Kelly’s Heroes one step from All Ireland glory!

Paddy Drummond Cup final

St. Joseph’s Donnaghmore v Abbey CBS Tipperary

Portglenone’s Niall Kelly and his St. Joseph’s Donnaghmore side are just one step away from All Ireland glory. Standing in their way are Abbey CBS, Tipperary when the sides meet at the Downs in Westmeath on Saturday.

There is a strong Antrim representation on the coaching staff at St. Joseph’s with Niall Kelly assisted by Paul Quinn, a former player with Casement’s Portgtlenone and Sean Turner, a coach with O’Donovan Rossa in Belfast.

The Saffron Gael have had the privilege of covering a number of St. Joseph’s game on their way to a first McLarnon Cup success this year and have been massively impressed by the football the Tyrone college have served up on their way to McLarnon success.

Unfortunately it has been Antrim schools who have felt the brunt of Niall Kelly’s side’s excellent attacking football in the knockout stages and the big man who played his football with Casement’s, Portglenone has his charges in great shape as they prepare to negotiate the final hurdle in what has been a ground breaking season.

Donnaghmore overcame the challenge of St. Mary’s CBGS, Belfast in this year’s McLarnon quarter-final and it was another Antrim school, St. Louis Ballymena who felt the full force of their attacking flair in the semi-final in Slaughtneil.

Rathmore Grammar from Belfast briefly threated to spoil the party for the Tyrone side in the McLarnon final at the ‘Dub’ when they led through an early goal but St. Joseph’s recovered from a slow start to draw level at half time before pulling away to win comfortably in the second half.

The Saffron Gael caught up with Niall Kelly this week and asked him about how he had come to be teaching in St. Joseph’s Donnaghmore, about his route to this weekend’s final and his thoughts on the team and his expectations.

Niall was actually a student at St. Louis, Ballymena, one of the sides that St. Joseph’s beat on their way to McLarnon success.

He told me “I attended St. Louis Grammar, Ballymena before continuing my studies in St Mary’s University College, Belfast. I qualified as a Business Studies Teacher in 2016. My parents own a Mace Shop in Dunloy, where I work most Saturdays, however, with the recent success in school football, I could be close to being replaced. I was involved in coaching the U20’s with our club last year and this year, I am assisting with the U15 team”

I asked Niall about his own playing career and what honours he had won with Portglenone.

“To be honest Paddy I didn’t have the playing career I would have liked. I played with Casements at underage before merging with Stinsons where we won a number of leagues and championships; the highlight was winning the Feile in 2007. With Casements, we won the U21 Championship in 2013 and luckily, I made it back from injury for the Ulster Campaign in Creggan, where we were edged out by a formidable Truagh Gaels. I went on to win several reserve leagues and championships. I was lucky to play with close friends Dermot McAleese and Niall Delargy who are the backbone of our club team. I played for Long Island in New York and Westmeath New York before returning home to complete my teaching degree. After completing the degree, I played in Sydney, Australia for the Cormac McAnallen team, where my time was cut short due to a significant knee injury. Despite numerous physio visits and rehab programmes I was advised there was too much damage done and had to retire from football at 28.

I then asked Niall “How long have you taught at St. Joseph’s Donnaghmore. Had you any previous appointments”?

“When I returned home from Australia in 2018, I took up a teaching post in St Joseph’s Grammar School, Donaghmore and I have been there ever since. The school, also known as ‘The Convent’ overlooks the village and is a fantastic place to work. I currently am Head of Year 10 and I teach Business Studies along with Key Stage 3 PE. The convent was formally an all-girls school, and the first admission of boys was 20 years ago, in 2003. The current Senior Team, who will represent the school on Saturday started in D College football and have won their first ever B College title in the McLarnon Cup a few weeks ago. I am not the only local man on the teaching staff – Paul Quinn is a former Casements player and Sean Turner is an underage coach from Rossa GAA Belfast”.

We went on to talk about the team’s journey to the final. The teams they played and how those games went?

“I suppose the Journey really started last year when we won our first McLarnon Cup Group game and went on to reach the semi-final where we were beaten by the eventual winners, Carrickamacross. We kept most of the panel this year and we could tweak our game plan and use the hurt of coming up short last year to get over the line this year. We started in the group with a difficult away fixture in Bessbrook, then Abbey VS Donegal and St. Pius Magherafelt. There was very little in these games which stood us in good stead for the knockouts. We then faced St Mary’s CBS, St Louis Ballymena and Rathmore Grammar in the final. The final was played in the Dub under lights; there was a fantastic atmosphere and for the first half Rathmore were strong, well drilled and were every bit as good as us. We were fortunate with a few goals, but it must be noted the score line did not reflect the game at all. Finally, we faced the Leinster Champions Ardee CS in Iniskeen on 25th February. They had eased their way through a Leinster Campaign and proved difficult opposition but luckily, we got the goals and the right time and came through on the winning side”

