A bit of history revisited-can you help us?

Yesterday I posted an article on the Dunloy footballers who enjoyed great success during the 20’s and 30’s, collecting six senior championships. Some of those victories were achieved against teams who no longer exist in Antrim football but who were very prominent at that time and it would be great to hear about them and bring Antrim Gaels a little bit of their history.

James Stephens immediately comes to mind and they were a real force in Antrim at the time, winning championships in 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919 and 1922 which included six in a row, a wonderful achievement by anybody’s standards.

Going back to the start of the last century a team called Seagan An Diomais won five Senior Championships in 1903, 1906, 1908, 1909 and 1910 and I have to be honest, I hadn’t heard of them but my curiosity was immediately heightened.

O’Connell’s, (3) Gaelhil Uladh (3) and Otlamh Fodhla (2) Tir na nOg, Belfast (1) were other names who came jumping out at me from the statistics page and it would be great to hear about their history and get reports and photographs of those finals if there are any about.

O’Neill Crowleys won a senior championship in 1905 but no longer exist and I was surprised to find that clubs like Eire Og (1948), Pearses (1968), Ardoyne (1932 &37), Mitchells (1911 &12) and O’Donnell’s (1940) all won Senior Championships.

Glenravel of course won their only senior championship in 1966 and I was privileged to have attended that final while Tir na nOg, Belfast were champions back in 1902.

As we know Eire Og, Pearses, Ardoyne, Mitchells, O’Donnell’s, Glenravel and Pearses still exist and are going strong but it would be great to get reports and photographs from their senior championship successes.

If any of our readers have reports and photographs from those championship successes or a bit of info on the history of those clubs it would be great to hear from you. I feel it is important that the history of these clubs is not lost.

If you have any info send it to ptrckmclwn@yahoo.co.uk or john.mcilwaine@yahoo.co.uk we would be delighted to hear from you.

Saffron Og-a trip down memory lane

Some photographs sent to me this week from our photographer, Bert Trowlen evoked memories of days gone by when Glenravel man, Gerard Higgins produced a magazine called Saffron Og. Gerard, a dedicated Gael and a member of Eamon Grieves’ backroom team in 1989 put a lot of time and effort into the production and distribution of the magazine.

Saffron Og was delivered to every primary school in Antrim and yours truly had the job of delivering them around schools in the South West where they were eagerly awaited by GAA enthusiasts. The Saffron Gael was an excellent production, littered with competition, reports and photographs and was an excellent way of promoting Gaelic games in Antrim at the time.

The Saffron Gael was published for five years from 1992 to 1995 and in 1994 was awarded the McNamee Award for Juvenile publication but folded in 1995 as no one was available to take over from Gerard Higgins who was forced to retire as editor because of an increasing workload.

Today we publish an edition from September 1992 and carried a photograph of Glenravel Primary School, a profile of Loughgiel and Antrim hurling goalkeeper, Niall Patterson, a profile of Cushendall and Antrim hurler, John Carson as well as competitions and reports.

I hope it brings back fond memories to those who read it at the time.

Until Love Conquers Fear

Earlier this week we carried the story of Dr Martin McMullan, father of St. Patrick’s GAC Lisburn players Josh, Ben and Jack who was about to set out on a 120Km journey to raise money for Trocaire.

The retired West Belfast practitioner, who suffers from a form of blood cancer called myeloma began his virtual walk from Logrono to Burgos on Thursday and the Saffron Gael was there to capture the moment he set off.

His journey is due to finish on his birthday tomorrow and we have had a camera man covering the various stages of his journey,

Martin’s original target was £500-00 but when we highlighted the story with other media outlets the total has spiralled and as I write this article has reached an amazing £26,910 and is still rising.

Let’s help him through the last part of his journey today and tomorrow by donating on the Martin McMullan justgiving page and push the total over 30,000 while supporting a wonderful charity.

Good luck Martin.

True Grit can make Antrim Hurling history

Denis O’Hara’S preview of the All Ireland Intermediate final in the Irish News back in 1970

“I don’t see any reason why they should not win” – this is the view of former Antrim hurling great Jimmy Walsh on Sunday’s All-Ireland Intermediate final between his own county and Warwickshire at Croke Park, writes Denis O’Hara.

