My favourite 15 – Dunloy

By Brendan McTaggart

This was not an easy job.  Some might have called this mission impossible and without fear of contradiction, I’ve changed the 15 a dozen times.  My earliest memory of watching Dunloy comes from our run to our first championship final in 1990 so all the choices come from that era onwards.

Some names were automatic choices, some had to be put in somewhere but I don’t think you could get any two people from a Dunloy persuasion to agree on the same 15.

It’s always nice to think on those who wore the green and gold and played with passion and distinction for years in search of glory.  I’m still mulling over some of my choices but it was fun to try and get a 15 narrowed down. 

Gareth McGhee

1 – Gareth McGhee

Cocky, arrogant but brilliant.  Everything you want in a ‘keeper’.  I was there in U12 when he volunteered to become a keeper when Johnny McQuillan was our manager and ‘wee McGhee’ took to it like a duck to water.  His performance against Cushendall in the 2009 final was the best I’ve ever seen while his ability to hit a rasping penalty gave him the nod.  Could have easily had went for Shane or Ryan Elliott here as well but McGhee’s all round game just gave him the nod.

2 – Sean Mullan

Patch.  More known for his exploits on the half back line but an outstanding and solid performer so I had to get him in the 15 somewhere.  Moved to full back later in his career but I genuinely can’t ever remember leaving a match thinking he had a poor game.  Mr Consistency for close to two decades in the green and gold.

3 – James McKeague

James reading of the game is exemplary.  Maybe not blessed with blistering pace but he was a yard ahead between his ears and that made him close to one of my first names on the team sheet.  Running off memory, he held Joe Canning scoreless from open play when Dunloy played Portumna in 2010.  Not many in the country can boast something similar.

4 – Seamus McMullan

Mushy.  Big Dog.  The man you’d want by your side going to war.  A cult hero for a generation growing up in the village.  A man who could strike the sliotar for miles and who wasn’t bad from placed ball with frees and penalties.  First Dunloy man to lift ‘Big Ears’ – almost made him an automatic choice.

5 – Malachy Molloy

Made the game look so easily.  Effortless brilliance and looked at home in a senior short from the moment he put one on.  A giant on the field both physically and metaphorically speaking.  Could play on the wing or centre but a natural on the half back line.

6 – Gary O’Kane

First name on the team sheet.  Pappy really was a natural at centre half.  His positional sense was second to none while there have been few better at reading the game in front of them.  Rarely caught in possession, moving the sliotar to all corners but had a knack of playing the right pass at the right time.  Captain, leader, legend

7 – Kevin Molloy

Brilliant under a high ball and a rock in defence.  Bunga is another who rarely has a poor game.  A burst of pace that takes him away from danger and brilliant in rucks, Bunga is another who consistently performs. 

8 – Tony McGrath

My favourite hurler from his generation.  Ooh Ahh Tony McGrath.  Stylish, classy, an unassuming genius on a hurling field and a gentleman off it.  I learned more from him in one year of his coaching than I did in the others I played.  Saved Dunloy in 1990 to earn a replay and against Birr four years later in the All-Ireland final.  Tony was another who gave 100% every time he took to the field. 

9 – Colm McGuckian

Named by Brian Whelahan as the toughest opponent he ever came up against.  Cookie had one of the best engines I ever witnessed by anyone on a hurling field.  A workhorse in the middle of the field and another who could pluck the ball from the clouds.  Would run through a brick wall for the Dunloy shirt.

10 – Gregory O’Kane

Mr Dunloy.  Has been involved in all 14 championship wins for Dunloy.  12 as a player and two as a manager, ‘Dick’ was one of the best forwards in Ireland on his day.  Accuracy from frees and his ability to play others in when they were better placed was unerring.  He was brilliant on the edge of the square but his ability to catch a ball gives him a nod on the three quarter line.  His goal versus Lavey in 1997 Ulster Final epitomised his overall game.  Outstanding catch and finish

11 – Liam Richmond

A player made for the number 11 shirt.  Natural on the three quarter line and an automatic pick for years in the green and gold.  Another stylish performer and I loved the way he hurled.  Mixed his game with catching or playing first day, Nancy was the ultimate team player and another who you’d want by your side in an hour.