I continued by asking Niall what he knew about Saturday’s opponents,  Abbey CBS Tipperary

“Well, Abbey CBS reached the final of this competition in 2016 and have won three of the last four Munster B titles. Their principal is none other than John Kiely, the Limerick Hurling Manager and coached by Tipperary Star, Conor Sweeney. Their team is littered with Tipperary and Limerick minors and U20’s. We would expect a physically strong, aggressive, and battle-hardened Tipperary Team who don’t know when they are beat, winning all of their games in the last quarter”

We then went on to talk about the St. Joseph’s Donnaghmore side.

Niall Kelly said “We are lucky to have a great bunch of feeder clubs including Donaghmore, Galbally, Carrickmore, Eglish and Dungannon to name but a few. Our Full Back Ben Hughes is with the Tyrone U20’s and Electric Minor All-Star, Joey Clarke and Noah Grimes have been key parts of the Tyrone Minors and Queen’s Future All Stars.

“Who were the players and the people who inspired you when you were growing up”

“First and foremost, my Father Seamus inspired me and my brother to take up football. He would follow all our games and even has ventured to the Donaghmore games recently.

From a playing perspective I was inspired by our club senior team following great club men like Damian O Hagan (Scotchy), Tony Convery, Marty McCarry and Owen Doherty.  

From a coaching perspective many of the men above helped in that capacity too, along with Gerard McAleese and Ciaran Doherty who took us around the country. We are very fortunate in Portglenone as we have countless volunteers and underage coaches in our club and It is going from strength to strength. Regardless of the result on Saturday, I will be out helping with the U15’s come Monday evening”

I think I would speak for all Saffron Gael readers in wishing Niall Kelly and his colleague on the St. Joseph’s Donnaghmore coaching staff all the best on Saturday and from what I have seen of them this year I would expect St. Joseph’s to take the Paddy Drummond back home from Westmeath on Saturday evening.

Special assembly for St. Louis Camogs

The Senior camogie team at St. Louis Grammar School, Ballymena were honoured at special Scool Assembly to recognise their recent All Ireland success with a packed assembly hall showing their appreciation for the girl’s success last weekend.

Afterwards the girls posed for photographs in the school’s sportshall and sampled a special commemorative cake which was baked to honour the occassion.

The St. Louis All Ireland winning camogie team honoured at a Special Assembly in the school on Thursday

Laverty major seals it for St. Killian’s

Gaelfast Year 10 Hurling final

Gaelast Cup final

St. Killian’s 1-9 Cross & Passion 0-8

A goal from corner forward, Donncha Laverty in the 30th minute finally decided this Year 10 Gaelfast hurling final in difficult conditions under the lights at Dunsilly on Wednesday night. In conditions that were not conducive to good hurling both sides gave it everything with the result still in the balance with time almost up.

St. Killian’s were awarded a side-line cut and Dylan McNaughton’s strike found its way to Shane McQuillan who combined with Charlie Black to put Laverty clear to the left of goal and the number 15 sent his shot out of reach of Patrick Campbell in the Cross & Passion goal to seal victory.

CPC captain Liam Smth in action during the GaelFast Year 10 Hurling final at Dunsilly

On a surface where it was difficult to get the ball up the passages of open play were few and far between but both side fought tooth and nail with a lot of rucks throughout and both defences making it extremely difficult for the opposition to score.

Charlie McAuley gave Cross & Passion the lead with a point in the 3d minute before Cahir McMambridge and Shane McQuillan replied for the Tower to edge them one in front with 7 minutes played.

Cross & Passion began to edge the exchanges at this stage with Darra Kinney hitting a couple of points and Joe Deery adding another to leave them 4-2 ahead by the 12th minute before McQuillan replied with his second of the game to close the gap to the minimum once more.

Dylan McNaughton, who got through a mountain of work on the night, tied the contest once more before Cahir McCambridge edged the Tower ahead again and further exchanges from Dylan McNaughton and Damian McCaughan saw St. Killian’s hold a slender lead as Kevin Parke blew the half time whistle.

St Killian’s Dylan McNaughton makes a great catch as he his team comes under pressure

Throughout the first half both defences excelled with Eunan Johnston and Liam Smith to the fore for the Ballycastle boys and Paddy Morgan and Cadhan Graham dominant for St. Killian’s and the strong defending from both sides continued in the second half with clear cut opportunities hard to come by.

Matthew Donnelly tied the contest yet again when he pointed a free, four minutes into the second half but points from Dylan and Connlaith McNaughton edged St. Killian’s three in front after 36 minutes and they looked to be gaining the upper hand.