Jimmy, a 50 year old proprietor of a Belfast taxi firm is one of the links with Antrim’s last big bid to win All Ireland glory in a major hurling completion. That was back in 1943 when they were swamped by Cork in the senior final. He added – “I’m convinced Antrim can do it. They have the ability and just that extra grit will make it easy. It doesn’t matter very much about the start so long as they play a steady game. I cannot see how Warwickshire could have the measure of Antrim. Dublin were a hard side to beat. In fact they have always been a difficult team to overcome in any grade. What Antrim did against Dublin they can do against Warwickshire.”

Jimmy Walsh in his Belfast taxi office in 1970

Jimmy, a colourful character during his hayday openly admits that he lost faith in Antrim hurling when the team collapsed to a second string London side in the Junior final eight years ago.

“I never went back to see Antrim until now. I felt so disgraced. I’m convinced they then had the ability but lacked good sideline mentors to make switches when necessary. Matches are often won through switches. Teams like Kerry and Dublin are experts at it. It can certainly pay dividends but Antrim have always been notoriously afraid to make changes. This present Antrim Hurling team is doing very well and it is certainly a pleasant change. Justin McCarthy has done quite a lot but I personally think that Chairman Seamus Clarke and team manager Neil Patterson deserve utmost credit, I was glad to see Seamus Clarke take up office this year.

Unless Warwickshire ‘pack’ their team I cannot see them winning on ability. If Antrim are beaten it will be their own fault. I personally go all out for an Antrim win and I will be very surprised and very very disappointed if they do not live up to their ability”.

The poignant summing up by wirey Walsh who looks as fit as he was during his playing days holds a clear-cut message for the Antrim side. They have displayed a new zeal for the game and that in-born natural hurling ability which has been smothered by indifference and lack of confidence down through the years, has at least emerged to the surface.

Not for some time has a team played with such united effort. Their display against Dublin was a cut above the ordinary yet it would be a tragedy if the delayed decider should feature the players in the old haphazard mould which has cost the county so many deserved triumphs.

Somehow I do not think that the Ulster Champions will underestimate the opposition.  Their almost unbelievable spirit has developed the side into a real tiger, hungry for success. Their record this season has been a succession of improving standards starting with the National League Division two title last April when they whipped last season’s Intermediate champions, Kildare.

Down fell at Ballycran in the Ulster final. This achievement was followed with a morale boosting win over Galway and then on to that memorable meeting with Dublin.

Players and mentors of the Antrim 1970 side, photographed the week before the final in 1970. Top, L-R: Tony Connolly, Chris Elliott, Seanie Collins. 2nd row, L-R; Sean Burns Eamon Hamill and Frank Smyth (Hurling Board Secretary). 3rd row, L-R; Neil Patterson (manager), Danny McMullan (trainer), Jim McClements (Selector). Bottom row, L-R; Aidan Hamill, Nial Wheeler, Kevin Donnelly

One man who was not completely convinced with his team’s display in the semi-final is manager and selector, Neil Patterson. The stocky ex-county full-back considers that the best all round performance was against Galway – “The boys played well against Dublin but not every player was up to scratch. They can still play a lot better and it is an overall display of determination that I’m seeking from them on Sunday. I’m personally worried about Warwickshire as I know nothing about them. They must be good as it takes a reasonable side to beat Kerry in their own backyard. I think however that we are still capable of taking the cup. There is a great spirit in the team, something like a well organised and determined club.  The enthuastic turn out at training sessions is an almost unheard of thing in Antrim hurling”.

The combined determination of the players has provided the true basis for success so far. Sunday should contribute the deserved reward. But the team, still glowing from that Dublin victory would do well not to underestimate the opposition. For so often Antrim have flopped when least expected.

The driving force of hard-talking Justin McCarthy should however erase the slightest hints of complacency among the players. This will be their toughest test and it may well call for every ounce of reserve and skill to defeat the confident exiles.

What Antrim must realise and respect is the fact that Warwickshire have won the All-Ireland Junior title in the last two years and with different line-outs. Antrim do not have to go too far back in history to see just where they failed when the title was set up on the platter for them.

Warwickshire cannot be blamed for coming to Croke with a fair slice of comfort. They have upset the odds before and according to their Chairman Mick Houilhan they expect to win.

