St Brigid’s celebrate their Junior B Hurling win

Pics by Bert Trowlen

St. Brigid’s hurlers gathered in the Malone hotel to celebrate last season’s Antrim junior B Title win. Club Chairman Eunan Conway opened the evening by pointing out to the capacity crowd that hurling is now a fundamental part of the St.Brigids set-up at all levels, from under 5s through to the increasingly successful senior team, which was set up only two years ago by senior manager and head coach Oliver Lennon.

Lennon said in his address that it was important that last season’s silverware ‘is not a footnote in the history of the club, but instead the start of something much bigger”.

The size of the crowd in the room and general support indicates that senior hurling is indeed here to stay at the south Belfast club.

Tribute was paid to longstanding Biddies clubman PJ Taylor, who helped coach a range of junior teams over the years. His wife Linda and son Ronan (currently lining out for the county underage squad) were on hand to help present the inaugural PJ Taylor Young Senior Hurler of the year award, which went to talented young forward Niall Duffy.

Assembled guests were delighted by a 20-minute video summing up the history-making season put together by BBC man and biddies hurling coach Mark Sidebottom.

In the players’ awards, midfield general Niall Murtagh was the big winner of the night, walking off with both the Players’ Player of the Year award, and the Player of the year award.

The full list of award winners was as follows:

PJ Taylor award for young senior hurler of the year: Niall Duffy

Most Improved player: Garrett Gilleece

Supporter of the Year: Marie Dowling

Players’ Player of the Year: Niall Murtagh

Player of the year: Niall Murtagh

CPC through to semi-finals

Danske Bank Foresters Cup

CPC 4-17 St Louis 1-13

Cross & Passion College Ballycastle qualified for the knock out stages of the Foresters Cup when they made it two wins out of two by beating St Louis Ballymena in Monday’s round robin game at Cushendun. Having already won their opening game it means CPC are trough the semi-finals of the competition.

In the early stages CPC appeared to be in control and with early points from Ronan Fitzgerald, Darragh Donnelly and a goal from Aidan Richmond they appeared to be running away with the game. However St Louis began to find their range and boosted by a goal from corner forward McCollum that fought back to trail by just a goal at the break. (2-7 to 1-7)

CPC took control early in the second half and added eight points without reply, Ronan Fitzpatrick catching the eye with a series of excellent scores. It was midway through the second half before St Louis got on the scoreboard, but a Darragh Donnelly goal on 49 minutes brought any thoughts of a comeback to a grinding halt and the Ballycastle school pushed on to win in the end by 4-17 to 1-13

cross & passion

A Mullan, C McMullan, A McGarry, C Johnston, C Kane, L Glackin, A Kelly, R Fitzgerald, N McLean, C Donnelly, D Donnelly, O Connoll, A Richmond, C McGarry, O McCallin

ST LOUIS

S Douthart, R McClements, S Og Blaney, G McFadden, S McDermot, L McFerran, J McKeever, R O’Boyle, E Smyth, C Cunning, P Martin, K McFerran, C McCollum, C Smyth,, F Bradley

Referee – Owen Elliott (All Saints)

Fennelly: “it could really have gone either way”

Brendan McTaggart speaks with Colin Fennelly after his Ballyhale side won a ninth All Ireland crown on Sunday

At the age of 33 years young, Colin Fennelly has a list of hurling honours that is the envy of the hurling world.  Along with four All-Ireland county medals and two All-Stars, Fennelly has now won six Club All Ireland’s.  Incredible numbers with both he and TJ Reid at the top of the list when it comes to Tom Moore Cup medals.

He celebrated Sunday’s win like it was his first.  A mix of elation tinged with more than a hint of relief as he told us after the game: “It was tight throughout.  They play a different brand of hurling and we couldn’t get our head around it.  They brought it to us and we just had that bit more experience at the end but it could really have gone either way.

“If they had popped over a few it could have put us down but lucky enough a few of our sharpshooter came out and got the scores.”

The Cuchullains made the dream start to Sunday’s final with Ronan Molloy’s early goal giving them an early lead.  The Ballyhale stalwart said they are used to facing such scenarios: “It was the worse start but we’ve been in that position so many times over the years and you just deal with it.  It’s all about getting that next score and thats what we did.

