Antrim U16s off to a good start with win over Offaly

Under 16 Camogie Championship

Sarsfields GAC hosted the top of the table clash in the Camogie All Ireland U16 A Shield on Sunday between Antrim and Offaly. Both counties had won their first 2 matches and were seeking to go into the exam break on the back of a win.

Antrim started strong leading 1:2 – 0:0 after 5 minutes, Mary McArthur with the goal. Offaly responded with a couple of points however Antrim got on top in the middle third with Eobha McAllister adding a  further goal with points from Mary McArthur and Katie McCloskey. Offaly scored a goal just before halftime to leave the score 2:7 – 1:3.

Aimee Ferris scored Antrim’s first point of the second half before sustained Offaly pressure reduced Antrim’s lead. The introduction of Marie Laverty, Leona Gillan and Carragh Boyle gave Antrim fresh legs with Boyle scoring the last point of the game to finish Antrim 2:11 – Offaly 1:8.

Antrim now have a 4 week exam break before matches against Waterford and Laois.

Antrim squad.

  1. Mya McKinley – Dunloy
  2. Kerry Rose Draine – Dunloy
  3. Sarah Louise Kearns – Dunloy
  4. Maeve McAllister – Cushendall
  5. Maeve Devlin – St Paul’s
  6. Laura Black – Cushendall
  7. Sarah Flavin – Loughgeil
  8. Casey Crawford – Dunloy
  9. Eva McNeill – Cushendall
  10. Eobha McAllister – Dunloy
  11. Rihanna Black – Cushendall
  12. Aimee Ferris – Sarsfields
  13. Mary McArthur – Dunloy
  14. Katie McCloskey – Ahoghill
  15. Micha Cunning – Dunloy
  16. Rhionagh Maybin – Ballycastle
  17. Leona Gillan- Bridini Og
  18. Eva Lee – Carnlough
  19. Meadhbh Graham – Cushendall
  20. Marie Laverty – Loughgeil
  21. Cara Burns – Portglenone
  22. Molly Horan – Ahoghill
  23. Eva McGarry – Loughgeil
  24. Niamh McAlister – Rossa
  25. Saorlaith Brennan – St Paul’s
  26. Una  McGowan – Portglenone
  27. Clare O’Hagan – Loch Mor
  28. Carragh Boyle – Dunloy

Mullingar Memories…

Brendan McTaggart reflects on the day that was in Mullingar as Antrim defeated Westmeath

A trip to Derry the evening before travelling to Mullingar seemed good at the time.  Looking back, it wasn’t really the best preparation for a five and a half hour round trip.  Sunday was a cracking day from start to finish.  Sunday drivers, Delvin drinkers and Stripper Patricia by Chris de Burgh.  The GAA road trips never fail to disappoint and no, I knew nothing about Patricia and her stripping tendencies.

A day I’d relive a hundred times over.  Well, maybe not some of the refereeing decisions in Cusack Park but we’ll maybe not go down that rabbit hole.  I’m sure he called what he seen and I’m sure there’s a perfectly good reason for the Kilkenny and Wexford game being delayed by ten minutes.  I’m sure of it.  But that’s all I’ll say about that matter.

The game itself?  Clint Eastwood was wearing a Saffron shirt again.  The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  Thankfully The Good was excellent with The Bad and The Ugly fleeting.  That being said, for the last ten or so minutes of the first half I’m confident I wasn’t the only one with a Saffron persuasion who had lost the run of himself. 

Before a ball was struck in the Leinster Championship, this match was already touted as the relegation play-off.  Antrim were doing their dirty best to make a mockery of that prediction against Dublin and Wexford while Westmeath themselves had done what many felt was the impossible – come back from 17 points behind to win.

Before that result between Wexford and the Lakesiders, I would have been confident of travelling to Mullingar and getting a result.  Even with our, let’s just say, not so positive record in Cusack Park.  But it takes something special to come back from 17 points down, to do it in intercounty hurling is unbelievable-jeff. 

A solid start with a Coby goal and a wee Johnty swing of the hurl soon after and Antrim were in control.  My thoughts turned to Twitter and maybe a cheeky look and see how Kilkenny and the Yella Bellies were getting on.  The Antrim lead stretched to seven and the nervous excitement that fills me before games had suddenly calmed.  Quite the odd sensation when watching Antrim in recent times but it felt like Darren Gleeson’s men were following the Saffron Script.