Back came the Ballycastle side however with a couple of pointed frees from the impressive Donnelly leaving it finely balanced once more and it still looked anyone’s game but Laverty’s sweet finish with time almost up sealed it for the Tower.

Both sides deserve massive credit for their efforts over the night and in a game where neither side gave an inch, a goal was always going to seal it and Laverty’s major, following an excellent build up proved a worthy winner.

St’ Killian’s: Ben Duncan, Jake Laffan, Paddy Morgan, Aidan McCormick, Charlie McGarrell, Caodan Graham, Brian McNeill, Dylan McNaughton, Ronan Magee, Charlie Black, Shane McQuillan, Christopher Leech, Connlaoth McNaughton, Cahir McCambridge, Donnach Laverty.

Cross & Passion: Patrick Campbell, Caolan Christie, Eunan Johnston, Connlaoth Woodhouse, Oisin Donnelly, Liam Smith, Odhran Baudant, Darragh Kinney, Eoin Bailey, Joe Deery, Damian McMahon, Logan McConville, Charlie McAuley, Matthew Donnelly, Cahir McCaughan.

Referee: Kevin Parke (St. Enda’s)

Donaghmore progress to MacLarnon decider at expense of St Louis

Danske Bank MacLarnon Football Semi Final

Saturday 28th January

St Joseph’s Donaghmore 1-12    St Louis Ballymena 0-05

Report by Niall Kelly

St Louis Ballymena’s MacLarnon Cup adventure came to an end in Slaughtneil on Saturday at the hands of an exceptionally talented Donaghmore side. The men from Tyrone did the majority of the damage in the opening half with the talismanic Noah Grimes at the forefront. St Joseph’s diminutive number eleven grabbed the all-important goal on the 13th minute and from there St Louis faced an uphill battle. Despite battling tirelessly, the Kintullagh side struggled to deal with the fluidity and precision of their opponents. Patient and calculated approach play from the Tyrone side combined with tidy finishing from their talented weaponry up front proved to be the blueprint for their success.

St Louis started brightly and moved the ball around smartly but it was St Joseph’s who notched the first score of the day after five minutes with Noah Grimes putting the finishing touches on a fine move. The Ballymena side responded quickly though Shea O’Broin who despatched a free off the carpet from fifty odd metres out. However, this would prove to be their only score of the half as Donaghmore took a stranglehold off the game and dominated possession.

A Ronan Molloy pointed free on the tenth minute was followed up quickly with a superb goal from Grimes. The Donaghmore centre forward weaved this way and that before caressing a pinpoint effort into the top left of the St Louis net.

The Tyrone side’s major had a galvanising effect on them and their assurance and confidence in possession never waned as they continued to find penetrative avenues of attack despite the St Louis rear-guard’s best efforts. Darragh Donaghy’s marauding runs were a constant threat for the Antrim side and he split the posts twice from range before another effort from Grimes found its mark.

St Louis, to their credit, continued to battle for the remainder of the half and looked to have launched a few promising counter attacks but were frustrated in their attempts with the final pass often alluding them.

Another Donaghmore danger-man, Ronan Molloy, had the final say of the first thirty right on the stroke of the half-time whistle as he converted from the placed ball to leave the score at the interval 1-06 to 0-01 in favour of the Tyrone side.

Facing an uphill battle, St Louis emerged a rejuvenated side in the second period and sought to reduce arrears. Aodhan McGarry and Conor McKenna tried to drive their team forward with storming runs from deep but again the final pass was to be the Achille’s heal of the Ballymena side’s offense. 

Tom McFerran attacks the St. Joseph’s defence

Donaghmore found their rhythm again and once more dominated the size five for large periods as Molloy popped up with another two fine scores from play. The Ballymena side responded well though through the cultured left foot of corner forward Shea O’Broin. The aforementioned two corner forwards exchanged points once more before Leo Hughes increased the margin for St Joseph’s with a beautifully angled effort from the left flank.

With proceedings entering the final quarter, Donaghmore looked to squeeze the life out of any St Louis’ revival with their pragmatism on the ball. However, the men in blue and yellow began throwing caution to the wind as more bodies flooded forward in search of some sort of lifeline. Cal O’Brien, who had worked tirelessly all game, made the pressure count as he split the posts from range with a ferocious effort on the fiftieth minute.

With the game more stretched, Donaghmore took full advantage and the ever-dangerous Molloy was on hand to put the gloss on a sweeping counter-attack with five minutes on the clock. Moments later, his partner in crime, Noah Grimes, then finished off yet another flowing attack to increase the gap to eleven points and effectively seal Donaghmore’s final berth.