Ronan Molloy’s goal got Dunloy off to a great start

It was a sucker punch but you get back up and you do not put the head down at any stage.  It doesn’t matter if the goal comes in the first minute of the last, you just keep on going.”

In a game where both sides struggled for any fluency, neither looked nervous.  The touch and basics were gone from both sides and the Croke Park surface was the overriding factor when looking for causes.  Described as being in the worse condition many pundits had witnessed, on closer inspection the pitch had been sprayed green to mask the amount of sand that had been laid.  Fennelly said it certainly made life difficult for players and officials: “It was difficult but given the time of year and weather there’s been of late, it can almost be forgiven but it was hugely difficult out there.  The ground was dead, some ball was touched on the ground and it made it hard for the referee.  Typically any other game, you get that bounce.  It was awful but look overall it’s always great to play in Croke Park.”

The Ballyhale club now sit on top of the Club pyramid.  Nine times champions, 20 Kilkenny titles and in just their 50th year.  It’s incredible numbers for the Shamrocks as they reaffirmed their aristocratic and legendary status.  Despite having been around the block and won everything there is to offer, Fennelly said that he and his side are never likely to take these victories for granted.  “It’s a very special time for the club,” he continued: “on Friday night past there, something we didn’t know about, there was a video made of every single family around the parish for every single player.  It was absolutely amazing to see the effort that everyone put in and we sat there for 15 or 20 minutes just taking it all in.  There was clips from all around the world, it was a special moment to see that despite everything we’ve been through and everything we’ve won, that drive is still there in not alone the supporters but the players as well.

“We’re hoping to get away for a few days but you need to remember these occasions.  You have to stay together and it’s a really special time for this club.”

O’Kane: “They came here today against a club like Ballyhale and gave it everything they had”

Brendan McTaggart speaks with Dunloy manager Gregory O’Kane after the Cuchullains were defeated in the All Ireland Club hurling final…

As Ballyhale Captain Ronan Corcoran stood at the top of the steps of the Hogan Stand waiting to receive the Tom Moore Cup from GAA President, Larry McCarthy, Gregroy O’Kane stood on the battered Croke Park surface with a steely stare in his gaze.

A penny for the thoughts running through the Dunloy managers mind at that point as he stood with his son and daughter, Paidi and Ailbe either side.

O’Kane brought the Cuchullains to the brink.  Not many outside of the club gave his side a prayer against the hurling aristocrats from Kilkenny but Dunloy pushed the Shamrocks all the way.  The final score certainly not reflecting the efforts that O’Kane’s men put into the hour that preceded.

It’s often difficult to try and summarise a contest so soon after the final whistle with emotions still running high but O’Kane told us that he felt the game hinged on small margins throughout the game: “We were well in the game.

“We shouldn’t have been two points down at half time.  We made a few mistakes and we didn’t execute as well as we normally do.  We got it back to a point in the second half and it was game on.  We scuffed a few chances and dropped a few into the ‘keepers hand.  We just couldn’t break the line and it’s something that we’re normally really, really good at.”

Ballyhale stretched into a four point lead with three scores in just two minutes from the 52nd minute.  It seemed to knock the energy out of the Dunloy challenge that looked well placed going into the final stretch.  The Shamrocks were ruthless in the closing stages however and as O’Kane continued, he paid tribute to the Kilkenny men: “They’re a super team and their game management in injury time was excellent.

“They made a few turnovers and it was extremely small margins.  It looked like we had them and about to break the line and we were in but look I couldn’t be more proud of the team.  They came here today against a club like Ballyhale and gave it everything they had but we feel like we didn’t kick on.  The game was there for us.”

Gregory with Aibhe and Paidi after the game

At the fifth time of asking, the Cuchullains fell short.  An agonising defeat in a game where they gave everything they had.  O’Kane said his players are feeling that hurt and are thinking on ‘what might have been’ already: “When you get that close and we wanted to take them down the home stretch, the players will feel themselves that they’ve left it behind.  They know themselves but I’m extremely proud of how they played today.”

As his players walked off the Croke Park pitch on Sunday afternoon, the Dunloy support rose to their feet.  They knew they had witnessed a huge performance from their side and the Cuchullains manager said that he and his players are thankful for the support they have received every step of the championship journey he and his side have been on: “You look at the stands out there today, what a support we had.  The families, grandparents and children.  That’s what it’s all about and the journey they’ve been on all year.  It’s been fantastic for them.”