Then came the moment of questionable judgement.  Not from the players but my thoughts on the man in black.  Owen McCabe was through on goal, Ryan Elliott comes out and takes him down.  McCabe manages to get his shot away and the umpires raise their flag.  Goal.  Right?  Well, yeah.  That’s fine.  But Ryan was given a black card and the goal stood.  Surely it’s one or the other?  Black card and penalty or goal and nothing?  Either way, Gerard Walsh found himself in goals for ten minutes and Antrim scrambled.  Westmeath’s score of 1-4 without reply was not part of the Saffron Script and my nerves had returned in time for half time.

If ever there was a good time for a break, Antrim found it in Mullingar.  They were against the ropes and in need of major reorganising and reorganise they did.  The start of the second half was sublime, the remainder of the second half was similar.  Antrim made light of the numerical disadvantage and played hurling from the Gods.  Some of their attacking play was simply breath-taking, movement sensational and defensively rock solid.

Westmeath has introduced Niall Mitchell to the edge of the square.  A man-mountain of a hurler and his duel with Gerard Walsh was quite the subplot to the contest and one you could tell the Antrim man was relishing.  The home side searched for him but all they found was big Gerard at his dominant best.

The points racked up and the Antrim lead widened.  The nerves started to calm again with the end in sight.  A brace of goals to lift the Saffron voices in the crowd and seal the victory.  Super Sam with another finger waving celebration while James McNaughton’s imperious second half was deserving of his major.

Job done.

Relief?  Not quite sure if that was the overriding emotion at the final whistle.  Yes, there was a tinge of relief to avoid dropping into the McDonagh Cup but there was also relief that Antrim produced the goods when they needed to.  A relief that they performed to their ability when the chips were down.  This was a massive game for Antrim hurling now and for the next five if not ten years.  There’s a need for Antrim to establish themselves in the top tier of hurling and another year playing in the Leinster Championship will go a long way in doing so.

A hat-tip to one Mr Darren Gleeson.

We all know the job he has done with the Saffrons and the ‘shop window’ side in the senior set-up but he’s looking beyond that.  To the minor and u20’s to ensure the processes are in place so the conveyor belt of talent continues to thrive.  If progress is to continue, this is the steps that’s needed to take and Gleeson is the man to oversee these structural changes.

Where he’s taken Antrim in the four years he’s been in charge, the journey they’ve been on.  The journey we’ve all been on has been phenomenal.  Emotional ups and downs, akin to that of the wildest rollercoaster but the highs we’ve experienced outdo the lows that have come.

With the county season coming to a close in the joyous scenes in Cusack Park, a quick thought turned to the club season.  A brief chat and joke with Neil McManus about what lays ahead but for now, thank you to Darren and his team of backroom staff and players for the last few months.  From the league and Kilkenny in Corrigan where the wind swirled and howled to a sun kissed Mullingar and everything in between, those people have given everything they have for us and our county.  Enjoy your break.

Aontroim Abu

Super Saffrons get the job done in Mullingar

Leinster GAA Senior Hurling Championship – Round 5

Antrim 4-24 Westmeath 1-19

Sunday 28 May

Brendan McTaggart reports from Cusack Park, Mullingar

Job done.  Antrim travelled to Mullingar knowing their fate in the Leinster championship was on the line, but they were masters of their own destiny and after a sensational second half, it was job done.

Trailing by two points having played into the wind in the first half, Antrim manager Darren Gleeson looked a frustrated man walking off the Cusack Park pitch at the short whistle.  Antrim had controlled much of the first half and held a seven point lead after 20 minutes.  The home side kept Antrim to just one point in the time that remained of the first half and scored 1-7 themselves.  The Saffrons reduced to 14 men with referee Kevin Jordan giving Ryan Elliott a black card for an infringement in the build up to the Westmeath goal.

James McNaughton fires in Antrim’s third goal

That and numerous decisions in the first half had the vocal Antrim support outraged and Antrim looked all at sea.  The game and momentum changed in the opening exchanges of the second half.  The Saffrons came out rejuvenated with Gleeson’s words ringing in their ears and put in a performance for the ages to run out 14 point winners and leave a Westmeath team who defeated Wexford just seven days ago, chasing shadows.  Two goals in either half with Conal Cunning and Conor Johnston before Eoin O’Neill and James McNaughton late in the game.  Cunning finished with 1-9, his last point something that should be shown to every young player with aspirations to play the game.  Seaan Elliott and Keelan Molloy covered every inch of the Cusack Park turf, Molloy with an outrageous block late in the game that saw him being picked up by Gerard Walsh and embraced such was his bravery.  Mick Bradley put in another top performance and has been Antrim’s Mr Consistency this year while James McNaughton’s second half performance was more like we’ve been used to seeing from the Loughgiel man.  A special mention should be reserved for Neil McManus however.  If the rumours are to be believed and this was his last match in the Saffron jersey, then what a way to go out.  He has been Mr Antrim for years and through thick and thin.  A man that owes Antrim hurling nothing and gives everything.  A man that should never have been on the pitch given the extent of his injuries but you just knew he was never missing this game.  A massive influence, a leader, a legend.  He deserved this game and performance to end an illustrious career.

