Old friends bearing gifts very welcome

An old friend of the Saffron Gael called at the house this week, no two old friends. Jimmy Gaston and his wife Maureen dropped in to make a donation of £100-00. Jimmy and Maureen from Dunloy are long-time friends, followers and occasionally literary contributors to the site.

As a fellow lover of Gaelic games and Irish culture, Jimmy has followed the Saffron Gael since its launch 18 months ago. This is the second time he has made a financial contribution. Without such generosity the Saffron Gael would not have survived this long.

Despite having had 2,066,822 views and 933,177 visitors in that time we continue to rely on people like Jimmy, our sponsors and clubs to finance the Saffron Gael site. Our sponsors increased this year and a lot of clubs have continued to support us financially, disappointingly others have not.

When John and I took the decision to launch the site in 2017 after both the Ballymena Chronicle and Antrim Post folded it was a decision based solely on promoting Gaelic games and Culture within the Saffron County and a love of those games.

A labour of love but we soon discovered that in order to do it right we had to bring other people on board and while money wasn’t a primary objective at the time the site needed and continues to need finance to exist and grow.

Curly and I are reporters-photographers and we don’t have any expertise on finance or do we like to write about it or keep launching appeals but unfortunately we have to in order for the site to continue and grow. 

To those clubs who have not made a contribution we again appeal. It may have been an oversight on your part but we really need all your help. We made a decision from the start to treat all clubs equally regardless of their contribution but your club could never the less play its part.

To those clubs, sponsors, advertisers and people like Jimmy Gaston who have made financial donations we are indebted and we send you our sincere thanks. To those who have not we again appeal to you to do so by getting in touch with John at john.mcilwaine@yahoo.co.ukor myself at ptrckmclwn@yahoo.co.uk.

You can also contribute by going to the Saffron Gael page on the website and following the link to make a donation.

Happy Christmas to our sponsors, advertisers and contributors and we will undoubtedly bump into you at a game soon.

We have included a selection of our sponsors and advertisers over the last year but haven’t been able to include them all and once again we thank you for your continued support.

Creggan juvenile awards

Creggan Hall was filled to overflowing on Tuesday evening as the Kickhams held their annual juvenile awards. Compere of the evening Sean McAuley had a busy evening announcing a range of winners from P1&2 Camogie right up to U16 football, hurling and camogie. Handing out the awards were senior football stars Dominic McAteer and Conor Small while Tommy McCann and Aidan ‘Teddy’ McKeown did the honours for the hurling awards.

Under 8 girls and boys who received thier medals at the Creggan juvenile awards 
Under 10 boys and girls who received medals
The Under 12 Ladies team who received medals for going through their section of the league unbeaten.
The Under 12 camogie team who won the South West League with team managers Stephen Colgan and Denise Kerr, plus Senior Hurler Aidan McKeown.
Tommy McCann presents the U14 skills award to joint winners Cerys O’Neill (left) and Tara Hamill. 
The P1 and 2 hurling team and their mentors
Conor McLarnon and Liam McLernon with the Under 10 Dungiven and St Enda’s tournament trophies. Included is Aidan McKeown and team selectors 
U12 Player of the Year Eoin McLarnon with Aidan McKeown and team mentors
Dominic McAteer presents the Under 12 Player of the Year award to Fintan Close

Lá Teaghlaigh at Naomh Éanna

Séamus Mac Domhnaill

Naomh ÉannaCLG PRO

Yesterday saw a fantastic day at Naomh Éanna.  At 2.30pm Daidí and Mamaí na Nollag arrived for a quiet half an hour and then at 3pm the doors were flung open to all the boys and girls and  Mammies and daddies from all over Pobal Éanna.  As the boys and girls made their way to Santa’s grotto, a special group of guests arrived bearing sliver wear and joined Santa in his grotto.

Special guests on the day were James (club captain), Big Joe, Mickey, Philly, Ruairí, Damien, Dónall and Odhrán, members of the Naomh Eanna side who won the Ulster Intermediate football championship by beating Mullahoran in last Saturday night’s final  in Armagh

They were met with a rapturous, warm welcome and stayed on to make the visit to Santa’s grotto even more memorable and inspiring, with all the children getting a turn to get their hands on the cups.  Future generations of young Gaels have had a spark ignited within in Pobal Éanna!