“We make no secret of the fact that we had spies at the Antrim-Dublin game and they feel sure that we can win. I think we will just about pip Antrim at the post. We should break even on fitness as the boys have been very faithful to the training programme at Birmingham. We have been hurling together with the same panel more or less, for the past three years and the present side has welded into a close-knit unit. Five of the team played in last year’s Junior Final – Grimes, O’Brien, Hanley, Dalton and Moore while most of the remainder were on the successful Junior team of ’68. Out trainer, Billy Collins from Limerick has been in charge for the past three years and he is a fanatic for fitness and I think this is what stuck to us in the last two years. While football at club level is scattered here we have five senior hurling clubs and three junior sides, which I consider, is to our benefit and helps to make a better county team. I know Antrim will make it tough for us. It should be a great game and I’m confident that we can win our third final in succession”.

On the way to the final, Warwickshire defeated London to win the cross Channel title and then shocked Kerry at Limerick in the All Ireland semi-final.

Hero of that game was 22-year-old bank clerk Con Danagher, a former Limerick minor star. Danagher is listed at top of the left and the man with the job of curbing this dangerman is Dunloy’s ‘quiet man’ Chris Elliott who missed the Dublin game due to involvement in a car accident.

The visitors, however, will miss the services of injured half forward Mahoney but there is still a solid complement of experienced hurlers to give Antrim a bag full of problems.

Mahoney was outstanding at centrefield in the Junior final but he lost his place on the Intermediate team to the ever improving 26 year old Factory worker Jim Moynihan who partners 24 year old joiner Des Dillane. Mahoney however was the driving force of a fluent attack. “He will undoubtedly be missed,” admitted Chairman Houlihan. “But there is nothing we can do about it. O’Keefe, his replacement is a much more experienced player although it will be a question of pace as far as he is concerned”. At the back 22 year old joiner Dan Breen once had a trial with Tipperary while right back Jim Quinn from Galway (also a joiner) had no county experience before leaving to England.

Pat O’Brien a 25 year old bricklayer is also relatively untested according to Chairman Houlihan while Jim O’Brien is an ex Wexford minor star.

The oldest player in the team (28 years of age), O’Brien a factory worker, is a strong player, Hanley, 21, Dalton 23 and Ryan 21, form a very effective half back line while the attack has efficient marksmen in Willie Rogan, an ex-Limerick minor and corner forwards Larry Moore and danger man Danagher. Full forward Finbarr Gantlet has no previous county experience with his native Galway. His cousin Fr. Gantley, former All Ireland senior star is well known in Antrim having XX coaching courses some years ago.

Antrim players training in Loughgiel the lead up the final in 1970

Antrim splendid mixture of youth and experience will hardly be overawed by the reputation of the champion of Britain. Long serving players such as Sean Burns, Paddy McShane, Seamus Richmond, Brendan McGarry, Aiden McCamphill and Nial Wheeler have given better than they received in recent exchanges with so called southern might both at county and provincial level.

Team Captain Burns, a 30-year-old forklift driver, is the man to guide the side to historic success. He has the ability, along with exuberant Sean Collins, a relative youngster who plays with a mature, reckless abandon, to gain a firm grip on centre field.

The defence has doggedness, which will be hard to beat. Now tired and trusted, it should be nevertheless not be overworked as was the case for part of the first half and closing minutes v. Dublin.

The attack while extremely lethal will have to step up its work rate.

Brendan Garry has returned to his best ever opportunist form while Eddie Donnelly can discourage most defences with his powerful running.

Eddie, however, will be under a slight handicap following a hip injury but his never say die spirit should inspire the rest of his colleagues.

Andy McCallin and Aidan Hamill are capable of combining to throw the Warwickshire defence into total disorganisation while Paddy McShane and Seamus Richmond have the experience and power to operate as ‘can openers’ for the speedy McGarry, McCallin and Hamill.

It is all a question of attitudes. Antrim must go into this game with a fervour never before required. They travel by coach on Saturday to join Justin McCarthy at Jury’s Hotel. Incidentally, reserve J.P.McFaddan, a 21-year-old Loughgiel starlet, was married this week to Miss Collette Smith, daughter of former Dunloy ace Willie Smith.

J.P. will join the panel in Dublin while all Antrim followers of the game will travel in their thousands for the game.

For so long the hurling enthusiast in the North reserved his interest mainly for All-Ireland senior encounters between crack Southern teams. The opportunity to urge on an Antrim tram has been a rare occurrence but the team’s exploits this year has instilled a new interest in the county. So much so that top clubs such as Dunloy, Cushendall, Ballycastle and Loughgiel have arranged coach tours to facilitate the fans. There is also an excursion train lined up by the Antrim County Finance Committee leaving at 8.50am.

