Antrim made their exit from the Leinster Minor Hurling Championship at Abbotstown on Saturday when they were beaten by Kildare , who had nine points to spare at the end. Despite losing a man to a straight red card after 19 minutes Antrim fought back well to trail by just two points at half time, but Kildare took control in the second half and added a goal and four points between the 42nd and 56th minutes to take the game away from the young Saffrons and book their place in the quarter finals against Offaly.
Early points from Conn Kehoe and Conor Treacy gave Kildare and early cushion before Padraig McKillop opened Antrim’s account with a pointed free on five minutes. Two more from Kehoe frees and another from play by Treacy put the Lillywhites 5-1 clear but Antrim full forward Fintan McQuillan closed the gap to three just before the first half water break.
Midfielder Kehoe had just restored Kildare’s four point cushion on 19 minutes when disaster struck for Antrim when they lost centre forward McKillop to a red card, and when Killian Harrington increased the Kildare lead to five the Saffrons were in trouble. However they showed great character in the closing ten minutes of the first half when points from Fintan McQuillan, Anthony McGarrigle and Aidan Scullion left them just two in arrears at the short whistle.
The gap remained at two for the first ten minutes of the new half as Kehoe and McQuillan exchanged points from play but Kildare then took a real grip on the game as the Antrim challenge faded. Kehoe added two more from frees, centre back Cian Boran and right half forward Fionn Maher tagged on two from play before corner forward Charlie Sherridan delivered the killer blow with a goal from play in the 56th minute. Antrim pulled a point back through a McQuillan free on 58 minutes but it was to prove their final score as Kildare cruised to victory.
Brendan McTaggart reports from McKenna Park, Ballycran
Antrim had 13 points to spare over Down on Saturday afternoon as they booked a date with Dublin in the first round of the Leinster championship. Despite early signs of rust and cobwebs, the Saffrons cruised to victory in the second half with 3-20 of their final score coming from play.
Bizarrely, four of the five goals came in injury time, Antrim with the lions share. Daire Murphy with two majors in a twenty minute cameo that will have done his chances of making the starting 15 on Wednesday evening against Dublin no harm at all while Seann Elliott took his tally to 1-6 for the match with his major just moments earlier.
Aaron Bradley shone with five points to his name over the 70 minutes while Dominic McEnhill was the main focal point for the Saffron attack. The Rossa man excelled on the edge of the square and made life hell for the Down defence with his aerial ability and how he was able to make something from nothing.
On another day, McEnhill would have been an automatic choice for man of the match but Ryan McGarry was hugely impressive at centre half. His reading of the game in front of him, his positional sense and delivery of ball into the Antrim forwards was impeccable all afternoon but he had plenty of support. Niall O’Connor was restless on the edge of his own square while Declan McCloskey was immense beside McGarry on the half back line.
Down showed plenty of spirit and passion throughout but once Antrim settled, they looked a more accomplished side. Padraig Doran top scored for the home side with his 37th minute goal adding to his eventual tally of 1-6 with Ronan Blair, Cathal Coutler and Stuart Martin also catching the eye for the Ardsmen but they struggled to contain the Saffrons. Once they got their noses in front, Antrim rarely looked like yielding their lead and turned the screw in the second half.
Down started brightly and had Antrim chasing shadows in the opening exchanges. They held a two point lead at the first water-break but Antrim dominated the remainder of the second half to hold a five point lead at half time (0-12 to 0-7).
With whatever wind there was at their back for the second half, Antrim extended their lead to seven before the opening goal of the game. Billy Campbell delivering the sliotar long into the heart of the Saffrons defence. Antrim were caught under the dropping ball and Stuart Martin stole in behind before passing to Doran who made no mistake with a composed finish.
The Saffron response was emphatic and game ending. Seven points scored to just one from Down either side of the second half water-break gave them a six point lead going into the final 10 minutes and while Down looked for the scores, they were reliant on Doran’s frees to stay in touch.
Antrim’s first goal came in the last minute of normal time – Cormac McFadden sending the sliotar to McEnhill and he found Daire Murphy. A goal made in Rossa and gave Antrim daylight. Their second major came two minutes later with Seaan Elliott taking advantage of a stray poc out before Tim Prenter scored Down’s second goal with the next attack. Just reward for the Down forward who was tireless throughout. Antrim and Murphy had the final say. McEnhill involved once again in creating the chance with Murphy’s second major the last action of the hour and adding further gloss to the score line for Antrim.