On the day the fundraising ballot for a Senior Squad signed football was drawn by Damien Gault and club PRO Séamus Mac Domhnaill announced the winner was Michael Cunningham.

A big  word of thanks to the organisers and players who took the time to make the day so enjoyable.

Also thanks to Ciarán McCavana (county chairman) and Seán Kelly (County PRO) for taking time out of their busy schedules to be there on the day.

Impressive St Brigid’s claim final berth

Under-21 Football Championship (semi-final)

Kickham’s Creggan 2-14 St Brigid’s 3-18

by Geordie McGuckin
St Brigid’s booked their place in the 2018 under-21 decider when they saw off the challenge of Kickham’s Creggan in a rip roaring action packed game on the Staffordstown Road arena on Sunday afternoon on a winter sod which was in excellent condition.
Creggan got away to a flyer when Conor Small despatched a penalty to the back of the St Brigid’s net, following a foul on Dominic Mc Ateer and they maintained the lead until the 12th minute when an Ethan Carleton strike gave the city side a lead they would not subsequently lose.
The South Belfast team, with Patrick Finnegan dominating the central zone and James Smith proving superb in the target man role, had a six point cushion at the break, and although the Small brothers, Conor and Kevin were proving hard to handle in the home side’s offence they got to the break with a 1-11 to 1-05 cushion.

St Brigid’s started the second half on the positive and a 37th minute goal from wing half back Mick Cummings extended their advantage to nine points and in command. However Creggan were having none of that and when Conor Small found the net again at the end of the third quarter the comeback looked possible.
The South Antrim side looked to be under a bit of pressure at this stage, but despite having to find replacement for their injured keeper they stood tall in defiance and when corner forward Ethan Carleton found the net again for the second time they were on the way to the decider.

Creggan got away to a flyer when Kevin Small claimed the throw-in and when he delivered the ball to Dominic Mc Ateer the corner forward was upended as he closed down on goal and referee Jarlath O’Donnell pointed to the penalty spot.
Conor Small stepped up and delivered the spot kick to the net to ensure an excellent start for the home side, but the visitors were undaunted by their early set-back and started to work their way back into the game.
Peter Henvey despatched a 4th minute ‘45’ over the bar to get St Brigid’s on the board and Peter Webb was quick to follow suit with a well taken score from play.

Kevin Small’s 7th minute point did extend the Creggan lead but the city lads were finding their feet and with the impressive Patrick Finnegan dominating the central zone an eager attack force were moving forward with intent.
James Smith was up for anything delivered in his direction and  he was soon rewarded for his endeavours as he collected a trio of points in as many minutes before a pin point pass from John Blayney sent Ethan Carleton in for the goal that really put the South Belfast side on the front foot.

Creggan regained their composure with points from Conor Small (2), Kevin Small and Dominic Mc Ateer but St Brigid’s followed with points from Patrick Finnegan, Peter Henvey, James Smith (2), and an extra special effort from Peter Webb (who was outstanding throughout) saw St Brigid’s take a 1-11 to 1-05 lead at the end of an exciting opening half.

Having concluded the opening period on the positive the South Belfast side returned to action in the same mode for the second period and when Michael Cummings strode forward from his defensive duties to plant the leather in the net they were on their way.
The wing half back having made his way into the strike force certainly showed all the poise and confidence of an accomplished forward as he left a couple of defenders sprawling in his wake before despatching to the back of the net to make it 2-12 to 1-07.

Creggan were in obvious trouble but a Conor Small point sparked a revival and when the hard grafting Jamie McCann cut through to deliver to Conor Small the latter did not waste the opportunity to plant the ball in the corner of the net and the Kickham’s looked on the comeback trail.

Greg Finnegan’s charges looked a little shaken and with the strong vocal home support urging the green and gold onward they needed a settling score and it soon arrived as James Smith’s lay off opened the way for the elegant Peter Webb to split the posts before he despatched a 40 metre free in the same direction.
The city lads were back in the groove and when corner back Henry Mc Guigan intercepted a clearance he found Pat King whose delivery opened the door for Ethan Carleton to find the net again and his 52nd minute strike gave his team a 3-14 to 2-09 advantage.
Creggan never gave up the fight and they tried to respond in the latter stages with Jamie Mc Cann leading the charge. McCann and Tiernan McAteer each hoisted whites flags, but those were cancelled out with similar scores at the other end provided by Peter Henvey, John Blayney and the ever impressive Webb.