Neil Paterson, team manager, has made a special appeal to the real hurling fans to come and back the team that has at last come in from the cold.

Neil incidentally celebrates his 41st birthday today (Friday). “The birthday present I really wish for,” said the Cloughmills contractor, “is to cheer the boys off the field with the cup. I think they will not let me down but it will take a great effort from every player concerned”.

For quite a number of years I have been personally involved with Antrim hurling teams of one kind of another but never before have I seen such a dedicated and determined band. I feel that their hard work, a long overdue bid to bring some resemblance of hurling prestige to the North will not go unrewarded.

A ‘final’ word from Antrim county Treasurer Jack Rooney who is confident that Antrim will make no mistake “I agree that the boys did not play as well against Dublin as they did in Galway and I think we will see them at their best on Sunday. I would say that they are happy with the venue and that game has at last taken place. The delay may upset them a little but I doubt if it will make the slightest bit of difference in the end”.

Antrim – John Coyle, Chris Elliott, Kevin Donnelly, Eamon Hamill, Nial Wheeler, Tony Connolly, Aidan McCamphill, Sean Burns and Sean Collins, Seamus Richmond, Eddie Donnelly, Aidan Hamill, Brendan McGarry, Paddy McShane and Andy McCallin.

Warwickshire – Dan Breen, Jim Quinn, Pat Grimes, John O’Brien, Mick Hanley, Liam Dalton, Tom Ryan, Jim Moynihan and Des Dillane, Pat Shiels, Seamus O’Keefe, Willie Hagan, Larry Moore, Finbar Gantlet and Con Danagher.

Referee – Paul Kelly (Dublin)

Loughgiel beat Portaferry in thrilling Ulster final in 1989

In 1989 Loughgiel bridged a six year gap when they won back the Ulster hurling title by beating Portaferry in a thrilling final in St Patrick’s Park, Portaferry. The old park just outside the village was a special place for a big game, its steep banking on one side making it a great place to vue the action. Despite the home team’s defeat the match is still looked back on fondly by many of the Portaferry players and fans

Team captain Dominic McKinley receives the Four Season Cup

Battling Second Half earns Loughgiel Third Ulster Crown

Loughgiel 1-14 Portaferry 2-9

A battling second half performance in which they held their opponents to three points from frees saw Antrim Champions Loughgiel edge out Co. Down kingpins Portaferry in the final of the Ulster Club hurling Championship before an estimated crowd of 3,500 at the beautiful St. Patrick’s Park, Portaferry.

When the Down Champions went in at half time with a 2.6 to 1.6 lead after dominating for long periods of the first half, they looked well placed to take the Ulster Crown for the first time. However, the Loughgiel defence, which had looked decidedly shaky on occasions in the first half, tightened considerable in the second half and with sharpshooter Olcan ‘Cloot’ McFetridge punishing every error at the other end, the ‘reds’ won through to take the Four Seasons Cup for the first time since 1982.

It may seem an over used cliché but hurling was the real winnerin the games as both teams gave their all in search of that coveted title. In a hard fought but fair battle, in which the scores were level on six occasions, the sun drenched crowd were kept enthralled to the final whistle.

Clute McFetridge sends over one of the nine points he scored that day

McFetridge opener

Loughgiel opened brightly and McFetridge, who lined out at full forward despite wearing No.10 pointe them in front in the opening minute from a free after he himself had been fouled. Sean Paul McKillop added another in the second minute after being well set up by Aidan McCarry but this early burst fizzled out as the home team settled to play some fine hurling.

Level

With Noel Sands and Anthony Mageean getting on top at Midfield they edged back into the game and points from George Fitzsimmons and a Brendan Coulter free brought them level by the 10th minute. McFetridge created an opening and shot a point to restore Loughgiel’s lead but a well-struck ’65 from Leonard Donaldson tied the scores again. Sean Paul McKillop scored a nice point on the run to give the visitors a slight edge once more but straight from the puck out Brendan Coulter picked up a loose ball and sent in straight over to restore parity.