12 – Paul Shiels

Another automatic pick.  Shorty could hurl in a number of positions and would look like he’s played there all his years.  The most naturally gifted hurler I’ve ever seen in a Dunloy shirt and a genius with a sliotar in his hand.  Never looks rushed in possession and coolness personified in the heat of battle.  Steps up when his team need him and makes the game look disgustingly easy.

13 – Ally Elliott

Tortured defences in Antrim and beyond for years and I grew up idolising this man.  He could turn any defender in a phone box with blistering pace and trickery.  I watched defenders try to go touch tight and get done or stand off him and end up chasing him.  Ally was virtually impossible to mark and plenty breathed a sigh of relief when he hung up his hurl.  Two match winning goals to get us over the line in 1990 after being kept scoreless in the first game tells you everything about his mental strength as well.  Another of the first names in the team sheet.

14 – Paddy Richmond

Handy on the three quarter line but Paddy was immense on the edge of the square.  A more than handy goal keeper at underage as well, Paddy was the man for the big occasion.  A naturally gifted talent who had the ability to turn barely half chances into goals.  Blistering hurl speed and a shot not match by many, Pat the Baker always delivered in a Dunloy shirt.

15 – Conal Cunning

 Some might see this as a bit strange given the fact he is only three full years into his senior career, but Coby has the hurling world at his feet.  A work ethic and natural talent, ability to beat his man in tight spaces and make something from nothing, it’s scary to think where his talents could see him rise to.

My near misses

Shane Elliott – he’ll have the bragging rights over Ryan for this one.  Brilliant shot stopper on his day.  His save from Daithi Regan in Dunloy’s first All-Ireland final will live with me forever.  Incredible.

Mickey McClements – played with Mickey through the age groups.  A natural leader and nothing but 100% commitment every time he played.  Thoroughly enjoyed playing in teams he captained.  

Nigel Elliott (snr) – tireless workhorse.  A guy who did a lot of the dirty work but complemented plenty of partners in the middle of the field.  Equally as effective on the three quarter line.

Conor Cunning – classy operator.  An abundance of ability and talent and at times was unplayable.  His ability to take a point from distance was something that always amazed me.  Guaranteed a couple a game. 

Frankie ‘Tarby’ McMullan – difficult to leave out, a player I admired and his last outing in a Dunloy shirt against Newtownshandrum was one of his best. 

Keelan Molloy – another of the new breed who is nothing short of being classed as an ‘operator’ on a hurling field.  He really has the hurling world at his feet. 

Conor ‘Woody’ McKinley – rock solid anywhere in defence.  Gutted when he stepped away from the Antrim panel.  Could play anywhere in the back six and give you 100% commitment and an 8/10 every game.

Martin Curry – work rate, commitment, and desire.  ‘Cat’ was a player you’d go into the trenches with everyday of the week and twice on a Sunday.  No such thing as a lost cause, would and did run himself into the ground for the badge.

Kevin McKeague – difficult to leave him out of the 15.  Brilliant under the high ball and another solid and consistent performer. Loves the challenge, lives and breathes hurling.  Outstanding in the county final last year after missing out in the semi-final against Loughgiel – tells you everything you need to know about him.  Committed.

15 could look very different in years to come with the current crop of talent but that’s not a bad tidy 15 and my picks for the finest to have adorned the Cuchullain shirt.

Cushendall shocked the Shamrocks fifty years ago today

Fifty years ago today, July 4th, Cushendall hurlers caused a major upset when they beat Loughgiel in the Feis Cup final at Waterfoot. Cushendall were playing their hurling in Division 2 at the time and the previous year had won the Junior Feis Cup. Loughgiel were in the middle of a goldern period, with a team full of stars, and although they had been beaten in the county semi-final the previous year they went on to win back the county title again later that year and added another the following year to make it five titles in six years.

Looking back many Cushendall people see that win as a milestone in the club’s history, and one that gave them belief that they could mix it with the big boys. At the start of a decade that saw them establish themselves in the top division of Antrim hurling, winning the Division 1 league title in 77, reaching their first county final in 79 before finally making the breakthrough in 1981 with their first senior title.