The home side battled bravely but they were unable to reel back the impressive St Brigid’s and after their stand-in keeper stood tall to deny substitute Liam Quinn the end was in sight.
Jamie McCann sent over a third point for the home side in the latter stages but the last say was to belong to St Brigid’s and a 37th minute point from the excellent James Smith saw them breast the finish line and into the under-21 decider at 3-18 to 2-14.

St Brigid’s:Tom Dunford, Henry Mc Guigan, Conor King, Dara Mc Girvey, John Morgan, Odhran Boyle, Mick Cummings (1-00), Patrick Finnegan (0-01), Pat King, Peter Webb (0-06), John Blayney (0-02), Brogan Austin, Peter Henvey (0-03), James Smith (0-06), Ethan Carleton (2-00).

Daniel Foster for B Austin
Timothy Mc Carry for T Dunford
Shane Moran for M Cummings
John Toner for J Blayney

Creggan: Tom Johnston, John Mc Auley, Liam Mc Cann, Ciaran Rice, Mark Mulholland, Donal Carey, Jamie Mc Cann (0-03), Kevin Small (0-03), Keelan Mc Cann, Niall Rice, Tiernan Mc Ateer (0-01), Eunan Mc Ateer, Killian Burke, Conor Small (2-04), Dominic Mc Ateer (0-01)

Liam Quinn for N Rice
Morgan Nelson for L Mc Cann
Donal Carey for K Burke
Referee – Jarlath O’Donnell (Con Magees)

Brilliant Bellaghy down Dunloy at St Paul’s

FonaCab Ulster Minor Football Tournament – Preliminary Round
Dunloy 1-4 Bellaghy 1-18
Sunday December 12
Brendan McTaggart reports from Shaws Road, Belfast
A second half exhibition from Derry champions Bellaghy ended Dunloy’s Ulster hopes at St Pauls on Sunday afternoon. 14 points separated the teams after the hour with the ‘Tones putting on an exhibition of scoring in the second half in a dominant performance from the first whistle.
Man of the match Lorcan Spier finished the tie with a personal tally of 0-9 with six of his scores coming from open play and all finding the target in the second half when the Derry champions put in a clinical performance. An outstanding performance from the Bellaghy man while the midfield duo of Conleth McShane and Kealan Friel also excelled with target forward Paul Cassidy superb on the edge of the square.
Dunloy were second best on the day but still only trailed by three points at the short whistle. Seaan Elliott’s 25th minute major giving them hope of victory despite the dominance of Bellaghy in the first half. The Tones hit nine wides in the opening 30 minutes but much of that was due to the work rate, intensity and at times the outstanding defending of the Cuchullains defence. Aaron Crawford in particular adding to his already soaring stock with a superb performance throughout but Bellaghy didn’t give the talented Dunloy forward line an inch. They lived off scraps with Ronan McFaul and James Diamond keeping tabs on Elliott and Anthony Smith, Dunloy struggled in attack. Bellaghy were sharper at the breakdown and smarter from kickouts. They had their homework done on the threats Dunloy would pose and the Cuchullains couldn’t get their star forwards enough quality ball with the Wolfetone midfield lording the game throughout.
On a cold afternoon at the St Pauls venue, Bellaghy hit their straps early and could have had a goal with their first attack. Conleth McShane with a rampaging run through the heart of the Dunloy defence only for Crawford to produce a superb piece of defending to deny the Bellaghy midfielder when he had the trigger pulled. Dunloy opened the scoring in the second minute with Eoghan McGrath splitting the posts from wide on the left but it would be the Cuchullains last score until the 25th minute with Bellaghy taking control.