Antrim: T Smith; R McCollan, N O’Connor, C McKay; C McKernan, R McGarry, D McCloskey; N McCormick (0-2), P Boyle; O Donnelly (0-1), A McGrath (0-1), C McFadden (0-2); S Elliott (1-6, 4f), D McEnhill (0-4), A Bradley (0-5)
Subs: E McCusker for C McKay (14); D Murphy (2-2) for O Donnelly (41); L Heenan for P Boyle (50); D McKeogh (0-1) for A McGrath (54)
Down: O McDermott; M McAreavy, E Maguire, R Convery; N McFarlane, C Coulter, B Campbell; C Watson, J Hughes (0-1); J Hanrahan, R Blair (0-3, 1f), S Martin (0-2); P Doran (1-6, 6f), S Campbell, T Prenter (1-2)
Subs: A Dorrian for E Maguire (HT); T Murphy for J Hughes (41); E Magee for S Campbell (54)
Seven months later than expected, Antrim’s promotion dreams are rekindled. The Mecca of Division One hurling is 70 minutes away but Darren Gleeson must lead his men through the Kingdom to get there.
It seems like a lifetime ago since the Saffrons last match, that epic encounter against Offaly in Tullamore where Antrim looked dead and buried. The Faithful men looked like they would be heading to the league decider but goals from Neil McManus and Conor McCann in injury time left those in attendance at Tullamore and form an Offaly persuasion shellshocked. In fairness I was just as bewildered at what had transpired in the last four minutes of the game.
The two late majors ensured Antrim went through their campaign unbeaten. A workman like performance against Wicklow and Mayo where they shook any cobwebs and rust off before a scintillating performance against Meath in Portglenone ignited their season and laid the foundation for their trip to Tralee and the performance of the season.
A six point victory against an unbeaten side and a final score that flattered Kerry. Antrim were superb. A slow start but for 50 minutes, Kerry couldn’t live with the Saffrons. 2-16 of their 2-20 came from open play and eight different scorers, Antrim had all but booked their position in the league decider before travelling to O’Connor Park to face Offaly in their last league match.
All eyes were set on Croke Park and a league final. The occasion was set but Covid had other ideas. The calendar got a rejig, club was king for a couple of glorious months and now the county have their chance to shine.
The panel is largely unchanged. Some have made way but the inclusion of Simon McCrory, Tiernan Coyle and Damon McMullan will strengthen the squad even further. The St John’s man shone for the Corrigan Park side in the championship while Coyle has been one of the best man markers in the county for a number of years. His inclusion is a long time coming in my book. His teammate McMullan has grown in stature for the last three seasons and has flourished into a top centre half.
Injury rumours are rife and after the rigours of a condensed championship, that is unsurprising. Domhnall Nugent’s elbow injury and exploits in the semi-final against Loughgiel means he is a doubt but I’d imagine a call won’t be made until the last minute. He can be the perfect foil for the lightning forwards Antrim have at their disposal along with McManus and Conor McCann.
Looking at Kerry, I doubt if the Antrim management team will read too much into their victory in Tralee. Their performance was mightily impressive but the home side were hit with a case of mumps in the week beforehand and weren’t at full strength. I would expect a different challenge on Sunday and a mighty challenge that will be.
The four-week break from the championship finishing will have given Gleeson and his backroom team plenty of time to run the rule over their squad. Challenge matches are one thing and training can get your fitness up but Sunday will be championship intensity. They can ill afford a slow start and will need to be reaching for the form they showed before the league was halted seven months ago. It is a league decider in name but this is the start of Antrim’s championship. When they take to the pitch on Sunday, it will mark 224 days since their drawn game in Tullamore, a ground that holds happy memories in recent times for the Saffrons. A win in last year’s McDonagh Cup against Offaly despite being down to 14 and their drawn game there on 8th March this year. Small things like that can make a huge difference in mindset ahead of what is a pivotal game.
Antrim’s league campaign began in late winter, blossomed in spring and comes to an end in the autumn of this year. A lot has happened in between but a Saffron victory on Sunday will go a long way to helping those memories of this year be less sour.
Antrim scorers so far:
Neil McManus 3-44 (30f 4’65); Niall McKenna 1-10; Eoghan Campbell 1-7; James McNaughton 1-6; Keelan Molloy 1-5; Dan McCloskey 1-5; Domhnall Nugent 1-4; Conor McCann 2-1; Alex Delargy 2-00; Gerard Walsh 0-4; Michael Bradley 0-3; Aodhan O’Brien 0-2; Ronan Molloy 0-2; Conor Johnston 0-2; Eoin O’Neill 0-1; Joe Maskey 0-1; Nicky McKeague 0-1; Conal Cunning 0-1
Conor McAllister; Ryan Elliott; Ryan McGarry; Keelan Molloy; Conal Cunning; Eoin O’Neill; Phelim Duffin; Nicky McKeague; Ronan Molloy (Dunloy)
Ryan McCambridge; Neil McManus; Eoghan Campbell; Paddy Burke; Martin Burke (Cushendall)
Simon McCrory; Domhnall Nugent; Michael Bradley; Conor Johnston; Ciaran Johnston (St Johns)
Damon McMullan; Tiernan Coyle; Dan McCloskey; James McNaughton (Loughgiel)
“We got together the Thursday after the hurling final and it was the following weekend we were hit.” C19 – wreaking havoc all around the country and Antrim U20’s best laid plans and as their manager Karl McKeegan told us, it’s put them on the back foot ahead of their Leinster Championship qualifier with Down.