Feis na nGleann 1970 – Senior Hurling final

Cushendall 3-6 Loughgiel 3-4

A lap of honour around the Glenariffe pitch by the victorious Cushendall side gave some indication of the jubilation felt in the Cushendall camp after this Feis Cup final victory over the mighty Loughgiel.

This Cushendall side have carried off a unique double in that they won the Junior Feis Cup last year and have now added the Senior crown a year later. The Coast Road men led all the way in this exciting tussle, but in the final quarter when their forwards had apparently given up the task of taking scores, their defenders did an excellent job in keeping the goal hungry Loughgiel forwards at bay.        Loughgiel have only themselves to blame. At the end of the third quarter, when they were only two points in arrears, they persisted in looking for goals. The Cushendall goalmouth was under continual siege but gallant net minding by Seamus McGinty and excellent defencive play by the back six, thwarted Loughgiel’s hopes.

Cushendall were two goals up in as many minutes as Barney McAuley and Joe Jamison hit the net, and they certainly gave the impression that, although underdogs, they meant to fight every inch of the way. A goal from John-Joe Smith a minute later kept the Shamrocks in touch but a point from Sean O’Neill kept the seasiders comfortably ahead.

A Loughgiel point from Brendan McGarry was quickly and confidently followed by a goal from Kieran Kearney. Hurler supreme Sean O’Neill added another point but Seamus Richmond hit back with a Loughgiel goal to keep the Shamrocks in touch. Paddy McIhatton added another point for Loughgiel but the wily O’Neill was on target at the other end for Cushendall. A point from Brendan McGarry marked the end of Loughgiel’s first half scoring, but aptly enough Cushendall’s Sean O’Neill had the final say with a last minute point.

After the interval Cushendall began again in most convincing fashion as Sean O’Neill knocked over a long range point. At this stage Loughgiel began to realise that the fat was almost in the fire and their play took on a sense of urgency that had been lacking throughout the game. Left half forward Seamus Richmond slammed home a goal from close range and corner forward Tom McFadden got his name on the scoresheet with a fine point.

Only trailing by a point now with fifteen minutes remaining it seemed as if the experience of Loughgiel would overcome the sheer determination of Cushendall, but as it turned out, this was not the case. Cushendall’s Sean O’Neill hit his sixth point of the game ten minutes from time which proved to be the final score of the match. While Loughgiel bombarded the Cushendall goalmouth their scorline showed no improvement and one feels had they taken their points they could have easily has stopped the rot which has recently appeared in their play.

The whole Cushendall side played themselves to a standstill but none more so than netminder Seamus McGinty. The defence was superb with honours going to corner back Brendan McGaughey and centre-half back PJ McNaughton. Donal Kearney and Sean O’Neill were allowed plenty of scope at midfield and O’Neill must emerge as Hero of the Hour. The forwards were eager for scores with Kieran Dempsey, Sean Jamison and Joe Jamison catching the eye.

Loughgiel gave a disappointing display and few of their stalwarts really struck form. Johnny Coyle did all that was ask of him in goals while Patsy McIlhatton, Seamus McMullan and Tony Connolly played hard in defence. Dan Gillan and Aidan Connolly found themselves up against it at midfield, while up from Seamus Richmond, Barney Campbell and Brendan McGarry were best in a forward line that seemed to have little interest in taking point.

Cushendall scorers were – Sean O’Neill 0-6; Barney McAuley, Joe Jamison and Kieran Kearney 1-0 each.

Loughgiel scorers – Seamus Richmond 2-0; John Joe Smith 1-0, Brendan McGarry 0-2; Paddy McIlhatton and Tom McFadden 0-1 apiece.

My favourite 15 – Cushendun

By Seamus Graham

Cushendun Emmet’s veteran Seamus Graham pics his favourite fifteen dating back to the Intermediate Championship winning team of 1973 up to the team that reached the Senior Championship final of 2000

1 – Randall McDonnell.

Great shot stopper, good puck out, hated anyone scoring against him.