Despite the knowledge that their fate was sealed, St Louis refused to lie down and continued to attack in their droves. It was perhaps fitting that they had the final say when O’Brien raised the white flag in added time with yet another superb effort.

St. Louis S Ó’Broin, gets out in front of his marker

Paddy McAleer and Sean Cassidy will still take a lot of heart from today. Their charges battled admirably throughout and despite Donaghmore progressing with a bit to spare, St Louis were resilient throughout. It has been a long, long time since they reached this stage of the competition and their heroics against St Paul’s will live long in the memory. Their exploits this year can be a foundation to build upon for next year’s MacLarnon journey.

St Joseph’s were just too strong on the day and have an enviable array of talent in their ranks. Portglenone Gael, Niall Kelly, is at the helm for Donaghmore and we wish him and his team all the best in the final.

Although the hopes of an all-Antrim final are now extinguished. The Saffron County will still have representation in the form of Rathmore who will look to stop the Donaghmore juggernaut from getting their hands on the silverware. The Belfast side’s emphatic victory against Milford will surely have them full of belief in the decider. Good luck to both sides in what should be an engrossing encounter.



St Joseph’s Donaghmore

L Quinn; J McNally, B Hughes, J Rafferty; D Donaghy (0-02,) J Clarke, C O’Neill; S Scullion, J McKenna; L Hughes (0-01,) N Grimes (1-03,) MJ Mansell; C Drayne (0-01,) M McNally, R Molloy (0-05)

St Louis Ballymena

J McLaughlin; C Kennedy, C Higgins, D Martin; J McCormick, A McGarry, T McFerran; C McKenna, C McMullan; K McCann, C McAuley, C O’Brien (0-02;) S Ó’Broin (0-03,) B McCloskey, H O’Donnell

Strong Antrim presence in St. Mary’s bid for Ulster glory

MUSA Cookstown Thursday 26th January at 11:30.  

There’s a strong Antrim presence on the St. Mary’s Magherafelt side who make their bid for Ulster glory in Cookstown on Thursday. Moneyglass’ Kate Higgins captains the Convent side and is joined by Leah Stewart, Aoife Kelly, Sarah O’Neill, Sally Scullion, Cara McKeefry, and Cara McCann.

This will be St. Mary’s third Ulster Final in two weeks. This time it is the turn of the Ladies Under-20 football team who will face Loreto College Omagh at the MUSA, Cookstown.

Captained by Kate Higgins, the girls are determined to go one step further this year after suffering defeat to Coláiste Oirial in last year’s final.  Captain Higgins stated, “I think our defeat last year will drive us to success in 2023. Miss Hughes and Mr McCauley have worked hard with us at training and the team spirit is excellent. The Under 16 girls have really pushed the older girls on at training and everyone in school is looking forward to the final on Thursday.

The St. Mary’s girls got off to a flying start in their under 20 Ulster campaign with three wins from three in the group stages against St Pius X College Magherafelt, Holy Trinity College, Cookstown and St. Ciaran’s, Ballygawley. Throughout the group stage there was a common theme, teams found it difficult to deal with the ferocity of the SMG attack. With Aoife Kelly and Caoileann Quinn’s attacking runs were constantly rewarded by the excellent movement of Eva Small in the full forward line who proved a thorn in opposing teams’ defensive sides.

The St Mary’s girls accumulated substantial scores with sharp shooters, Sarah Devlin, Amy-Rose Mulligan and Niamh O’Donnell on target. With the help of Leah Stewart and Cara Mckeefery the girls racked up impressive score lines to cement their place in the quarter final.

Loreto Letterkenny were waiting in the quarter- final and on a cold, wet day in Owenbeg the SMG girls picked up where they left off from the group stages. Again, Small and O’Donnell caused problems in the full forward line and strong defensive performances from Sarah O’Neill and Seannagh McLarnon ensured that St Mary’s came out on top.

In the Semi-Final the SMG girls travelled to MUSA to face a determined Sacred Heart Newry team from Down who posed the girls biggest challenge to date. Little separated the girls in the first half and an early goal from Newry made it clear that the Magherafelt girls would not get everything their own way. Against a strong breeze in Cookstown, the girls managed to gain a two-point lead at half time. St Mary’s came out determined at the start of the second half, however, it wasn’t until that last 10 minutes where a fantastic team move ended with a Sarah O’Neill’s goal that cemented a place in the final for the second year in a row.

The journey for SMG to the Ulster Final has been down to a real team drive, a strong bench and the great work of the management team plus the passion to lift the Ulster title in 2023.

L to R Leah Stewart Moneyglass , Sally Scullion Cargin, Aoife Kelly Moneyglass , Sarah O’Neill Moneyglass , Cara McKeefry Moneyglass and Cara McCann Creggan