Conal Cunning scores Antrim’s opening major with a brilliantly taken goal

Despite Antrim scoring the opening point of the game through a free from Cunning, Westmeath looked sharp.  They held a two point lead with Ciaran Doyle, Davy Glennon and Jack Galvin all finding their range.

The first Antrim goal came in the eighth minute with James McNaughton picking up the loose ball and finding Cunning who finished superbly.

The scores were tied when Antrim struck again in the 13th minute.  Bradley with the delivery where Cunning broke the sliotar into the path of Johnston.  He pulled first time and the net rippled.  Antrim turned the screw and added a further four scores in as many minutes. 

Seven clear and with the home side on the ropes, Westmeath scored their first point for 15 minutes and began to find their range. 

Four points separated the sides when Westmeath scored their only goal of the game.  An error in the Antrim defence and O’Brien capitalised.  He passed to Owen McCabe who was through one on one with Ryan Elliott.  The Dunloy man brought McCabe down but the Westmeath forward managed to get his shot away to score the goal.  It was a double blow however with referee Jordan giving Elliott a black card.

While Antrim struggled, Westmeath reaped in the mayhem.  Another four unanswered scores gave them a 1-12 to 2-7 lead at the short whistle.

Half time came at the right time for the Saffrons.  Gerard Walsh was deputising between the sticks and they reorganised their defence.  They needed a change on mindset in the second half and they came out a different team.

Conor Johnston punches the air after scoring Antrim’s second goal

Inside the opening 60 seconds they were back on terms on the scoreboard and by the third minute of the half they were back ahead.  They were turning the screw on the Westmeath defence and forcing turnovers while defensively they held the home side to just four points in 31 minutes of hurling.  Between times, they were running riot.  McNaughton, McManus, Cunning, Seaan Elliott all finding scores to put Antrim eight points clear with five minutes of the 70 remaining.

The third and fourth Antrim goals came inside two minutes at the death, the first of those from substitute Eoin O’Neill all but sealed the win.  Burke finding Molloy who found O’Neill in space.  He rounded his man with a side step and bore down on goal, making no mistake when one on one with Noel Conaty.  The fourth goal came from an interception by Seaan Elliott and he passed to McNaughton.  The Loughgiel man took his tally to 1-3 and his goal a reward for an excellent second half performance.

On what could be his last day wearing the Antrim jersey Neill McManus gets a special welcome from his daughter Aoibhin at the end of the game.

The final whistle blew and the Antrim celebrations started.  Mixed with a hint of relief but nevertheless, this performance felt like a defining moment for this side.  It was as good as I personally can remember Antrim playing and to do it under the circumstances they were faced makes it all more sweet.  The Leinster Championship will see the Saffrons in 2024 while Westmeath will play in the McDonagh Cup after Wexford pulled off a shock result in Kilkenny.

Seaan Elliott who had a great game for Antrim in their win over Westmeath

TEAMS

Antrim: Ryan Elliott; Paddy Burke, Ryan McGarry, Niall O’Connor; Gerard Walsh, Eoghan Campbell, Conal Bohill; James McNaughton, Michael Bradley; Keelan Molloy, Niall McKenna, Conor Johnston; Conal Cunning, Neil McManus, Seaan Elliott

Subs: Daniel McKernan for C Bohill (11); E O’Neill for C Johnston (61); Rian McMullan for N McManus (70); Joe Maskey for N McKenna (70+2); Domhnall Nugent for C Cunning (70+3)

Scorers: C Cunning 1-9 (7fs); J McNaughton 1-3; C Johnston 1-1; E O’Neill 1-1; N McKenna 0-3; S Elliott 0-2; N McManus 0-2; N O’Connor 0-2; K Molloy 0-1

Westmeath: Noel Conaty; Darragh Egerton, Conor Shaw, Johnny Bermingham; Tommy Doyle, Aaron Craig, Robbie Greville; Jack Galvin, Charlie McCormack; Davy Glennon, Eoin Keyes, Niall O’Brien; Owen McCabe, Joseph Boyle, Ciaran Doyle