2 – Paul McSparran –

Big, strong and used his weight well, great clearance

3 – Dan McKeegan

Fearless, skillful and determined

4 – Conor McNeill

Tough, hard, tight marker

5 – Brendan McSparran

Small in stature but big in heart, very dependable

6 – Dan Kinney

Chip off the old block, don’t need to say any more

7 – Conleth Magee

Still can’t figure out how he lifted the ball, very classy hurler

8 – Aiden Mort

Attacking midfielder, great going forward, could play in any forward line as well

9 – Eamon Graham

More defensive minded, also good in the half-back line

10 – Barry O’Hara

Knew where the posts were, good in the air

11 – Mick O’Neill

Great in the air, has the knuckles to prove it, outstanding mid-fielder or forward

12 – Emmett O’Hara

Tigerish tackler, started off in the backs and brought those skills with him to the forwards

13 – Robert Laverty

Loved to score goals and got plenty of them, great to watch in full flight

14 – Paul Graham

Goals, points, passes he made them all, great vision, also good in the half-forward line

15 – Conrad McDonnell

Great point taker, converted big percentage of frees, also knew how to score goals

Raymond McDonnell, Rory McQuillan, Gary McNeill, Gerry Scally, Liam O’Hara, Eamon McLister

All of these could have easily made the team as well, but unfortunately there were only 15 places.

Raymond in the half-forward line, a very whole hearted player,

Rory in the back line, a very safe player

Gary at left half back very strong, great tackler

Gerry could play anywhere on the field, backs, mid-field or forward

Liam O’Hara, Emmett & Barry’s uncle and an extremely skillful forward with real speed.

Eamon McLister a class forward with great vision and control

Cushendall minor hurlers are the toast of the parish

This is a story that has somehow passed us by at the Saffron Gael but it would be wrong not to record such a heroic deed.

Last week four young Cushendall hurlers became heroes after saving two young children who were struggling in the sea at Whitepark Bay, near Ballintoy.

Minor players from the Ruairi Og Cushendall club in Co Antrim spotted two kids, a boy and girl, struggling to swim, and raced to their rescue after seeing that their father was attempting to help them.

Shane McKenna and Niall Óg McGuigan ran to assist the young boy while Josh Schnell and Michael Quinn helped the father and his daughter safely to shore.

The Antrim club have paid tribute to the youths and the minor management decided to honour the players as a token of respect. Juvenile Chairperson of Ruairí Óg Adrian McNaughton said, “These four young men have shown incredible bravery and we are so proud of them.  We live in a beautiful coastal community where we all look out for one another. 

Well done to them all. The boys may prove heroes on the hurling field over the next few years but nothing they do will ever come close to their brave actions that helped prevent what could have been a tragedy.

The Ruairi Og club paid tribute to the boys on their twitter page

A Minor Recognition – Ruairi Og GAC

Not all heroes wear capes
Some wear face guards and helmets.

A few days ago, four minor Ruairí Óg hurlers by the names of Michael, Josh, Shane and Niall Óg saw two young children struggling to swim in the sea. Their father was trying to rescue his children, however he could not swim and was struggling himself. Upon seeing this, the four young men prioritised the children’s safety over their own and rushed straight into the sea to help them. The bravery shown was phenomenal. Jack and the minor management from Cushendall agreed that this deserved some sort of recognition. So Jack and the minor management have decided to donate each lad a hurling stick, a slíotar and a hurling grip. This is only but a small token of the appreciation and pride we have for the admirable actions of four outstanding young members of our community.

Some good deeds go unnoticed.
But we value our local heroes.

Hurl away lads! 👏🏼

Ruairí Óg Abú!

My Favourite 15 – O’Donovan Rossa

By Sean Fleming

This is my Rossa hurling team. As I said only my opinion. It is a Rossa team spanning over 40 years of watching.

This is only my opinion. I have been watching Rossa Senior hurlers from around 1974. The Rossa teams in the 1970’s were very strong and those early impressions have influenced my selection. Every player on the team have also represented Antrim. This is a team of players I enjoyed watching over the years and if we’re able to play together on the one team at the same time would be a match for anybody.