“Four lads tested positive so for the better part of three weeks, we’ve had to self-isolate. We got back out again last Sunday and it is a shame as you can see from this group of players, they’re mad keen and a committed bunch of lads.
“Back in February when we were together, whatever we asked of these lads, they’ve done it. I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever worked with a better bunch of lads. We were getting over 30 to the sessions and the lads really were buying into what we were trying to achieve.”
Then lockdown hit and the young Saffrons, like the rest of the GAA world, were in a waiting game. McKeegan continued: “We were kind of in limbo. Will we be playing, when will it be? We didn’t know and then when we got the date, we were hit with the positive results. It’s the nature of what we’re having to work with now.
“But last Sunday, we had 24 out training with the three who are carrying niggles were there and the four who tested positive are still isolating. Those who should be there, were there and in all my years playing and now coaching, that’s all I ever asked for. If you get the commitment on the training pitch, that will transfer onto the field of play.”
With Conal Bohill, Ryan McGarry, Declan McCloskey, Seaan Elliott, Niall O’Connor and Niall McCormick forming part of what on paper is a strong starting 15, the young Saffrons should start Saturday’s tie with Down as favourites. 18 year old Dara Murphy’s cameo’s for Rossa in their run to the semi-finals of the senior championship did enough to get him into the squad along with Caolan McKernan from Sarsfields. McKeegan stressed, the commitment is there but for him the most important aspect comes from within: “The lads have to enjoy representing their clubs and county. If you don’t then you have to forget about it.” He continued: “Most of the panel would come from Loughgiel but there’s a mix from all around the county.”
The gap from club hurling finishing and the county season started, on paper should have been ideal. The positive test results meant McKeegan’s men couldn’t get any form of challenge games so realistically, they are going into Saturday’s game in the dark. They will have to pick their team from the work done in February and March and the few sessions they have been able to get together in the past month or so. Something McKeegan has rued: “I have Big Johnny (McIntosh) and Brian McFall in along with me and they are two superb trainers. How they convey themselves to the group and get their point of view across to the players, you can see the lads are buying into it and learning from them. It’s a shame we couldn’t get more time with them as Johnny and Brian are top drawer coaches.”
The Cushendall man told us the U20 grade needs more attention or the dropout of players moving form minor to senior will increase: “They have to do something with the U20 grade. Very few of these lads played senior hurling this year and if we’re not careful, a lot of these lads could end up walking away from the game. There has to be something put in place that will keep them hurling. I don’t know what it is but there needs to be something done.
“We’re looking at this game and if we win it’s next Wednesday night against Dublin. Two games shoehorned in and that’s the next generation that we’re dealing with.”
With Down and a derby, there never normally is much between the sides but the Cushendall man told us he is cautiously confident: “I’m confident that the lads want it but so many of them have played very little hurling this year. What I would say is anything we’ve ever asked of them, they’ve done it. Every training session there has been 23 or 24 and upwards and they are mad keen. I’ve no doubt that with the commitment they’ve shown to us, they will give it everything they have on Saturday.”
In what has been a great year for Club Aontroma as highlighted by the publication of their annual report. We at the Saffron Gael wish to thank them for their continued support
We are delighted to publish our ANNUAL REPORT as presented to our AGM on 12 October 2020. As you can see, Club Aontroma have had a successful year and have shared in the renewed enthusiasm for gaelic games and activities in our county over the past year. Notwithstanding the pandemic we have enjoyed a year of renewed productivity and output. We produced 6 high quality match day programs for our county finals and national league games, themselves showcasing the positivity of our senior panels and indeed the visionary ambitious nature of our clubs. We have spent your money wisely and have donated
– £25,000 to Corrigan Park Redevelopment,
– £1200 for two livestreams (Camogie and LGFA finals),
– £1332 for two Cumann na mBunscol kits,
– £500 to Saffron Gael,
– £700 for 12000 flyers & Pop Ups.
We are delighted to welcome county legends Jane Adams and Sambo McNaughton on board as well as Micky Maguire from Ardoyne, a former development squad coach and well respected figure in underage football to our committee.
We are delighted to announce our new PRO Sean Kelly who will also act as vice chairperson. Sean’s enthusiasm and talent as a PRO will not be lost to gaelic games in our county as he stands down from the formal county position due to term limits.
If you are not a member of Club Aontroma please consider joining!It is only £10 per month and due to our charitable status we can generate a further 27% in Gift Aid. You can join Club Aontroma now through your mobile phone at this weblink!