Eoin McFadden solos clear of two Porta ferry defenders

Mageean Goal

McFetridge picked up a pass from Trainor and pointed the Shamrocks in front in the 17tth minute but within a minute, Portaferry were ahead when a mishit free by Coulter bounced about the goal area and Chris Mageean fired to the net. McFetridge cut the arrears in half with a pointed free in the 19th minute and less than a minute later, they looked set to regain the lead when Paddy McCarry got in behind the defence but he shot weakly at the keeper when a goal seemed certain.

Loughgiel were made to pay dearly for that miss for as play was transferred to the other goal, George Fitzsimmons banged in the Down men’s second goal to put them four points ahead.

Captain’s role

However, some heroics from Loughgiel Captain, Dominic McKinley plus good work by Paddy McIntyre and Liam Quinn in the full back line helped stem the tide and back came Loughgiel as ‘Goosty’ Trainor pounced on a loose ball in the Portaferry square to bang home a goal.

This brought the Antrim Champions to within a point with half time approaching but in the minutes that remained, Portaferry gained the upper hang again and points from Coulter and Chris Mageean put them a goal to the good (2.6 to 1.6) at the short whistle.

Goal scorer Goosty Traynor makes a break

Fine Save

In the opening minute of the new half Loughgiel net minder Patterson was called upon to make a good save from Mageean and from his long clearance Trainor collected and sent over a lovely point at the other end. McFetridge cut the arrears to the minimum two minutes later but Coulter replied for Portaferry to put two between them again. McFetridge, from a free, and then from play tied the game in the 12th minute and three minutes later, substitute Eoin McFadden shot them ahead with his first touch of the ball.

The lead was short lived however as Portaferry came back with two points in as many minutes from Sands and Coulter to edge in front with just twelve minutes left to play.

Loughgiel on top

However this was to be their last score of the game as Loughgiel got on terms when McKinley pointed a ’65 and McFetridge put them in front with points from frees in the twenty second and twenty third minutes. The closing minutes were nail-biting as both team created chanced but defences held sway and the Shamrocks secured the Ulster Crown by a two-point margin.

Dominic ‘Jew’ Mcmullan jits a sideline cut

How the played

Niall Patterson, despite carrying an ankle injury had a fine game in the Loughgiel goal, as did Paddy McIntyre at full back. Liam Quinn was sound at right corner while left back Damien Carey had many anxious moments in the first half he settled to have a grand second. Dominic McKinley had a tremendous battle with Brendan Coulter at the centre of the defence and though both had their periods of dominance the Loughgiel Captain eventually got the upper hand. This was also the case with right halfback Declan McKillop who had a tough time when Chris Mageean moved out in the first half but like McKinley he finished strongly and made many telling clearances while midfielders McMullan and Connolly played second fiddle for most of the hour, but their persistence paid off in the end.

Like so often this season, the forward department depended on McFetridge who gave another fine display but he was well supported by Sean Paul McKillop and corner forward Goosty Trainor who had his best game in the red shirt for a long time.

Stephen Wilson, Marty Mallon and the outstanding Paul McMullan were Portaferry’s defensive stars while at midfield Sands and Mageean started brilliantly though they faded somewhat near the end. Up front, Brendan Coulter, Chris Mageean and corner forward George Fitzsimmons always caused problems for the Loughgiel rearguard.

Scorers:

Loughgiel: Olcan McFetridge (0:09), Gerard Trainor (1:01), Sean Paul McKillop (0:02) Dominic McKinley (0:01), Eoin McFadden (0:01)

Portaferry: Brendan Coulter (0:05), Chris Mageean (1:01), George Fitzsimmons (1:01), Noel Sands (0:01), Leonard Donaldson (0:01).

Loughgiel: N. Patterson, L.Quinn, P.McIntyre, D.Carey, D.McKillop, D.McKinley, A.McNaughton, D.McMullan, S.Connolly, S.P.McKillop, A.McCarry, P.McCarry, S.McNaughton, O.McFetridge, G.Trainor. Subs – E.McFadden for P.McCarry, L.McCollum for A.McNaughton, E.McGarry for S.McNaughton.

Portaferry: J. Denvir, P.Smyth, B.Mageean, S.Wilson, M.Mallon, P.McMullan, L.Donaldson, N.Sands, A.Mageean, K.Fitzsimmons, B.Coulter, P.Mason, G.Fitzsimmons, C.Mageean, K.McManus.

Referee: Gerry McClorey Antrim.