1 – Paddy Quinn
Goalkeeper. Won championship medals as a mid-fielder but was converted to a keeper very late in his career. Paddy played a vital role in the clubs run to the All Ireland Club Final in 1989. Also worth a mention is former Club Chairman Noel Carabine RIP who spent many years as net minder.

2 – Gerard Rogan
A very committed player. Big Rogie played with distinction for club and county. He was comfortable anywhere along the full back line. A dual player with senior championship medals in football and hurling. Gerard went on to have a career in County management.

3 – Éamon Hamill
Captain of the team. A natural born leader who controlled the square and all the players around him. Eamon continued to influence after he stopped playing through coaching and serving as the Club Treasurer for a period.

4 – Brian Gormley
An elegant hurler. He used his height and reach to great effect. A forward never got an easy day when Brian was marking them.

5 – Micky Kettle
Great servant on the pitch for both club and County. Never let the club down with his performance. An excellent defender.

6 – Sean Collins
Loved watching him when I was growing up and he would not have been out of place on any county team in Ireland. A brilliant striker of the ball and had every stroke and skill in the game. He loved taking a penalty.

7 – Chris McGuinness
Captained the club to All Ireland Club Intermediate success in Croke Park. Not tall in stature but big in heart, drive and commitment, allied with a high level of skill. Still playing.

8 – Jim Connolly
Great hand and a natural midfielder. Covered the ground and very capable of taking long range points. Captained the club to Volunteer Cup success in 2004.

9 – Jim Fegan
Had everything any midfielder in any era needed to play the game. Skill, fitness, bravery and game awareness were all major strengths.

10 – Mark Reynolds
Perhaps for some a strange position to find Mark Reynolds as he played most of his senior career as an uncompromising defender but I had to include him and since he played in the forward line when he and I played on a winning minor championship team I can justify his inclusion in the half forward line. One thing for certain his marker would know he was in a game.

11 – Ciaran Barr
Best catcher of the sliotar I have seen. Big, strong and skillful. A great communicator and leader and has the honour of being Antrim’s first All Star. Captained Antrim in the 1989 All Ireland Final.

12 – Jim Close
Can play anywhere on the pitch. Played Full Back on the 2004 championship win and midfield during the Club All Ireland Final in 1989 as a teenager. One of the toughest players any opponent will have ever faced. Put in countless Man of the Match performances throughout his career for both club and county.

13 – Aidan Hamill
The best all round Rossa player I have seen. Equally gifted in both football and hurling. Won club senior championship medals in both hurling and football, All Ireland winners medals at various codes in football and hurling. Aidan would have been a star in any team during any era. My favourite Rossa player.

14 – Michael Armstrong
I have coached Michael since he was 7 years old. His name meant he had pressure on him to be a performer and he has never let anyone down. Fully committed with an abundance of talent. Has represented the county in both codes at senior level. Confident that his fielding ability at the edge of the opponents square would bring many opportunities to this team.

15 – Donal Armstrong
Father of Michael and a star from an early age. Like his two team mates in the full forward line Donal was a dual star for the County, including playing and scoring in the 1989 All Ireland Final v Tipperary. Donal was always a target for the opposition but it never prevented him from getting the score.

Subs

16 – Chris Hamill
A major player for the club during a time when we struggled to achieve success. Chris was an excellent free taker but contributed so much more with his general play.

17 – Colly Murphy
Loved scoring goals and did it on a regular basis. Could fit in at wing forward or anywhere along the full forward line.

18 – Rory Galway
Another player from the 70’s and early 80’s. Great free taker and ball playing forward. Played during a time when defenders were a little more uncompromising but still managed to be a top scorer for both club and county.

19 – Gavin Bell
Was a star of the teams he played on throughout his career. Loved a challenge. Can be played anywhere from 2 to 9 and even was used at 11 and 14 during his time.

20 – Seamus Shannon
A real team player who always wore his heart on his sleeve and expected all around him to do the same.

Some notable players not to make the 20 are the four Muurray brothers, Paul Close, Jim Reilly, Sean Mighty’ Quinn ( He won matches by himself for juvenile teams I played on). There are many more but someone else will name them on their team.