Dunloy goalkeeper Padraig McGilligan makes a brilliant block to deny Bellaghy’s Conleth McShane what seemed a certain goal. Pic by John McIlwaine

Three points in as many minutes from Spier, Cassidy and McShane got Bellaghy off and running but they were wayward in front of the target. It was the 20th minute before they would register another score with the Dunloy defence scrambling and tigerish, the Cuchullains frustrated the Bellaghy men to keep themselves within touching distance.
Bellaghy were finding joy with the long ball played into Cassidy at full forward despite the Cuchullains playing a sweeper and Dunloy were under pressure for long periods but managed to keep the Derry men at bay. When The Tones tried to switch their angle of attack, going through hands at the heart of the Dunloy defence, the Cuchullains were strong enough to repel the threat. Bellaghy did carve open another goal chance in the 10th minute but Ronan Lee’s effort was saved by Dunloy ‘keeper Padraig McGilligan who dived bravely from point blank range to deny the Bellaghy forward.
A brace of points in as many minutes from Cassidy (’45) and Spier (free) opened a four point lead for Bellaghy by the 22nd minute but the Cuchullains were given a lifeline in the 25th minute. Smith held off the close attentions of McFaul allowing Elliott to gain possession. Instead of dipping, Elliott solo’ed soccer style through on the Bellaghy goals but was fouled and Dunloy were rewarded a penalty. Elliott took the spot kick himself but Daire McElean saved his effort only for Elliott to lash the rebound to the back of the net and despite Bellaghy’s dominance, Dunloy trailed by the minimum with five minutes of the half remaining.
Bellaghy finished the half on top with Friel and Spier (free) finding the target in the time that remained to leave the half time score 1-1 to 0-7 in favour of the Wolfetones.

The high spot of the game for Dunloy as Seaan Elliott scores his team;s goal during the first half. Pic by John McIlwaine

To say the three point difference at the interval didn’t reflect the first half would be a huge understatement and when Callum Scullion knocked over the opening score of the second half, the Cuchullains looked poised to make Bellaghy pay for their errant first half.
Spier and Cassidy raised white flags for Bellaghy to open a five point lead once again and although Smith landed the Cuchullains first free of the match in the 46th minute, the Cuchullains were guilty of a couple of missed chances themselves at a time when they needed everything to go their way.
Going into the final quarter and faced with a give point deficit, Dunloy abandoned their sweeper system and from then, Bellaghy went into overdrive. Six unanswered points in as many minutes from Spier (four), Lee and Friel gave the score board a healthier look from a Bellaghy perspective with Friel’s major adding the icing to the cake. The Bellaghy midfielder palming to the back of McGilligan’s net after a strong run from Lee carved open the Dunloy defence.
Substitute Sean Turner and Smith swapped frees before Friel took his tally to 1-3 for the match with a free in injury time to give Bellaghy a comfortable 14 point victory.
The Tones will head to Coláiste Feirste next Sunday to play Monaghan champions Inniskeen in the Quarter-Final and on Sunday’s performance, don’t be surprised if the Derry men go on to take a third crown. It’s a disappointing end to what has been an outstanding season for the young Cuchullains. Double county champions with the future looking bright for the men from Pearse Park.

Bellaghy’s Conleth McShane in action against Dunloy’s Aaron Crawford. Pic by John McIlwaine

Dunloy: Padraig McGilligan; Oisin McErlane, Paddy Kinsella, Cathair McCloskey; Anton McGrath, Aaron Crawford, Ciaran McQuillan; Callum Scullion, Ryan McFarland; Daithi McGuigan, Rory Mullan, Eoin McMullan; Eoghan McGrath, Anthony Smith, Seaan Elliott.
Subs: John Dixon for O McErlane (HT); Sean O’Neill for R Mullan (40)
Scorers: Seaan Elliott 1-00; Anthony Smith 0-2 (2 f’s); Eoghan McGrath 0-1; Callum Scullion 0-1
Bellaghy: Daire McErlean; Ronan McFaul, Cormac McLarnon, James Diamond; Peter McErlean, Conan Milne, Odhran Lee; Conleth McShane, Kelaan Friel; Oisin McErlean, Lorcan Spier, Lee Brady; Charlie Diamond, Paul Cassidy, Ronan Lee.
Subs: Oisin McClafferty for C Diamond (40); Max Stuart for L Spier (55); Sean Turner for O McErlean (55); Eoghan Lee for C Milne (58)
Scorers: Lorcan Spier 0-9 (3 f’s); Kealan Friel 1-3 (1f); Paul Cassidy 0-3; Ronan Lee 0-1; Sean Turner 0-1 (1f); Conleth McShane 0-1