you count the 1981 replay). They won the title in 1984, beating Cushendall in the final, but the Ruairis had gained revenge in 85, beating the Town by four clear goals in the semi-final on their way to lifting their second county title. When the sides met again the following year in Cushendall, in the quarter final of the 1986 championship Ballycastle were out for revenge, and with Dessie Donnelly leading the line they dethroned the ‘Dall in emphatic fashion, Dessie scoring a remarkable 3-7 in a 7-11 to 3-5 win. St Paul’s were the opposition in the semi-final in Casement Park and once again the Castle scoring machine was running on all cylinders, running up 6-23, with Brian Donnelly this time taking the scoring honours with 3-3.

Eddie Donnelly in action against St John’s in the 1986 final

The Ballycastle team still carried a massive scoring threat going into the 86 final, and three weeks earlier their players had scored 1-19 of Antrim’s total of 1-24 against Cork in the All Ireland semi-final defeat in Croke Park.  The final was set for Dunloy on August 31st against St John’s, the earliest final date I can remember. The Johnnies were trying to bridge a 13 year gap back to when they beat the same opposition in the 1973 decider at the same venue, but in a bad tempered game the Belfast men could never get their game going properly.

Once again team captain Dessie Donnelly was the man to do most of the damage for Ballycastle, hitting 1-12 in a 1-20 to 0-7 victory, and in doing joined brothers Kevin, Dessie and Brian and Eddie as he became the fourth of the Donnelly brothers to lift the famous trophy. Eddie and Kevin also set a record that day by winning their eight title, his first one coming 22 years earlier in1964 . With the early final they celebrated in style at the Lamas Fair.

Eddie McToal and Neill Peden of St John’s plus Paul McKillen and Peter Boyle of Ballycastle get ready to pounce as referee Martin Brogan throws in the ball to start the 1986 county final in Dunloy

They went on to beat Middletown of Armagh in the Ulster semi-final before accounting for a very good Lavey team in the Ulster final in Gulladuff. The champions gave Ballycastle their fill of it that day but the greater experience told in the end as again Dessie Donnelly got a vital goal in a 1-13 to 1-8 win.

The team that won the last county title for the Town back in 1986 were – Paul Smith, Kevin Boyle, Terence Donnelly, Pat Kinney, Kevin McShane, Liam Gallagher, Charlie McVeigh, Peter Boyle, Paul McKillen, Damian McAfee, Brian Donnelly, Edie McHenry, Dessie Donnelly, Eddie Donnelly, Olcan Laverty.

The St John’s team who played Ballycastle in the 1986 final

Defeat in Dundalk, but Antrim fans still have fond memories of a dizzy day in the sun

After watching the video of this game over the past week (thanks to Edmond Rowsome for sending it our way) I thought I would look up some of the photos from that famous day in Dundalk. The fact that it was in Dundalk was a big talking point at the time, but he GAA authorities didn’t want to reschedule the minor game in Croke Park which was the curtain raiser for the other semi-final between Galway and Tipperary. You have only to look at the cover of the programme of the Antrim v Kilkenny game to see just how much thought they had for Antrim hurling at the time. It must the one and only match programme in history, ( since the introduction of photos on the cover) that doesn’t carry a photo of the team taking part. Instead they used one from the Kilkenny v Offaly Leinster final instead.

However it has to be said that fixing it for St Brigid’s Park Dundalk probably done us all a favour, for the beautiful little ground created unique atmosphere, and though Antrim were beaten it is a game we all still look back on favourably. When you study the game Antrim really lost it in the first half when playing with the fresh breeze at their backs. They dominated play for long peroids in that opening half, but shot a lot of wides, 12 in all the first period, and many of them were just inches wide of the target. I remember a goal attempt by Dessie Donnelly just before the break skimming the outside of the post, with Kevin Fennely in the Kilkenny goals, well beaten.

What stands out from the game are Danny McNaughton’s two superb goals, when he doubled overhead and sent the ball flying to the net. Our hearts were bursting with pride when the second one went in and we started to believe that maybe the impossible was possible after all. To borrow a line from my old friend Kevin Cashman, the doyen of hurling reporters, “It ended in defeat of course, as the poets and Gods prefer” but that August day in Dundalk let the Antrim team see that they were not far away from the big boys, and for the next seven or eight years they were constantly proving that point. They won promotion to Division 1 the following season and what followed was a golden period in Antrim hurling. Of course the rising tide lifted all boats and the re-introduction of the Ulster Championship in 89 heralded that championsphips greatest ever period with Down’s great team taking the honours in ’92, ’94 and ’97 and Derry breaking through in 2000 and 2001. Great days for Ulster hurling which sadly have gone.

On August 16th in St Brigid Park Dundalk Antrim lost in the end by seven points, all seven of those coming in the last eight minutes after Danny McNaughton’s point had brought us level in the 62nd minute. Harry Ryan was the man who did the damge with 2-5 overall and Richie Power with 0-10. However ask any Antrm fan who was there about their memories of that game and 99% of them will be positive.

If there is one game I had the chance to go back to it would be that hot August day, only this time those twelve first half wides would all go over. The platform set by James in the half-back line, plus Humpy and Skinner in midfield, would get its just reward and we would all go home looking forward to a final meeting with Galway.

This a report by Gerry McCarthy which appeared the following day in the Irish Press. (Many thanks to our good friend Jim Whelan for sending it and the programme on)

The Antrim team who played Kilkenny in Dundalk. Back row, L-R, Terence Donnelly, Tony McGrath, Brian Donnelly, Paul McKillen, Niall Patterson, Fergus McAlister, Dominic McKinley, Danny McNaughton, Terence McNaughton. Front L-R, Ger Rogan, Leonard McKeegan, Dessie Donnelly (capt), Jimmy Darragh, James McNaughton, Olcan Laverty
Team mascot Mark Kearney (Cushendall)
Barry Quinn, dressed and ready for action
Olcan Lavery and John Henderson stand for the anthem
Antrim’s Danny McNaughton and Kilkenny’s Paddy Prendergast stand to attention