Subs: Niall Mitchell for C McCormack (41); Peter Clarke for A Craig (48); Derek McNicholas for C Doyle (59)

Scorers: C Doyle 0-7 (4fs 2 ‘65s); D Glennon 0-4; N O’Brien 0-3 (1f); O McCabe 1-00; J Boyle 0-2; J Galvin 0-2; J Bermingham 0-1

Referee: Kevin Jordan (Tipperary)

Og’s too strong for St. Enda’s

Feis Hurling Cup 

Cushendall 1-24  St Endas  0-14

Ruairi Og’s proved too strong for St. Enda’s in this Feis Hurling Cup clash and despite the Glengormley men opening the scoring in the 1st minute from a Ruairi Donaghy point, it was Cushendall who came back strongly to dominate the contest.

Christy McNaughton and Ed McQuillan set the ball rolling and McNaughton brought his personally tally to four by the 6th minute with Ruairi McCollum also on target as the North Antrim side moved 0-6 to 0-1 ahead.

St. Enda’s replied from an Eddie O’Connor free but it brought another onslaught from the Ruairi Og’s as Andrew Delargy, Christy McNaughton 0-3, Alex Delargy, Dominic Delargy and Paddy Magill moved the Cushendall men 12 ahead at the end of the opening quarter.

Ruair Donaghy raised the Hightown men’s second white flag and Paddy Magill and Joe McLaughlin for Cushendall and Eddie O’Connor 0-2 for St Enda’s, the second an excellent sideline cut, exchanged further scores to finally get the Hightown men going.

They hit the next three scores of the game, the best of these coming from Cathal Morgan with Dominic Delargy replying weith the last point of the half to leave Cushendall leading 0-16 to 0-6 at the short whistle.

 The early exchanges of the second half were fairly even as Ruairi Donaghy and Alex Delargy exchanged points by the 7th minute but when Joe McLaughlin fired home the game’s opening goal it was as good as over.

Eddie O’Connor replied from a ‘65’ but there would be no let up from the men in Maroon as Padraig McKillop got his name on the score sheet and Paddy Magill kept the scoreboard ticking away with another.

O’Connor for St. Enda’s and McLaughlin for the ‘Og’s’ exchanged further points and St. Enda’s were certainly performing better than in the first half but never really looked like closing the substantial gap that existed between the sides.

The exchanges continued as Paddy Magill and Joe McLaughlin split the posts and Niall McGivern replied for St. Enda’s and Magill and O’Connor exchanged further points by the 20th minute but even at this stage it looked like an exercise in damage limitation for the Hightown side.

And so it continued down the home straight as Ruairi Donaghy 0-2 and Eoin Conlon struck points for St. Enda’s and Edward McQuillan relied for the Ruairi Og’s with both sides emptying their benches as the clock ticked down.

  Cushendall: 1 Eoin Gillen, 2 Michael Quinn, 3 Liam Gillan, 4 Martin Burke, 5 Ruairi McCollum, 6 Ryan McCambridge, 7 Stephen Walsh, 8 Alex Delargy, 9 Cormac McClafferty, 10 Andrew Delargy, 11 Dominic Delargy, 12 Edward McQuillan, 13 Paddy McGill, 15 Joe McLauglin, 17 Cadan Carson, 18 Matthew McCann, 19 Austin Birt, 20 Padraig McKillop, 21 Joe McCurry, 22 Patrick Sharp

St. Enda’s: 1 Cian O’Connor, 2 Dara Maguire, 3 Manus Mullan, 4 Conor McAlister, 5 Eoin Conlon, 6 Rian Gillen, 7 Brendan Cormican, 8 Luke O’Connor, 9 Owen Kennedy, 10 Cathal Morgan, 11 Ruairi Donaghy, 12 Diarmuid Maguire, 13 Niall McGivern, 14 John McGoldrick, 15 Eddie O’Connor, 20 Colm Curran

St Mary’s and St Pat’s reach Thompson Cup final

Friday’s Thompson Cup Year 8 Blitz at Pairc MacUilin Ballycastle turned out to be a great days hurling with some closely contested games. After the group games the semi-finals brought together St Pat’s Maghera and St Louis with St Pat’s making it through to the final, while in the other semi St Mary’s beat CPC in an epic game by a point, after extra time

The final will be played in the next two weeks, the date to be arranged between the two schools.